Should Seattle Build a New Arena?
Next month, the Seattle City Council will vote on a proposal, supported by Mayor Mike McGinn, to invest up to $120 million in city funds toward a new, half-billion-dollar arena funded largely by San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen. (The County Council is fastracking the proposal and handed it off to the full council earlier this week.)
Opponents of the arena argue that the proposal did not go through the usual public process (Hansen picked the site and bought the land himself, without any discussion of whether the SoDo location was the best one); that public dollars shouldn't be used to subsidize fabulously wealthy sports teams; and that traffic to and from the arena will make it hard for both commuters and Port cargo trucks to move around the area, among other objections.
Proponents, meanwhile, argue that a new NBA (and, potentially, NHL) team would do wonders for civic pride; that Hansen has guaranteed the city will not lose any money on the deal; and that this deal represents the city's best and only chance to return the Sonics to Seattle.
In today's ThinkTank, we've got arena proponent---Kris Brannon, who has appeared in character (and uniform) as "Sonics Guy" everywhere for the past three years (scroll down in this old post and witness our total confusion late last year when we caught him hyping his Sonics message at an Occupy protest).
And we've got an arena skeptic, former city council member (and mayoral contender?) Peter Steinbrueck.
Although Steinbrueck is a consultant for the (anti-arena) Port of Seattle, the opinions he expresses here are his own.
The basic proposal is this: The City and County are loaning Hansen up to $200 million (the City is loaning most of it—$120 million) which Hansen's pledged to pay back (ultimately $454 million in debt service over 30 years) through rent on the arena, which the city will own, and through taxes on arena activity.
We are hosting a public forum on the arena deal on Monday night, July 30th, at EVO on Capitol Hill featuring Steinbrueck; ESPN 710 sports talk host Mike Salk; Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien; and Port of Seattle Commissioner Tom Albro.