Mayor Mike McGinn met with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York City on Monday to tell him Seattle wants to bring back professional basketball.

Share story

Mayor Mike McGinn met with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York City on Monday to tell him Seattle wants to bring back professional basketball.

“We met so the mayor could show his commitment to bringing an NBA team back to Seattle,” wrote McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus in an email.

The visit came as a surprise to local representatives of Chris Hansen, the San Francisco hedge-fund manager who is proposing to spend up to $800 million to partially finance a new arena and buy an NBA team.

Rollin Fatland, a spokesman for Hansen, said he didn’t know anything about the meeting.

“What the hell is that about?” Fatland said, adding that the mayor may have contacted others about the meeting. “I’m not aware that anyone asked him to do it.”

Pickus said the meeting was part of an East Coast work trip. The mayor is heading next to Washington, D.C., then to Orlando, Fla., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The Seattle City Council and Metropolitan King County Council are currently considering a proposal to build a nearly $500 million state-of-the art sports and entertainment venue in the Sodo neighborhood. The public contribution would be capped at $200 million.

Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess said Monday he is in the process of hiring independent experts to review the agreement’s legal and financial implications.

It’s premature, Burgess said, to reveal details about experts because a contract hasn’t yet been finalized. The hiring would be done through the Government Performance and Finance Committee he chairs. Burgess said City Council President Sally Clark has given the necessary approval.

“This is a very significant proposal, and the council received it in May and we have to do our due diligence,” he said.

The City Council would share information from its experts with the County Council, Burgess said.

Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican County Council member and longtime Sonics fan, said a thorough vetting of the proposal does not mean local officials oppose the deal offered by Hansen.

“If I’m going to buy a house, I want an expert third party to examine it. I’m not going to rely on the seller” for all the information, von Reichbauer said.

“To (Hansen’s) credit he has made it clear he understands it’s our job to ask questions and his to have answers,” von Reichbauer said.

Several County Council members have said they support the idea of hiring independent experts to augment the county’s planned review by staff analysts and a volunteer panel of experts appointed by Councilmember Joe McDermott, chair of the budget committee.

The four Republicans on the nine-member council wrote a letter last week complaining they weren’t consulted about the panel that McDermott, a Democrat, announced last month. McDermott and Council Chair Larry Gossett wrote back saying they regretted that not all council members were consulted.

Both the city and county councils have heard concerns from the Port of Seattle and maritime industries that the proposed location could hurt freight mobility and the long-term viability of the city’s dominant industrial area south of downtown.

With an agreement signed by both councils, Chris Hansen could go shopping for an NBA team. McGinn had been negotiating with Hansen on an arena deal since last July and supports the proposal.

“The Councils are very much reviewing the proposal. In the case of the County Council, we want to know if it’s a worthy and safe investment for $80 million,” McDermott said.

Neither Burgess nor McDermott would comment on McGinn’s meeting with Stern. But McDermott speculated that Hansen might look into securing an NBA team even before an agreement is finalized, if one became available.

In announcing a memorandum of understanding with Hansen, McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine said a new NBA or NHL team could play temporarily at KeyArena until a new arena is built.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or On Twitter @lthompsontimes.