County residents invited to weigh in on SODO arena proposal
By REPORTER STAFF
Mercer Island Reporter Staff
July 18, 2012 · 2:27 PM
The King County Council and the Seattle City Council will continue their discussions both independently and jointly this week about the proposal to build a sports stadium in Seattle’s SODO district.
Developers are hoping that the new facility would be the new home for a NBA team and NHL hockey team.
The City Council is considering a proposal negotiated by the mayor, the King County executive and a private investor named Chris Hansen to construct a multipurpose sports and entertainment arena in SODO.
The proposal stipulates that the city finance the arena by issuing bonds of up to $120 million, in addition to bonds issued by the county for up to $80 million. Final contribution amounts depend on whether both a NBA and NHL team are secured for the area.
The funds would be repaid via taxes generated by arena users and rent on the building.
If approved, the land would be purchased by the city/county partnership, but the arena would be operated by ArenaCo, the investment group run by Chris Hansen.
The Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee heard from the independent expert panel last week about the potential risks and benefits of the SODO arena proposal late last week.
“Today’s discussion highlighted the proposal’s strengths and the areas where questions still remain,” said Budget Committee Chair Joe McDermott.
During the presentation, Bill Beyers, who is a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Geography, argued for the importance of a full economic impact study.
“I’m hopeful that we can address these concerns through amendments like Councilmember Ferguson’s call for a further economic analysis if we move forward,” McDermott said.
The members of the panel are experts in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation.
The panel has been reviewing the memorandum of understanding negotiated between Hansen, County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. There have been seven meetings to date with the Council committee.
If built, Seattle would become the home of six major sports teams.
“Right now, given the teams that we have — we have four right now, including the WNBA — we rank No. 8 in terms of what I call sports saturation,” said local economist and member of the expert panel, Dick Conway. “If we add two more teams, then we become the third worst-saturated city with regard to professional sports.”
The panel highlighted the strength of this private-public partnership, stressed the protections given for the county’s General Fund and taxpayers, and discussed the impact to traffic and our region’s infrastructure.
“No public-private partnership is risk-free, but the proposed arrangement protects taxpayers’ interests in ways that many other partnerships have not,” UW associate professor Justin Marlowe stated. Marlowe specializes in public capital markets, governmental and nonprofit accounting, public-private partnership, and state and local fiscal policy.
A joint public hearing with the King County Council and Seattle City Council will take place on Thursday, July 19.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the hearing will start at 5:30 p.m.
The meeting will be held in the Bertha Knight Landes room in City Hall in the City Council Chambers, located at 600 Fourth Avenue.
To learn more about the project and how to comment, visit http://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/arena.htm and Chris Hansen’s site: www.sonicsarena.com.
Contact Mercer Island Reporter Staff Reporter Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.