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October 25, 2016
Sonics booster Chris Hansen has spent over $122 million so far to buy about 13 acres for a sports arena in SoDo, and now he says he will forgo public financing for the project.
In a Tuesday letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, Hansen and his partners said they no longer need the $200 million in bond-backed financing they had been seeking for the $490 million project. That financing was part of a 2012 memorandum of understanding with the city and county.
The MOU will expire in November 2017 if Hansen can’t secure an NBA franchise to replace the SuperSonics, which were sold and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
By potentially self-funding the 700,000-square-foot multisport arena, Hansen basically escapes the MOU deadline, giving himself more time to find a team. The NBA has previously said it has no plans to expand the league.
However, Hansen and partners are still requesting that the city vacate a portion of Occidental Avenue South, a proposal that was rejected by the Seattle City Council in May. Hansen’s group is also requesting admission tax breaks and B&O tax adjustments for the HOK-designed stadium, which would be located north of Holgate Street. Those tax abatements would still be a public subsidy.
Yet in a concession to the council and SoDo industrial interests, Hansen said, “We have identified other traffic and freight mobility improvements in SoDo to which we will direct contributions. Further, we will agree, following the street vacation approval, to commit to the future payment of compensation for the vacated street to the City’s financing package for the Lander Street Overpass.”
The city hopes to begin construction on the two-year, $140 million Lander Street project in 2018. It’s presently about two-thirds funded.
Brian Miller can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.