By Manuel Valdes Associated Press
SEATTLE — The San Francisco venture capitalist behind a plan to lure the NBA back to town appeared before a citizen panel Wednesday, saying he’s willing to wait years to complete a deal for a new arena.
“To be in a position like this, it’s something I’ve worked very hard for, to be financially able to do it,” Chris Hansen said.
The Seattle native is proposing $290 million in private investment toward the construction of a new arena that would cost between $450 and $500 million. Hansen’s group would also be responsible for the purchase of an NBA franchise and finding a partner interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Seattle.
The public financing component of the proposal would be capped at $200 million. Hansen said he wouldn’t be the owner of the NHL franchise.
The plan represents the first significant step toward solving the arena problem that was behind the SuperSonics decision to move to Oklahoma City following the 2007-2008 NBA season after 41 years in Seattle.
The plan is now before a review board — a group of community leaders that includes one-time SuperSonics player and coach Lenny Wilkens. City and county officials have said they want the review finished within a month.
“In Chris Hansen, we have a dedicated private investor who wishes to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in our city,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said.
Wednesday’s hearing, held at City Hall, was packed full of Sonics fans decked out in the club’s old colors of yellow and gold. When Hansen was introduced, all cheered.
The city of Bellevue is reportedly looking at options to bring a professional sports team to its side of Lake Washington. Asked if he would work exclusively with Seattle, Hansen said, “Definitely, there should be little question about that.”
He noted that he’s already bought land in the city’s stadium district to build the arena.
“I put my money into this site because I believe it’s the right spot for it,” Hansen said. “I don’t want to knock the other sites, but as a fan, think about where would you want to go?”