An exhilarating prospect
Except for that extremely rare occasion when it isn't.
Which might -- might -- be the case in the current proposal to build a basketball/hockey arena south of the two stadiums that house the Seattle Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders.
According to a preliminary, bare-bones plan introduced last week by the top elected officials in Seattle and King County, such a venue can be constructed with virtually no risk to public coffers. A group of private investors, led by San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who spent his formative years in Seattle rooting for the Sonics, would pay $290 million toward construction, buy an NBA team and recruit owners for an NHL franchise. Hansen has already bought the proposed arena site.
The city and county would sell bonds to finance the remaining $200 million in construction costs, bonds that would be repaid solely with revenue generated directly by the arena -- ticket taxes, concession taxes, construction sales taxes, etc.
Hansen's group would put three years' worth of payments into escrow as a guarantee, and construction wouldn't start until basketball and hockey teams were secured.
Skepticism is healthy, and clearly must be employed in this case. Careful study is required. But we haven't yet detected a fatal flaw. Area sports fans can be excused for feeling a little giddy.
The biggest potential problem may be traffic congestion, given that having five big-league teams concentrated in a small area will inevitably lead to two events happening at the same time. Bear in mind, though, that Sound Transit's Link light rail system stops at the stadiums, and will extend north to Lynnwood and east to Redmond in another decade or so. It will no doubt become a favored alternative to driving to a game.
The Everett Silvertips needn't worry about the presence of a National Hockey League team in Seattle. Indeed, it's more likely to expand interest in the sport, and loyal Silvertips fans will enjoy a much more affordable experience at Comcast Arena.
This almost-too-good-to-be-true scenario may never have surfaced had the state and city of Seattle not stood up to the NBA four years ago, refusing to raise taxes for yet another pro sports palace. Owner Clay Bennett took the team to Oklahoma City, but the region can be proud of the statement it made.
The potential payoff, construction of a self-sustaining venue that brings the NBA back to the region and establishes the NHL here, is exciting to consider. We'd love to see it happen.
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