Connecticut investment banker Ray Bartoszek, who is spearheading the project, has until month’s end to extend options to build on key parcels of land reserved for the arena. He is trying to secure a new primary investor in time to extend the options.
Efforts to build a multipurpose sports arena in Tukwila could collapse within two weeks unless an investor steps forward with additional cash.
Connecticut investment banker Ray Bartoszek, who is spearheading the project, has until month’s end to extend options to build on key parcels of land reserved for the arena. Bartoszek paid for short-term extensions on those parcels in October and November but indicated Monday night that he might not make additional payments.
“New extension dates are the issue now,’’ he wrote via text message, adding: “It’s all or nothing, at least for Tukwila and anything that has to do with me.’’
That was a reference to his being able to secure a new primary investor in time to commit to further option extensions on the land. Bartoszek has said his previous investor pulled out in July, scuttling his plans to apply for an NHL expansion team.
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Bartoszek has yet to find a replacement investor. He said there is still potential of one emerging by year’s end, but he could not guarantee if the land options will be extended.
Without controlling the land, an environmental impact review of the project — already slowed — would die.
Tukwila spokeswoman Rachel Bianchi said Tuesday that the city did preliminary work on the environmental review before handing the file back to Bartoszek’s camp with a “to-do list” a couple months ago. Bianchi said the city has since awaited word from Bartoszek’s group before proceeding.
On the land-renewal deadlines fast approaching, she said: “We have heard that some of the options have been in flux, but we don’t have any specific information on the status.’’
Bianchi added: “The applicant must show they have ownership, control or permission from the land owner over any property they are asking the city to review.’’
A collapse of the Tukwila project would leave a Sodo District venue proposed by entrepreneur Chris Hansen as the region’s remaining near-term arena possibility. The Seattle City Council is expected to vote next month on whether to give Hansen part of Occidental Avenue S. for his arena project.
At that point, Hansen’s biggest remaining hurdle would be securing an NBA franchise to trigger up to $200 million in public-bond funding toward the arena’s construction. If not, he’d have to reach a financing deal with potential NHL partner Victor Coleman to bring a hockey team here with minimal or no public funds.
Meanwhile, the city of Tukwila said Bartoszek owes more than $63,000 to cover payments related to the environmental study of his project. A Sept. 15 deal between Tukwila and Bartoszek’s company, RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment, authorizes up to $350,000 in spending on consulting and other fees.
Under the deal, first reported on in October by The Seattle Times, RLB Holdings agreed to reimburse the city in $50,000 increments. The deal requires a new $50,000 deposit be made whenever the remaining pool of cash dips below $10,000 as new consulting bills are received.
But Bianchi said that Bartoszek, after putting up an initial $20,000 to cover such costs since last spring, has yet to make any required $50,000 deposits in the three months since the new deal was implemented.
The deal, signed by Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton, obliges the city to provide monthly statements to Bartoszek’s head office in Greenwich, Conn. But Bianchi said the city had yet to send Bartoszek written notice he was behind on payments.
Asked why, she replied: “While we have not sent an official written notice, we have had phone conversations with them and know they are working on this.’’
Tthe city prefers to work collaboratively with applicants, she said, and it’s too soon to escalate such issues.
The Seattle Times reported two months ago that Bartoszek was pushing up against the financial limits of the deal and would be required to make a new cash infusion. At the time, Bartoszek said he was waiting on a new investor and might pull out of the project if one failed to materialize. Instead, he continued on despite no new investor surfacing.
Bartoszek said by text message late Monday that he knew nothing about any reimbursement deal and was unaware of being behind on payments. He also suggested that one of his Seattle-area investors might have agreed to the deal without informing him.
But a copy of the Sept. 15 agreement — titled “Cost Reimbursement Agreement for City Services for Northwest Arena’’ — shows it was signed by Ben Bouma, the East Coast-based president and chief operating officer of Bartoszek’s holding company.
Bianchi confirmed Tuesday that most of Tukwila’s correspondence about overdue money has been with Bouma. He did not return phone calls requesting comment.