Chris Hansen: F— It, I’ll Pay For Sonics Arena Myself
I formerly lived in Seattle, and can tell you that the SuperSonics were the city's pride and joy. But curiously, people weren't very devoted to keeping them, and the problem centered on building the team a new arena (Key Arena, their home until 2008, was like a pair of worn sneakers, ready to fall apart at any moment). So off the team went to Oklahoma, and the Pacific Northwest have pined for them ever since.
What went wrong? Even San Francisco, as dysfunctional of a sports city as you'll ever find, managed to build the Giants a new home in 2000. The 49ers got a new stadium in Silicon Valley. So do you mean to say that Seattle, home of the richest man in the world and several other billionaires, can't pony up for an NBA arena?
Well now they won't have to (in theory). Investment tycoon Chris Hansen has sent a letter to the city offering to build an arena in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, and completely fund it himself. On the surface it looks like a pretty good deal ... but odds are that certain big players in the city will still oppose it.
"SoDo is the industrial/arena area south of downtown," former Seattle city council legislative assistant, producer and systems editor at MSNBC.com and current Seattle technology writer Josh Belzman told SportsGrid. "The Port and some manufacturing interests are down there, and have lobbied hard against siting another arena, even though the area is zoned for it. The Seahawks and Mariners have also fought it.
"The Port complains about freight mobility but wants others to build them an overpass," Belzman said. "And now Hansen group, which has its sights set on doing an arena-entertainment area down there, has offered to close the funding gap for the overpass and do the stadium without public financing. There are few other places to put an arena around here."
That's right, Hansen's group is offering to basically pay for the port's overpass, and still there's resistance.
Accepting the deal would end a five-year debate over building a new arena. And the next step, getting an NBA and NHL franchise either through expansion or relocation, is something that both leagues are on record as willing to approve. King5-Seattle:
This month, Hansen and his partners also snapped up two big pieces of property in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, bringing to $123 million the amount the group has spent to purchase multiple lots in SODO.
The offer sent Tuesday would be unprecedented in recent Seattle sports and business history. The public subsidized $300 million of the $430 million construction of Century Link Field, which opened in 2002. Taxpayers also helped finance $384 million for the construction of Safeco Field in 1999. KeyArena, the former home of the Sonics, was renovated in 1995 with help from taxpayers. The debate over public financing for another KeyArena remodel was a factor in the NBA's decision to move the Sonics from Seattle back in 2008.
The Hansen group's new offer also comes amidst increasing speculation about the NBA's potential expansion. Multiple reports have suggested the NBA and its players are close to finalizing a multi-year collective bargaining agreement, which would allow the league to focus on growth.
So the city has little excuse not to move this forward -- except for the objections by the port, the Mariners and the Seahawks.
So what say you, Seattle? Do you want an NBA team or not? Because if you reject this, you're probably not getting the SuperSonics back, ever.
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