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John Boyle | jboyle@heraldnet.com
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 4:28 p.m.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on arena proposal: 'On first look, this is an exciting proposal.'

It was a big day at Seattle City Hall Thursday as Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine held a press conference to discuss a proposal for a new arena that could be built to help lure the NBA back to Seattle as well as bring an NHL team to the region.

Now before we get too excited here, remember, it is a proposal at this point. There are still many, many hurdles to clear before we'll see NBA basketball or NHL hockey in Seattle, but make no mistake, this day was a very encouraging early step in the right direction.

"We have a chance to do something special," Constantine said.

And what is most special about the proposal unveiled today is that this arena would be built without any cost to tax payers. When Seattle passed Initiative-91 in 2006, it was the taxpayers way of saying no to using public funds for new stadiums/stadium renovations. This proposal, which was submitted by San Francisco hedge-fund manager Christopher Hansen, outlines a plan to build a new arena in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood--just south of the Safeco Field parking garage--that would cost taxpayers nothing. The plan calls for $290 million to come from private investment with the remaining arena costs financed by a combination of tax revenue generated by the facility and property and rental income paid by the teams. No i know, I know, the word tax was in that last sentence, but it is important to understand that the tax money we're talking about is money that is only being created by the new stadium.

Again, this is not costing taxpayers anything. This can't be stated enough.

This proposal will comply with I-91, McGinn said, adding "In practical terms, there is no public subsidy."

So if this arena gets built, that would mean the city would own an arena that was built with more private investment than every NBA arena aside from Madison Square Garden (New York) and the Staples Center (Los Angeles). Any cost overruns would be covered by private investors according to the proposal. That's a pretty darn good deal for the city.

One thing that came through clearly Thursday, however, was that this plan is designed to work with both NBA and NHL teams as tenants, so again, there are a lot of hurdles to clear before this thing gets off the ground.

Hansen will first have to figure out exactly how he is going to secure those teams. Once he can do that, he'll put up his money, then the city would get involved.

"This is a promising proposal," McGinn said. "But a lot of things have to align."

So in other words, today doesn't mean the return of the NBA is inevitable, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
Story tags » Sonics

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