BY Art Thiel 02:56PM 05/03/2016

Hansen holds out hope; others want choices

Chris Hansen said he has not foreclosed on his project yet. Meanwhile, King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer cheered the decision, saying there are more options out there than the Hansen’s proposal.

Developer Chris Hansen says don’t turn out the light yet. / 360 Architects

Arena developer Chris Hansen wrote on his Sodo arena project website that despite the loss of a key vote Monday with the Seattle City Council, his plan is not necessarily at a dead end. His statement:

Today’s City Council vote was disappointing but we don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We know all the fans who have stood solidly by us these past years share our disappointment but it is important that we all stay focused on our shared goal. 

We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council’s concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted.

In a related development, an influential politician cheered the 5-4 vote by the council that ruled against vacating a block of Occidental Avenue South, which Hansen needed for the Sodo site.

King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer long has been a skeptic of the Sodo location and the lack of options in siting an arena. Von Reichbauer played a key role 20 years ago in persuading Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to buy the Seahawks after owner Ken Behring moved the Seahawks for two weeks to Southern California.

But the sale happened only after a stadium proposal won a statewide ballot measure to help fund what is now CenturyLink Field.

Von Reichbauer also has been an ally of the Mariners in their opposition to the arena site.

His statement Monday after the vote:

“The 5-4 vote of the Council to break up the Hansen monopoly opens up other opportunities for potential NBA and NHL owners to come to the Seattle area.

I commend the majority of the Seattle City Council for stepping back from the precipice of a potentially bad decision. Public policy should be based on fact, not fiction.

For all of the fans who want the Supersonics back, there are options other than Chris Hansen. This decision creates opportunities to look at the other potential locations for an arena.

If the city had committed to the Hansen vacation, it would have limited the potential sites.

 This is a vote that means there are now more opportunities — not just one.”

Bellevue has long been discussed as a potential site for an arena, in part because many Sonics season-ticket holders were Eastside residents and dreaded the access and parking in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood, which has only gotten worse since the 2008 departure of the Sonics.

But for a variety of reasons, no Bellevue plan took clear shape.

Also in the discussion is Tukwila, where Connecticut investment banker Ray Bartoszek took options on land purchases for an arena that would be a hockey-first venue. Little has come to light this year on his project.

Because of Hansen’s deal, a memorandum of understanding between him, the city and King County signed in November 2012 for five years, alternative sites couldn’t gain much traction until the fate of Hansen’s project was determined.

Since the deal still has 18 months to run, and Hansen said he’s not done, it’s unclear if anything has changed regarding a pursuit of alternative sites. Any investors curious about jumping into suburban locations would need to know that Hansen’s project no longer is viable.

Hansen would have one obvious, and least desirable, option: Suing the city, presumably for some violation of the terms of the MOU. That might involve the city’s interest in a remodel of KeyArena, which was the subject of a council-commissioned report by arena builder AECOM that was completed in May 2015.

The report said a remodel of the Key to accommodate pro hockey and basketball could be done for less than $300 million. The pursuit of the report was part of the MOU, but its conclusion allowed Sodo arena opponents to grab onto it and say that there was an alternative that the Sodo arena’s environmental impact statement failed to consider.

Had the council voted to approve the vacation, the AECOM report’s findings likely would have been a part of a lawsuit brought by the Port of Seattle as early as Tuesday.

The report did not address Seattle Center’s parking and access, nor could it consider funding sources. It’s unlikely that private investors could be found to invest in a building that the leagues do not want, no matter how it was remodeled, especially on public property in a park. Nor is the city likely to have its own money, nor the political will to put funding for a remodel on a ballot measure.

Other options for Hansen are hard to discern, but one result is clear: The NBA has for years been dismayed at the market’s absence of support from state and local governments. It is a big part of why the Sonics were allowed to relocate.

As with any monopoly, the NBA/NHL expect cities and states to bend to their will. Once again, Seattle did not bend.

The NBA does not like Seattle. Nothing Monday changed the view.


  • WestCoastBias79

    Only Seattle would overthink and say no to a deal this good. Then again they said no to the equivalent of 5 billion dollars for a subway in the 60’s. Apparently turning down money while driving Subarus with Coexist stickers on them is the preferred option to professional winter sports and logical transportation. It’s like dithering is an industry.

    How’s that tunnel going?

    I realize I’m all over the map here, just felt appropriate considering the subject is the Seattle City Council.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Yes, Seattle as a city marches to the beat of its own drummer. I believe that Seattle has evolved past the nba. Might be time for those remaining few who persist in donning green and yellow at city hall meetings to ask “am I living in the past?”. I know it hurts, but it’s time to move on.

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  • 1coolguy

    Gag me – I just pulled up the Hanson link per the above and of all people, WALLY WALKER is on the letterhead! As the #1 acolyte of Schultz I presumed we had heard the last from Wally. Ugh. It brings back that nightmarish period of crappy draft choices and inept management.

    • MrPrimeMinister

      Didn’t see Wally, but did see the gag he put on sonics people–telling them to stop with the vile insults and threats to the city council. Wow it must have gotten really nasty to reach the point where the guy to tell his supporters to shut up.

  • 1coolguy

    When Paul Allen funded the “park” at South Lake Union for $10M for those 10 acres, I told people “Wow, he has no downside, as he ends up with teh property if the vote fails” which of course he did. That property has been a gold mine, worth hundreds of millions.
    Same to Hansen: The properties he purchased for the arena years ago have gone up, up, up and today are now worth MUCH more as property to be developed than they are for an arena. Hansen comes out sweet either way.

    • MarkS

      The Puget Sound Business Journal pointed that out today. If not an arena then an office complex.
      Offices of course would attract more daytime traffic than an arena would. Traffic that the Port of Seattle would have to deal with.

      Another case where Seattle fails to have much foresight of what their actions will bring.

      • Chris Alexander

        That would actually “serve them right” …. An arena would have increased the traffic 41 days/nights a year (plus preseason and postseason games, of course) whereas an office complex would increase traffic 260 days/nights a year and, if the land were developed with a retail/residential mix, it would increase traffic 365 days/nights a year. Freaking BRILLIANT!

        I’d still like to see the arena get built and still think that location is the BEST location to do it but if the MOU expires and the street still hasn’t been vacated then I hope Hansen (or whoever he sells the land to) builds the biggest (whatever) imaginable and ties up traffic in that area for the next 100 years.

  • Jeff Shope

    seattle has become a socialist cesspool

  • eYeDEF

    So what is Von Reichbauer’s problem and why is he so anti-Hansen?

  • Tom G.

    All I can say is if there are other sites with other investors that have been clouded in shadow and myth up until now, they may as well come out of hiding and start trying harder to get something built around here.

    Because the chances of Chris Hansen getting his arena built in SODO seem are basically next to nil at this point between the NBA not playing ball, him likely needing all private funding and the lack of accommodations from the City when it comes to cutting red tape.

    If anything, I actually think Ray Bartoszek now has a halfway decent shot to take the lead on the arena front from Tukwila assuming he still controls the parcels of land he needs to control at Southcenter AND the interest in Seattle and Seattle sports (namely the NHL) is still there on his part.

    If those things still exist for him, all he really needs is an extra whale that supposedly he had last summer before he/she pulled out right as it was time to bid for NHL expansion.*

    * = Easier said than done, I know.

    • Mr. Math

      The ghosting of Ray Bartoszek is not a good sign; a strong indication that he was/is not serious. I also don’t buy into the narrative that Hansen’s project was scaring off would-be investors. Where is the evidence? At this point, they just don’t exist.

      • Tom G.

        I actually can see how Chris Hansen’s project would scare off would-be investors.

        In fact, I remember distinctly that Hansen went on the SOFTY show last June or so and said an arena in Tukwila would NOT deter him from continuing to pursue SODO for the NBA.

        Now, if THAT was the case, let’s go with the hypothetical of Tukwila being where the NHL team is and SODO being where the Sonics are. At that point, Bartoszek’s barn in Tukwila becomes the Seattle equivalent of the Coyotes barn in Glendale, AZ. He’d be in the SECONDARY building for the SECONDARY sport in a SECONDARY/SUBURBAN location in the market and he’d be stuck watching most of the bigger non-NBA/NHL arena events going to SODO.

        So while I have no idea why he didn’t make an NHL bid last summer after he said he was going to, I could definitely see how an actual window of opportunity for Bartoszek’s project basically starts now with SODO and Seattle being out of the way. Because this could ultimately help him recruit more big investors/whales.

        Like I said, if he still has control of the land and still has the interest, I could see how it’s at least POSSIBLE that he could take the lead here in the quest for an arena.

  • jafabian

    It’s time for Chris to step back and give it a rest for awhile. The city and the NBA are tired of all this and tired of him. If he keeps hammering away at it then all this becomes an annoyance. In the interim he should try and find a partner to replace Ballmer. Someone who brings a positive image to his group. An NHL supporter would be ideal but for some reason Chris has been resistant to that. Evidently he has his limits as to what he’ll do for this. But the city reached stadium fatigue a long time ago so stepping away might be the better course. Sure fans can do a petition like what Russell Wilson tweeted yesterday but it would only have an impact if it had something over 100,000 signatures which I don’t see happening. Not when voters say no more public funds for professional sports.

    • MrPrimeMinister

      I agree. It’s called “shelf-life”. After a certain period of time, things spoil and go stale. That point has now been reached, perhaps some time ago actually.

      • jafabian

        Gotta make people hungry for it before firing up the NBA engine again.

        • MrPrimeMinister

          That would be the optimistic way of looking at it.

    • Mr. Math

      I’m reading the message between the lines and I think he’ saying….it’s over, certainly in Sodo. He may, or may not, decide he’s interesting in another plan. Or whatever. I think Art is misinterpreting the message. I bet Chris knows….Soho is not merely dead, it’s really most sincerely dead. PS: I’m sure suing the city is the very, very last thing he wants to do, unless they decide to besmirch him personally and publicly on the way out, for no good reason. Seattle Times already has chosen this path: class!

  • Dan Whitmarsh

    This is what those in the business refer to as “Orwellian doublespeak.”