The proposal, which had been expected for weeks, seeks a new vote on whether to sell his group part of Occidental Avenue South to make the project “shovel ready” in hopes of attracting NBA and NHL teams.
In the nine months since a city council vote ended his previous plans for a Sodo District arena, entrepreneur Chris Hansen has sought ways to get back in the game.
His latest plan was presented Wednesday with a formal request by Hansen’s group for a new Seattle City Council vote on a project that now contains all-private construction funding. The request is a continued part of a push that began last week when a Hansen group newcomer, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, penned a Seattle Times Op-Ed column stating that a conditional ceding of Occidental Avenue South for the project would not impede city plans to study KeyArena renovation proposals.
Hansen’s request on Wednesday followed along the same lines: stating that giving his group part of Occidental would not result in a loss of the street unless he first landed NBA or NHL teams.
“There will be no vacation unless and until an NHL or NBA team is acquired and the arena is under construction,” Hansen’s group said in a statement put out on their Sonicsarena.com webpage. “If a team isn’t acquired and the arena project does not get built in this location, the street will not be vacated.’’
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Hansen’s spokesperson, Rollin Fatland, confirmed on Wednesday the proposal is for an entirely new consideration and vote and not simply an official review of the 5-4 council decision denying the street last May. That’s an important distinction in timing since it will mean at least a 60-day review process by city agencies before a new vote could even be scheduled.
The city is expected in late June to decide on whether proposals to renovate KeyArena are viable. Two California companies — Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and Oak View Group (OVG) — are in the process of spending seven-figure amounts each preparing KeyArena proposals for an April 12 deadline.
Spokesmen for both companies confirmed Wednesday they still plan to apply, but declined to comment on Hansen’s new proposal.
Mayor Ed Murray has said there will only be one major sports arena in town — either at KeyArena or the Sodo site.
“Over the last four years, the Sodo arena group and the city have worked to determine whether Sodo would be the best place to build a new NBA and NHL arena,” Murray said in a statement Wednesday night.
“Given the continued uncertainty of when the Sodo group can secure a team and with multiple partners with strong ties to the NBA and NHL interested in the renovation of KeyArena without requiring a team, the city will continue the RFP process to evaluate KeyArena as an option to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. (The) city council will determine the path forward on the proposed street vacation in Sodo, while we continue to look at all the options, including the Sodo arena, and consider what is best for the public and what will bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.”
Murray’s spokesman, Benton Strong, said the mayor has held phone conversations with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in recent weeks to apprise both of the time frame for a decision on KeyArena.
City council member Tim Burgess, who voted in favor of selling Hansen the street in May, said Wednesday there’d been no formal discussion yet about a new vote among his colleagues. Burgess said he’d asked the Hansen camp for all of the documents submitted to the city and expected to have them Thursday.
He said he wanted to review them first before deciding how he felt about a new vote.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment. Silver told The Seattle Times last April that Hansen having a “shovel ready” arena would not speed up his league’s time frame for launching an expansion process.
But the NHL approved only one team in its last expansion round, Las Vegas, and needs another Western-based squad to reach 32 and even out its conferences.
A few NHL teams are potential relocation candidates, the most recent being the Arizona Coyotes after a planned new arena deal fell apart last week.
A report by the Glendale Star in Arizona on Wednesday quoted an anonymous KeyArena spokesperson saying “(the city) recently had a tour for potential developers and potential ownership groups and there was a representative from the (Coyotes) that was part of that.”
A Coyotes spokesman quickly denied the report as “false” and also denied the team had sent representatives to tour the Moda Center in Portland.
Hansen having a new vote go his way would seem more likely if the KeyArena proposals are dismissed as nonviable.
The KeyArena proposals are also required to have all-private construction funding like Hansen’s, putting Seattle in a unique position. Most cities typically pay some public money toward sports venues and the presence of even one all-private proposal is considered rare — let alone three.
But the details behind the proposals will be important, including tax breaks sought. Hansen’s proposal will ask to be exempted from collecting admissions taxes — as are the city’s other major pro teams — while he’d previously stated he’d seek a break from business and occupation taxes collected for out-of-town revenue.
The KeyArena proposals will also likely include tax-concession requests and possibly seek future development rights beyond the immediate venue area.
Hansen’s group is offering a benefits package of more than $27 million that would help fund the Lander Street Overpass and implement city projects that mitigate transportation concerns.
But a key question lingering over his project is that some city officials feel it will render KeyArena unprofitable by siphoning off events from it. The AECOM architectural firm’s June 2015 report on KeyArena’s future stated that it would likely become a money-losing venue that could impact all of Seattle Center if a new arena was built in Sodo.
City officials and advisers have wrestled for years with that issue, exploring and ultimately dismissing a number of KeyArena alternative uses as unfeasible. That has been one of the key components driving the exploration of KeyArena renovation proposals — in which private developers would pay for the multimillions in renovation the venue needs.