Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer Tuesday called for a public vote on the $490 million sports arena proposed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen.

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Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer Tuesday called for a public vote on the $490 million sports arena proposed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen.

Von Reichbauer, a Republican, said he didn’t doubt Hansen’s passion or commitment to build a new arena and return professional basketball to Seattle. But he suggested that voters should approve the deal because of the risk taxpayers would be exposed to.

Hansen, making his first public appearance before one of the two councils that must approve the deal for it to move forward, said people did vote — on Initiative 91 in 2006, which said the city must make a return on any investment in a new sports facility.

Von Reichbauer retorted that “Seattle voted. King County didn’t vote … My taxpayers in Federal Way, in Auburn, in SeaTac, would like a say.”

Hansen answered questions from County Council members for almost an hour as he sought to reassure them that the agreement reached last month with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine to use up to $200 million in public money for a new sports facility contained numerous protections for taxpayers.

County Council members uniformly said they supported a return of professional basketball, but questioned why the deal couldn’t be entirely privately funded, why KeyArena wasn’t being considered as a site, whether ordinary people would be able to afford a basketball ticket and whether Hansen would agree to hold harmless the taxpayers in the final agreement.

Hansen appeared relaxed, in an open-collar shirt and suit jacket, but he also answered many questions forcefully. To the question of why the proposal is not completely privately financed, Hansen said, “It’s a very expensive project. It’s important to have the support of the public to help it pencil out.”

He said KeyArena was studied in depth but that demolishing it, adding new underground parking and building a new arena would take longer and cost more than the proposed Sodo site south of the Mariners’ stadium.

Hansen listed the taxpayer protections in the deal, including a guaranteed base rent paid to the city and county, a reserve fund maintained by the investor group, a 30-year non-relocation agreement and the equity the city and county would hold in ownership of the land and the new building.

“You can’t take away every possible risk,” Hansen said. “Al-Qaida could launch a nuclear strike against the arena neighborhood. A tsunami could take away the seawall.” But, he added, “there’s not a reasonable scenario in which the city and county would not be protected.”

Councilmember Julia Patterson said she wanted the working-class people whose credit will build the arena to be able to afford tickets to the games.

“That’s an important value to me,” she said.

Hansen, whose opening remarks invoked his modest childhood growing up in Rainier Valley, responded, “I would say amen to that.”

Hansen will testify before the Seattle City Council on Wednesday.

It was the second Metropolitan King County Council meeting of the day to deal with the arena proposal. The Transportation Committee on Tuesday morning heard from several Port of Seattle officials and representatives of marine-cargo unions and the manufacturing and industrial businesses in the Sodo area, who raised concerns about the impacts to freight mobility from arena traffic.

Many of the same representatives testified earlier this month before the Seattle City Council.

Port Commissioner Tom Albro told the council that the Port plans to significantly increase its cargo volumes over the next 25 years and to add 100,000 new jobs. He said that could be done within existing Port facilities, provided they can be used at nights and weekends when necessary.

Constructing a new arena in the heart of the Port’s freight corridor, he said, “would be a job killer for us.”

County Council President Larry Gossett characterized Albro’s remarks as hyperbole. Gossett said the arena would create thousands of construction jobs and a thousand more permanent, part-time jobs when it’s in operation.

Gossett also noted that a traffic study commissioned by Hansen found no significant impacts to Port operations from the new arena. “Nothing suggests it will be massively bad for the community,” Gossett said.

Former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck told the County Council that a third sports facility was never envisioned for the stadium district.

Steinbrueck said the existing stadium district is not large enough to accommodate a third sports facility and would likely encroach on industrial uses that city, county and regional plans legally protect.

Steinbrueck chaired the city land-use committee when the zoning for the stadium district was adopted in 2000.

After the hearing, Mayor Mike McGinn’s office issued a statement challenging Steinbrueck’s assertions. It said that siting the new arena in the stadium district is “legal and appropriate.”

Creation of the stadium district was meant to encourage future investment in Seattle, centering on large sports facilities and uses complementary to them. “There is no provision that limits the number of stadia in the District,” the mayor’s statement said.

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