During Thursday’s press conference, in which Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn detailed a proposal to construct a new basketball/hockey arena in the city’s SoDo district south of Safeco Field, King County Executive Dow Constantine cautioned that there is still a lot of work to be done before NBA and NHL teams relocate here.
“This is not Game Seven,” Constantine remarked. “This is the tipoff of the first game of the preseason. This is a set of principles. This is a start.”
Under the proposal outlined by McGinn, San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen would raise $290 million in private investment, while the city and county would commit a maximum of $200 million through the sale of construction bonds. The plan hinges on no new taxes as well as the stipulation that the private operators — not taxpayers — are obligated to make up for any revenue shortfalls that pay off the construction debt.
Although an 11-member Arena Advisory Panel appointed by McGinn will have to carefully inspect the financing plan, as well as weigh the impact that a third sports facility would have on SoDo, many commenters, on Sportspress Northwest and elsewhere, have already adopted the view that this is a deal too good to pass up.
The following summarizes the essence of the many comments we have read over the past few days:
“This is one hell of a deal (Chris) Hansen is offering. If this all comes to fruition, Seattle’s new arena will be funded by more private money than every NBA arena but New York’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Seattle would end up with a publicly owned arena that costs taxpayers nothing. Just get this deal done!”
Of course, it’s not nearly that simple, as the history of the Seattle Coliseum rebuild into KeyArena demonstrated in the early 1990s (which we will delve into in a subsequent post), evidenced by the concerns/alarms that have already been offered by some City Council members, the King County Labor Council and Port of Seattle.
David Freiboth, executive director of the King County Labor Council, said late last week that freight mobility and congestion around CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field on game days are already significant problems for maritime and manufacturing industries, suggesting that the addition of a basketball/hockey arena to the neighborhood would seriously impact the capability of the Port of Seattle and other businesses along the waterfront.
City Councilwoman Jean Godden took several hits from fans last week when she brought up the issue of “overlapping seasons,” and the effects they might have on traffic and congestion in SoDo. Numerous fans blistered her for failing to understand that only in April, May and part of June would overlapping MLB, NBA and NHL seasons become an issue.
What Godden’s critics failed to take into account are the numerous non-game events that would probably be booked around the calendar into a new arena, or how the probable loss of many of those events to a new facility would impact city-owned KeyArena.
This is why, as Constantine pointed out, the process of determining the viability of a new arena, enticing at it looks at first glance, requires considerable study. Not only must taxpayers be protected, but existing SoDo businesses as well.
Because hedge-fund manager Hansen already owns property in SoDo, it’s assumed that’s where a new arena would have to be constructed. But is SoDo the ideal location? Is it your preferred choice? We ask that you respond to our poll, with comments, so that we can all get a better sense of public/fan sentiment on this aspect of the arena issue.