SoDo arena passes county council, proposal for Bellevue arena may come soon

The proposal to build an arena in Seattle's SoDo district cleared an important hurdle Monday, as the King County Council voted 6-3 in favor of a deal between the city, county and ownership coalition led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen.

The proposal will now go to the Seattle City Council, where it may be voted Aug. 20 before the council goes on a short break.

While the city mulls the arena plan, a potential alternative in Bellevue is becoming more visible. After more than two years of talking with Bellevue officials, Chicago minor league hockey owner Don Levin went public with his desire to build an arena on the Eastside last week.

Levin wants a building focused on the NHL, rather than Hansen's preference for the NBA. Levin said in interviews with various media outlets this week that he hopes to unveil a proposal in the next month that has a better public financing deal than Hansen's, which asks the city and county to finance $200 million of the project cost in long-term bonds that will be repaid through revenue taken in at the arena.

Levin has yet to return a call requesting comment.

County deliberations followed another round of impassioned testimony from the public. On one side were longshoremen, port officials and others who worried about the economic impacts the arena would cause. Proponents included long-time Supersonics fans, construction groups and restaurant owners in the area.

Following more than two hours of testimony, County councilmembers undertook the votes.

"The realization of this arena still revolves around the successful acquisition of a team," said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. "If an opportunity becomes available, we will be prepared to take advantage of the economic and cultural benefits an arena could contribute to our region. This is an example of public-private partnerships that allow many diverse opportunities and benefits with no new general tax dollars."

The Seattle council may ask for a number of modifications to the deal that could alter it to the point that the county will have to make a second vote that would likely come in the fall. The council added a few changes as well, which include an economic analysis study to be financed by Hansen, pedestrian paths to the arena from nearby light-rail stations and city and county ability to renew financial statements on the arena.

“It is time to get started. This does not presuppose the final outcome, nor other mid-step votes but this is a great opening salvo,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.


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