Bellevue City Manager Steve Sarkozy said Tuesday the City Council has given him "a license to hunt" each year for investors or property owners who want to bring an NBA and NHL arena to the city.
While Seattle considers a private proposal to build a basketball and hockey arena, neighboring Bellevue hopes the facility will end up on the east side of Lake Washington.
Bellevue City Manager Steve Sarkozy said at a Bellevue Downtown Association forum Tuesday that the City Council has given him “a license to hunt” each year for investors or property owners who want to bring an NBA and NHL arena to the city.
“I’m not here with an announcement. We continue to work with several private interest groups and, frankly, several locations in the city,” Sarkozy said.
He said Bellevue is “in the game” and that the idea of an Eastside arena is “very real, very much a possibility.” He declined to identify any of the sites or people with whom he has spoken.
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Sarkozy’s comments came almost two weeks after San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen proposed to pay most of the cost of a basketball and hockey arena south of Safeco Field in Seattle’s Sodo District.
It was unclear whether Sarkozy has had discussions with other prospective investors, or whether he hopes Hansen will choose Bellevue if the Seattle proposal falls through.
Hansen spokesman Peter McCollum said Hansen has no intention of dropping his Seattle proposal “until either it’s a dead-end or he’s able to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. …
“He’s already invested well over $20 million in land with the intent of putting an arena there, and has made a very serious offer to the city and county, and we are fully focused now on reaching an agreement with the city and the county.”
Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, said McGinn also remains focused on Hansen’s site, as an Arena Review Panel prepares to hold the first of three public meetings from 5 to 7:30 Wednesday night at Seattle City Hall.
Craig Kinzer, former minority shareholder of the Sonics before the NBA franchise was sold and moved to Oklahoma City, said at Tuesday’s forum that he didn’t see Bellevue’s bid for an arena as competing with Hansen’s efforts.
“I know that options do nothing but increase the odds that something will happen,” Kinzer said.
Bellevue first touted itself as a possible home for the Sonics in 2006, amid a dispute over expansion costs at KeyArena. Team owner Clay Bennett in 2008 moved the team to Oklahoma City after the Legislature rejected his public-funding request for a $500 million arena in Renton.
Renton’s community and economic-development administrator, Alex Pietsch, said that city “would certainly entertain the notion of arena development here” but hasn’t actively been looking for investors.
Areas of Bellevue mentioned as possible arena sites include auto row, the eastern edge of downtown and the Bel-Red corridor.
Bob Wallace, a downtown Bellevue property owner and member of the Public Facilities District that built and oversees Safeco Field, said Bellevue’s hopes for an arena could be boosted if Hansen’s proposal runs into local opposition or if the financing plan appears to be unrealistic.
“I say the same thing for both sides of the lake,” Wallace said. “I don’t think it’s a done deal on either side. What it’s going to require is one or more billionaires who, A, decide they want to own a team and, B, put up the money for a new arena.”
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org