Hansen said there’s no harm in conditionally approving the sale of part of Occidental Avenue South to his group as long as it secures a team. He also said it would protect the city in case things “do not work out” with a KeyArena renovation proposed by the Oak View Group.
All eyes were on Chris Hansen, as the entrepreneur seeking to build a sports arena in the city’s Sodo District appeared at city hall to proclaim he will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
Fresh off a round of earlier media interviews, Hansen assured the city council’s Select Committee on Civic Arenas on Tuesday night that: “We’re in it to the end; we want to see an NBA team back here.”
Hansen reiterated that there’s no harm in conditionally approving the sale of part of Occidental Avenue South to his Sodo group as long as it secures a team. Acquiring Occidental would complete his project site, make it what he calls “shovel ready” and help better lure teams. But Hansen also said it would protect the city in case things “do not work out” with a $600 million KeyArena renovation proposed by the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group.
“We would greatly appreciate it if you guys … sometime in the near future could take it under consideration,’’ Hansen told committee chairwoman Debora Juarez and other council members present.
Hansen’s first attempt to acquire Occidental was voted down 5-4 by the council in May 2016. His request for a new vote has seen him drop a public-funding component to the deal, and he has offered to do a $100 million side renovation of KeyArena into a downsized music and concert facility.
He told the council his revised request has been “sitting” since February with the city’s transportation department, which has yet to forward it to the council for review. But an email written by Beverly Barnett — who handles such street requests for the department — to council member Sally Bagshaw earlier in the day and obtained by The Seattle Times said the delay is occurring because Hansen has yet to respond to requests for additional information.
Hansen left the hearing immediately after speaking and could not be reached for comment on the email. His spokesman, Rollin Fatland, said this was the first he’d heard of it and he would look into the email Wednesday.
Hansen’s comments were the hearing’s highlight and the chance for the council — minus Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant — to hear directly from him.
A half-filled council chambers — considerably less than the packed house at the previous committee meeting a month ago — heard public comments from more than a dozen registered individuals, many dressed in Sonics and hockey garb.
Several of the speakers championed the “two arena” process Hansen described — of having the Sodo and KeyArena groups try to simultaneously land teams. OVG is prepared to renovate without a team — sustaining the venue with concerts supplied by its partnership with LiveNation. Hansen said he needs to secure a team before building.
Both arena groups appeared to ensure the speakers’ list contained people sympathetic to their cause. In one case, the teenage son of an OVG media-relations official — who declared himself as such in advance — got up to tout the benefits of the KeyArena proposal.
Uptown resident Josh Shea, who lives a few blocks from KeyArena — and who moderated a Facebook Live chat by Hansen’s Sodo group partner Wally Walker on Monday — urged the council to grant Hansen’s request and give the city multiple arena options.
“To me, any result here that does not return the Sonics will be a failure,” he said. “My fear from researching the options is that the Key proposal might deliver a hockey franchise but would preclude the return of the Sonics.”
One speaker spoke out against OVG co-founder and music business titan Irving Azoff, saying he was in favor of monopolizing the concert industry.
Harry Bloom, 13, of Capitol Hill showed up sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and gave a fact-filled talk about why he supports the KeyArena proposal. Bloom told the council that besides sports, it would bring added jobs, better concerts as well as a $40 million transportation fund that will “hopefully improve the traffic situation downtown.”
When he was done speaking, Juarez asked the young teen what electoral district he lived in.
“Hopefully not mine, because you’ll be running against me (someday),” she quipped, drawing laughs from the room.