Arena gets approval, but "final" isn't final

Oct 15, 2012

A new basketball arena appears to have the green light. Both the Seattle City Council and King County Council voted Monday in favor of an agreement with investor Chris Hansen.

However, more studies – and votes – lie ahead.

If you’ve lost track of where we are with the basketball arena, here’s a quick refresher:

  • Private investor Chris Hansen unveiled his idea last winter, to build a new arena in the SODO neighborhood. He was supported by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
  • The two councils held hearings and began offering amendments in May and June. The County Council voted Yes in July, but the City Council required amendments – and eventually announced a $40-million fund for transportation improvements near the Port of Seattle.

Now, both councils have approved the amended agreement, unanimously at the County Council, and by a 7-2 vote in the City Council.

The arena deal uses bonding authority from the county and city to provide loans to Hansen’s company. The loans would be paid-back by Hansen and through taxes generated by the basketball arena.

Taxpayer involvement is justified, says County Councilman Joe McDermott, who shepherded the measure through.

"As part of government, we provide any number of public amenities. McCaw hall, Benaroya Hall, parks and trails throughout our region," he said.

Approval allows Hansen to go shop for a basketball team to bring to Seattle.

More review, more votes, and a lawsuit

Still, an environmental process must compare other possible locations for an arena, and evaluate the impacts, which several County Councilmembers acknowledged before voting.

Meanwhile, the local longshoremen’s union, ILWU Local 19, says it will file a lawsuit as soon as the legislation is signed. Their attorney, Peter Goldman, says the environmental review is a sham:

“Everyone knows that it is either this site or no site, so let's not pretend that we’re going to have this discussion, over the next year, over what site,” says Goldman.

The union says public officials violated state rules by creating "unstoppable momentum" – before considering other possible locations. They're worried shippers will leave Seattle if it’s too hard to get trucks in and out of the port.