Story Summary

New sports arena planned for Seattle’s Sodo District

On Oct. 16, 2012, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine  signed an agreement to use up to $200 million in public funds to build a proposed $490 million NBA/NHL arena, with chief investor Chris Hansen putting in the rest.

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SoDo arena rendering

SEATTLE — If the Port of Seattle Commission has its way, no basketball area would be built in Seattle’s Sodo district.

The commission sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn saying a recently completed draft environmental impact statement lacks specifics on how traffic would be impacted. Commissioners also say an arena could result in the loss of middle-class jobs.

At a recent commission hearing, the Manufacturing Industrial Council, union railroad, long shore workers and others voiced concerns about traffic congestion, safety issues and other impacts associated with a new arena in the city’s industrial zone.

“These industrial jobs matter,” said John Lockwood of Vigor Industrial, a Seattle shipbuilder. “They represent an irreplaceable slice of our shrinking middle class. They put people to work producing real, tangible, valuable goods.”

According to port officials, the manufacturing and industrial sector accounts for 36 percent of the city’s sales tax receipts and 38 percent of the city’s total B&O tax revenue.  The port’s container terminals support 30,000 jobs. They also say $10 billion in Washington state exports depend on maintaining the Port of Seattle’s international gateway.

The Commission says the environmental impact statement does not include a funding proposal or specific transportation improvement projects.  Critics estimate improvements, such as east-west overpasses, new highway access and signal timing could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mariners’ games already increase westbound I-90 traffic 20-30 percent.  Arena opponents say basketball and hockey would nearly double the number of weeknight games in the area.

“We do not see the need to rush forward with a decision on an arena,” wrote port commissioners. “The NBA has said they are not contemplating expansion and the developer has no firm prospect of luring an existing team from another city. We urge the city to begin the process anew.”

Last April, a King County judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed a stopping construction of the new arena.

sodo1SEATTLE — A courtroom victory for the new Sodo arena feels a little hollow without a team to put in it.

According to the city of Seattle, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that the agreement between Seattle, King County and Chris Hansen did not violate state environmental laws.

The original suit was brought by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 19. They lost their suit, and their appeal was denied Monday.

This leaves the door open for Seattle and Hansen’s group to pursue their dream of a $490 million sports arena to host basketball and hockey games and other events.

“Our office has worked hard to ensure that the review process  for the proposed arena complies with SEPA,” city attorney Pete Holmes said. “I am pleased the court agrees with us.”

The Seattle Times reported the ILWU will now shift the focus of its fight to challenging the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the city last month. Port workers are concerned crowds of sports fans would clog the streets that lead to port facilities, slowing down port traffic and putting their jobs in jeopardy.

SEATTLE — Investor Chris Hansen confirmed Friday that he donated money through a law firm to groups opposed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento — a clandestine contribution that California officials said occurred in mid-June, three weeks after Hansen lost his bid to buy the NBA team and move it to Seattle and after he had wished the new owners in Sacramento well.

“I made a mistake I regret,” Hansen said in a statement issued Friday night on his website.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s appointed political watchdog,  announced earlier Friday that Hansen had donated $100,000 through the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb to an opposition petition campaign in Sacramento to try to force a public vote – and potentially scuttle — the Kings’ proposed new downtown arena deal.

hansen2His contribution came on June 21, three weeks after the National Basketball Association owners in May vetoed his deal to buy the team and move it to Seattle.

“When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success,” Hansen said in his statement.

“During this time I was approached through Loeb by the opposition about making a contribution to the opposition’s efforts as part of a broader group and agreed to make a donation.

“In this regard I would just like to highlight that I have never directly engaged with or even had any conversations or contact with STOP, Taxpayers For Safer Neighborhoods, or any the various consultants engaged in the Sacramento Arena opposition. It was also not my intent to be the primary financial sponsor of the opposition’s efforts. I merely agreed to make a donation to the opposition in what had become a competitive and heated process.

“I have not agreed to provide any further political contributions and do not intend to make any further contributions.

“I would also just point out that the contribution was made in my personal capacity and not on behalf of our ownership group or my partners. In fact, I have never discussed the contribution with them to date.

“While I’m sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret. I wish the city of Sacramento and Kings fans the best in their efforts and they have my commitment not to have any involvement in their arena efforts in the future.”

At an afternoon press conference in Sacramento, FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk said Hansen should have known state law required him to report his $100,000 contribution. Both Hansen and the political action committee of the opposition group could face fines, Winuk said.

Hansen’s statement made no explanation why he made the contribution three weeks after he had lost the fight for the Kings.

“Despite his apology, experts said he had already wounded his effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle some day, as the league might not appreciate his meddling in another market,” the Sacramento Bee’s news story on the issue said.

The disclosure first came in campaign documents filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office by an Orange County political action committee.

The group gathering petition signatures made the filing one day after the FPPC sued Loeb & Loeb, which had wired $80,000 of Hansen’s $100,000 to the signature-gathering campaign organizers in Sacramento. The lawsuit demanded to know the identity of the donor. A court hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but Hansen’s identity was disclosed Friday.

arenabSEATTLE –- City leaders are taking a closer look at three different areas for a new sports arena in Seattle.

In the newly released Draft Environmental Impact Statement, city officials released their findings on the 21 proposed sites that could potentially host arena operations.

Those sites were eventually narrowed down to three locations by the Department of Planning and Development: The current KeyArena site, Memorial Stadium, which neighbors the Seattle Center, and the SoDo district.

The review process for the proposed locations is far from over. The city will host two public hearings on their findings, one on Sept. 10 at City Hall and another on Sept. 19 at Seattle Center.

City officials hope to have a finalized Environmental Impact Statement by the first quarter of 2014.

To read the entire proposal, visit the city’s website here.


Sacramento mayor fights to keep NBA team from possibly moving to Seattle


Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson

SEATTLE — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has come up with a plan to try to hold on to the NBA’s Kings and keep the team from possibly moving to Seattle.

Johnson said he has permission from NBA Commissioner David Stern to make a counteroffer to the reported $525 million deal allegedly proposed by Chris Hansen’s Seattle investor group.

“Sacramento will get a chance to put our best foot forward,” said Johnson, who reportedly has put together a local investor group. “The commissioner says that our community has every right to present a counteroffer that’s fair and competitive and talk about what this team means, not only to this city but to our region.”

Thousands of Kings’ fans are also signing an online petition, vowing to buy season tickets if the team stays.

It’s the latest effort to keep the team in Sacramento, and very similar to what happened in Seattle before the Sonics left.

“I want them to fight as hard as they can, “said Steve Pyeatt, of Save Our Sonics. “I just don’t see this as being something that’s viable enough to get the NBA to stop the relocation.”

Pyeatt led the charge to try and save the Sonics in 2008, and said it’s déjà vu watching the scene unfold in Northern California right now.

In 2008, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels tried the same thing to save the Sonics, with a group that included Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who is now part of Hansen’s group.

Sonics legend Fred Brown led another team of investors and even had designs for a new arena on the waterfront.

Neither could stop the Sonics move to Oklahoma City.

The Kings’ owners, the Maloof brothers, and Hansen are still not talking, but Pyeatt said it appears they’re just waiting for a thumbs-up from NBA owners.

“The bottom line is going to be what the ownership groups want and what the NBA owners want and right now it looks like they want a team back in Seattle,” the activist said.

arenabSEATTLE — Images of new design options for a $490 million NBA/NHL arena to be built by investor Chris Hanson in Seattle’s Sodo District were posted on the city of Seattle’s website Friday.

The first one shown at left is an aerial view of the No. 3 option – and the “preferred” option – for the new arena.

From top to bottom, the view of No. 3 option is shown looking south along 1st Avenue; next is a drawing of the proposed arena under option No. 1, the view also is looking south on 1st Avenue;  a drawing below is of the proposed arena under option No. 2, the view is looking south on 1st Avenue. To view the entire document, click here.


The city of Seattle has released the first round of designs for the proposed NBA/NHL arena in SoDo. 

You can view the proposal here.

longshoremansSEATTLE — The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court Thursday challenging the decision by Seattle and King County to move forward with an agreement to build a sports arena in Seattle’s Sodo district.

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed the Memorandum of Understanding with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million NHL/NBA arena.

Hansen has proposed building it in the Sodo district, where he has already bought $51 million in property.

The lawsuit, which is available for downloading at, alleges that Seattle and King County violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

“While it purports in several sentences to require future SEPA review and reserves final siting of the arena in the future, virtually all of the 38 page-long MOU consists of planning and financial terms that only apply to the Sodo site,” a news release by the union said.

“These provisions will create irreversible political momentum in favor of siting the proposed new arena on the Sodo site in the SEPA review process, making the SEPA alternatives and impacts review process a sham,” said Cameron Williams, president of ILWU Local 19.

“I repeat, ILWU is not against a new arena or bringing back the NBA to the Seattle area but we are not going to sit idly by while this arena and entertainment district, along with the traffic already generated by Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, destroy the great working-class jobs provided by our port and industrial area,” he said.

The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the MOU and to require the city and county to go back to the drawing board and work on an MOU and future SEPA process that does not make the arena site in Sodo a foregone conclusion.

hansen2SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday signed an agreement to use up to $200 million in public funds for a proposed $490 million NBA/NHL arena, with investor Chris Hansen putting in the rest.

Approval of the Memorandum of Understanding allows Hansen, a San Francisco hedge fund manager, to begin an environmental impact study and to look around for a new Sonics team to bring to Seattle.

Hansen wants to build the arena in the city’s Sodo district, where he has already bought about $51 million in property, although the Port of Seattle and the longshoremen’s union oppose that site and want it built elsewhere.

The King County Council approved the MOU on a 9-0 vote while the Seattle City Council approved it 7-2 Monday.

“While we still have a long way to go, this is is the most significant step the region has made to bring back the NBA since 2008,” said King County Council Chairman Larry Gossett. “We have come this far because of the diligence of not only Chris Hansen, but also Executive Constantine, Mayor McGinn, both councils and the legion of fans who are working to return the Sonics.”

County Vice Chairwoman Jane Hague said, “This begins the process of measuring environmental, economic and transportation impacts on not only the Sodo site but other sites that also may emerge.”

The president of Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Cameron Williams, said his union would file suit to stop the project.

“We cannot stand idly by while Mr. Hansen and his well-connected lobbyists, along with our elected officials, build an arena in a location that threatens the livelihood of our members and many other workers in the maritime industry and Sodo,” he said in a statement issued last Friday.

The union says a new arena would create traffic problems and cost jobs, and it accuses the councils of not looking at alternative sites for such an arena.

The state environmental review, known as SEPA, is supposed to consider other locations, but the union local said, “Because only the Sodo site is acceptable to Mr. Hansen, the SEPA alternative process will be a sham.”

In response to the lawsuit announcement, King County Council’s Joe McDermott said, “I think we`ve all been careful to make sure we have a full, transparent SEPA process.”

McDermott said that includes looking at several other potential arena sites.

“This gives us the opportunity to perhaps bring back an NBA team, the Sonics, to Seattle and NHL hockey as well,” McDermott said. “Yet we`re still making sure we`re doing our careful work to make sure we have a full analysis of this site and more than would be typically required.”

As part of the “memorandum of understanding,” the city of Seattle would be asked to provide up to $120 million in bond money and King County up to $80 million if both NBA and NHL teams are secured. The money would be paid back over time from arena taxes and revenue.