City Hall

City Estimates NBA-Only Arena Will Draw Just 125 Events a Year

By Erica C. Barnett August 31, 2012

Arena proponent Chris Hansen has said he believes the project could bring in "up to" 200 events per year. The city, currently working frantically to craft an arena agreement both Mayor Mike McGinn (an uncritical arena proponent) and the city council (which includes some skeptics) can agree on, thinks Hansen's number is optimistic. The City Budget Office estimates that the arena could attract 171 events per year---if, and it's a big if, Seattle attracts an NHL team in addition to the NBA. Without the NHL, the city estimates the arena would attract about 125 events a year, or 37.5 percent lower than Hansen's estimate.

Those 125 events break down as follows: 41 regular NBA games, two playoff games, three exhibition games, ten major concerts, and 69 minor events. More than half of the events the proposal is relying on, in other words, would be things like graduations and high school football games.

The difference between Hansen's optimistic projection is one reason the city has estimated that he'll owe an additional $4 million a year in rent over the life of the bonds the city would use to pay for the arena. (The bonds, a total of  $120 million, are supposed to be funded by revenues from the arena itself and rent from Hansen). Hansen has said the city is being "too conservative" in its assumptions; he does not believe he'll owe any extra rent.

At Field of Schemes, stadium opponent Neil deMause (who wrote a book by the same title about stadium projects around the country) says the average arena in the US hosts about 100 events a year---less than either the city's or Hansen's estimates.
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