SODO arena-deal update: Councilmembers’ announcement

FIRST REPORT, 7:31 AM: If you’re following the SODO arena story, you are probably more than well aware of reports late last night that City Councilmembers and arena backers reached a deal (here’s what our partners at the Seattle Times wrote). This morning, word’s just in that three councilmembers plan “an announcement” at 9:30 am – if you want to watch live, they’re planning to stream it online (here’s the link). The councilmembers (President Sally Clark, Tim Burgess, Mike O’Brien) were among the eight who sent the arena contingent a letter in late July expressing concerns about the proposed deal.

ADDED 9:58 AM: The briefing’s still under way, but the city has already sent a news release summarizing what’s happened – including the proposed creation of a Port Overlay District – and two links to related documents, including an FAQ. We’ve added those after the jump (also added, 10:31 am, King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s comments):

Seattle City Councilmembers Sally J. Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O’Brien announced today that they have reached an agreement with Chris Hansen’s ArenaCo for a new sports and entertainment arena they will recommend to their colleagues for approval by the full Council.

The modified memorandum of understanding (MOU) protects family-wage jobs in Seattle’s industrial, manufacturing and maritime sectors by funding freight mobility and other transportation improvements. The MOU also strengthens the legal and financial protections afforded to the City and County, including a personal financial guaranty from Hansen.

“The new and improved agreement with Mr. Hansen makes this a sound step for Seattle,” said Council President Sally J. Clark. “We set out to make sure the general fund is protected, freight mobility is helped and that we have help in charting the future of Key. We achieved these goals.”

The new agreement creates a $40 million SODO Transportation Infrastructure Fund to address longstanding transportation problems in the area. The Fund will initially be a collaboration between the City and County, but additional funding will be sought from other public and private partners, including the Port of Seattle and state and federal governments. Councilmembers also announced that the City will begin an area-wide planning process to strengthen land use protections for industrial lands, including the creation of a Port Overlay District.

The MOU clarifies the environmental review process by requiring an examination of alternative sites, including the Seattle Center, and stating that final City Council adoption of transaction documents will only come after the EIS process is fully completed.

“We strongly believed that public money should be used for broader public purposes. The negotiated changes allow us to address long-standing transportation problems, preserve good jobs and protect Seattle’s taxpayers,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair of the Council’s committee that analyzed the agreement. “The new agreement demonstrates how healthy skepticism paired with collaboration and good governance can lead to wonderful opportunities for the public.”

In addition to transportation improvements, the new agreement creates a $7 million Key Arena Fund, a portion of which will be used to fund a study of options for the future of Key Arena and the Seattle Center.

The agreement includes significant new financial protections for the City and County, including a personal guaranty by Hansen for the City and County’s annual debt payments. It also requires ArenaCo to double the security reserve if its revenue fails to meet expectations.

“This agreement marks an exciting day in Seattle as we take a big step towards bringing back the Sonics. This is a great deal for the City and County, basketball fans and non fans alike,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “This deal is not just about an arena or the Sonics, it now includes new funding for transportation improvements in SODO, a new path towards protecting our industrial lands, and new money for Key Arena. I commend Mr. Hansen for his good faith negotiations throughout these past few months.”

The revised language gives the City and County the authority to conduct an independent, third party assessment of the financial assumptions underlying the planned construction and operations of the arena and the overall risks associated with both prior to the approval of the final Transaction Documents. The City and County will have access to the same information about ArenaCo and its business structure as the entity’s private lenders. At the end of the arena use agreement, the City and County can require ArenaCo to purchase the land and facility for $200 million.

The Mayor submitted legislation with agreements between the City, King County and ArenaCo to the City Council on May 18. The Council spent two months reviewing the proposal and gathering input from members of the public. On July 30, eight Councilmembers sent a letter to Hansen outlining areas of concern in the proposal and stating a desire to reach a positive agreement.

The Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee will consider the revised legislation at a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers (600 Fourth Ave, Second Floor). After a vote in committee, the legislation will be voted on by the Full Council on Monday, September 17 or Monday, September 24.

The following documents contain more information on the revised agreement:

Summary of major changes
Frequently asked questions

ADDED 10:31 AM: From King County Executive Dow Constantine:

“I’m encouraged to learn that City Council leaders have found a way to get to ‘yes’ with Mr. Hansen on a revised memorandum of understanding.

“This is a great sign of progress. I always felt this proposal presented a win-win opportunity to bring back our Sonics, secure an NHL team, and address the existing transportation issues south of downtown.

“Our region has at its core a “can-do” spirit and the ability to work together. We’ve invested billions of dollars in SoDo and made it the largest transportation hub in our region. It is well within our ability to enjoy a new arena while creating sensible solutions to better move people and goods.

“I look forward to reviewing the provisions of the revised MOU.”

57 Replies to "SODO arena-deal update: Councilmembers' announcement"

  • O September 11, 2012 (7:51 am)

    Go Sonics!

  • lox September 11, 2012 (7:58 am)

    Such an inappropriate day for them to stage an announcement.

  • Brandon September 11, 2012 (8:10 am)


  • DW September 11, 2012 (8:22 am)

    Great news!

  • mark September 11, 2012 (8:26 am)

    Hmmm, I wonder which of the council members recently opened a bank account in the Cayman Islands.

  • CDB September 11, 2012 (8:30 am)

    I am extrememly unhappy with this news. This is a personal opinion from a Sodo worker. Please don’t heap abuse upon me.

  • Mike September 11, 2012 (8:38 am)

    Another bad investment. No matter how you spin it, the bottom line is that public funds are being invested for the benefit of a private interest. And now, watch as the requirements gradually get whittled away as the project proceeds.

  • Huindekmi September 11, 2012 (8:38 am)

    Which city’s team are we going to steal? The Sonics/Thunder won’t be coming back, so choose your target and we’ll be doing to someone else the same dastardly thing OKC did to us.

  • Brandon September 11, 2012 (8:53 am)

    The Kings are up for sale, my guess is that team.

    also please provide evidence that “public funds” are being used. thanks

    no taxpayer money is being used, i wish people were more informed

  • Neighbor September 11, 2012 (8:56 am)

    This is so amoral. None of the members who vote for this deserve to be in office.
    Can’t keep the libraries open but can use taxpayer money to fund private profit.

  • O September 11, 2012 (9:17 am)

    It may be hard to find a team Huindekmi. In the case of Sacramento the two sides are very far apart right now. That would be a little different from the previous situation here. I’m not a fan of “stealing” a team, but if one presents itself in a situation where the two previous parties lose interest in making it work then I’m for it. Those complaining about the taxes need to do a little more homework before entering the discussion.

  • bonbon September 11, 2012 (9:35 am)


  • sw September 11, 2012 (9:46 am)

    The money used to pay the bonds comes solely from revenue generated by the building – not from external sources. This so-called “taxpayer money” DOES NOT OTHERWISE EXIST. The new agreement also includes money for Key Arena as well as transportation improvements in SoDo.

    For those saying the arena funding package is taking money away from schools and libraries, please provide evidence of this.

    • WSB September 11, 2012 (9:57 am)

      FYI the city has sent links to documents discussed at the briefing and I will add those to this story, for those who don’t want to wait for citywide media to put together their wrapups … check back in a couple minutes … TR

  • DirtyCoyote September 11, 2012 (10:17 am)

    I agree with you …lox

  • Brandon September 11, 2012 (10:19 am)

    @ bonbon you meant to say awfully good for the city.

  • Tom L. September 11, 2012 (10:23 am)

    Excellent! Very happy that PRIVATE investment is happening in an already dense public area that is already served by transit, and has multiple access options – cars, ferries, buses, walking, bikes, cabs, etc.

    Want an example of how to NOT do an entertainment venue? Put it away from density and not served by transit with limited access options. Ever tried to go to a White River Amphitheater show?? I gave up after the second time.

    Hooray for sanity.

  • Godwin September 11, 2012 (10:48 am)

    Bait and switch, over the next 5-10 years. Wait for it….

  • WSratsinacage September 11, 2012 (10:52 am)

    I thought public money was being used indirectly as an increase on property tax. So, if this is true some of the public, property owners, are helping to pay for it. Not that I care about a couple of bucks really but it just sort of seems slimy but they are politicians after all.
    If you don’t like how the council voted, REMEMBER this when elections roll around.
    Have fun sitting in more traffic on I 5 and I 90 .. I know I will. Thanks sports fans :)

  • Diane September 11, 2012 (11:32 am)

    and agree with lox

  • Koni September 11, 2012 (11:46 am)

    So ridiculous! My tax dollars have too many other places to go…and not a good location for another stadium for so many reasons! NOT happy.

  • Todd September 11, 2012 (11:48 am)

    Listen to me know and hear me later. Ticket prices will be high! The average person/family is going to be priced out unless sitting in nose bleed sections. I just don’t think people realize or have thought about actually what it will mean to go watch a game.

  • Tom L. September 11, 2012 (12:04 pm)

    RE: lox
    Just what is the issue with having an announcement on 9/11?? Is the world supposed to stop on this day forever or something? Is there some required level of solemnity before the city council or anyone is considered patriotic?

    And for those who want complain about traffic, listen to a quote from a Port Commissioner: “We’re very pleased with the direction the arena plan is going.” And if you live in WS, you might want to think about the investment in the completely renovated Spokane St. highrise with several new exits and entrances – and bus rapid transit. If you’re worried about sitting in a single occupancy car then you’ve chosen to spend more time for the “convenience”. Going to SODO or anywhere else, for that matter. Deal with it.

  • george September 11, 2012 (12:15 pm)

    Yes, I voted based on past performance Gone is Nickles for back stabbing Sonic fans. Against Licata. I will vote for any Council that supports this move. Its transit central. Agree, White River stinks. Can’t wait to hear the “Kingdome argument”. And now the “steal it from another fan base”? Seattle is soooo soft.

  • a September 11, 2012 (12:32 pm)

    Woohoo!!! So glad the city was able to get their head out of their butts and see how great this will be for our city! Cry babies are gonna find something to cry about no matter what so don’t worry about them. This is a historic day for our city! All I can say is I told you so to all you haters! I knew this would get done even with all your crying. Even our incompetent politicians knew this was too good of a deal to pass up. Go Sonics!!!!!!! And go whatever hockey team we get!!! What a great f-ing day!

  • a September 11, 2012 (12:36 pm)

    Actually Lox, this is a very appropriate day for this announcement. America is all about freedom. Freedom to do what you like and enjoy your life. Freedom to build an arena for a city and region to come together for great events and celebrate with each other. This is a very appropriate day to announce this. Good bless America and God bless the Sonics!!!

  • a September 11, 2012 (12:39 pm)


  • BWD September 11, 2012 (1:04 pm)

    a –

    Wow. Interpret that as you wish as you will anyway.

  • visitor September 11, 2012 (1:15 pm)

    For the sports fans, an arena = a church.

  • Tom L. September 11, 2012 (2:08 pm)

    I guess that’s a decent analogy, visitor who shall remain nameless. If you consider “dunking” a check into the donation “basket” at your church the rough equivalent of buying a ticket to a game or concert at an arena. Which is to say, similar ways of using your disposable income. Actually, for an agnostic like me, that’s just about a perfect example. :-)

  • Mel September 11, 2012 (2:38 pm)

    Libraries – no. Police – no. Schools – no. Roads – no.
    Yet another sports arena – hell yes?
    And i hope everyone realizes $40 million is a token amount, considering the work that needs to be done. The 4th Ave. exit from the West Seattle Bridge alone cost more than $25 million.

  • sw September 11, 2012 (2:51 pm)

    Libraries, police, schools and roads have absolutely nothing to do with this arena proposal. There is no mythical funding that will be taken away. Libraries were recently supported by a levy. If you believe in supporting schools, there is a levy coming up which you can vote “yes” on. I will be.

    The city is asking the Port to contribute a $40MM match, which will total $80MM. Without the new arena, how much money do we have for road and infrastructure improvement? Zero. Without the new arena, how much money do we have to invest in Key Arena? Zero.

  • DirtyCoyote September 11, 2012 (2:53 pm)

    Yaaaaaaaaay! why let that money go to waste? Go Supes!

  • Tom L. September 11, 2012 (4:03 pm)

    Thanks, SW. Exactly right. But of course, it’s so much easier to be against something without bothering to learn the facts before making up your mind.

    And I too vote for school levies (no kids) and tons of other infrastructure and general welfare taxation. Why? Because I want a thriving city around me that people want to live in and visit.

    You can be against this proposal for any reason you want to but don’t you want it to at least be a legitimate one? Anything less just makes you look foolish.

    And with regards to what $80M buys you, I don’t know if your experience is the same as mine but anytime I’ve gone to ANY traffic-congested event, the mere presence before and after of coordinated traffic controllers (rental cops, etc.) who actually know what they’re doing and work it, and coordinated traffic light timing, is worth twice as much as any additional lane of road or offramp.

  • EmeraldCityfromtheMotorCity September 11, 2012 (4:58 pm)

    I’m a transplant from metro-Detroit and just to be frank; Seattle isn’t half the sports town Detroit is. With that said, there isn’t a whole lot else to do in Detroit besides root for sports teams. It’s flat, too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Its economy is depressed and dependent on one industry, and the crime rate is horrible, so what else do people have to do but root for sports. Do the professional basketball, baseball, football and hockey teams make Detroit world-class? I would say not. Now, Seattle is gorgeous, with mountains in the distance, hills, the Puget Sound and is temperate year round. It has a strong economy that has multiple Fortune 500 companies in vastly different industries. Face it, Seattle is world-class already. Why are people here acting beneath the area and begging the NBA to come back? If anything, we shouldn’t let the NBA come back until they are begging us. You’re already world-class Seattle, act like it…

  • Mike September 11, 2012 (5:53 pm)

    If you believe that this project is paying for itself, you need help. For starters, the taxes that this large aggregation of properties would otherwise raise would go to the General Fund, to pay for police, fire, parks, etc. With this project, they are earmarked to retire municipal bonds that are financing the project. If this project is paying for itself, there would be no need for any public funding. And, if the whole concept is such a sure thing, why are public guarantees necessary?

  • DW September 11, 2012 (8:32 pm)

    The tax money for the arena is being paid for by the arena. It’s not like you can use the same (otherwise non-existent) revenues to pay for police libraries,etc.

    The money is not being taken from existing funds. That’s what’s so great about the deal.

  • Joe September 11, 2012 (9:23 pm)

    Horrible! Not only are they funding this with money that could support schools, but traffic will be horrible about the same time as they finish the West Seattle Bridge mess!!!

  • West Seattle since 1979 September 11, 2012 (10:04 pm)

    Should they have waited until 9/12 to make the announcement? The vote itself happened 9/10.

  • denbol September 11, 2012 (10:15 pm)

    All wrong

  • West Seattle since 1979 September 11, 2012 (10:16 pm)

    Also I just want to mention again about the traffic. The arena is supposed to seat 19,000, which is about what the Mariners were drawing in midsummer this year for normal 7 pm games (Not special games such as the Felix appreciation night or Ichiro’s Last game here.) As someone who commutes home to WS from Pioneer Square after 5pm, I don’t remember any traffic problems on Mariners game nights this year. FYI, don’t compare with Sounders traffic – – they have at least 10,000 more fans per game.

    Since they’re not even going to start building the thing until they get a team, which could take some time, and since it’ll probably take years to build it (though I’m not sure of the time frame) it seems possible that the tunnel will be completed before the new team even plays a game.

  • visitor September 11, 2012 (11:06 pm)

    What Mike said. Anyone who thinks the arena won’t affect general revenue funds that would otherwise support parks, transportation, and public safety, and human services too, hasn’t read the proposal. There’s just so much propaganda out there. It seems people will believe whatever they WANT to believe, whether it’s true or not.

  • Shoes required September 11, 2012 (11:50 pm)

    I am hoping we see the NHL return to Seattle. Many of you have no idea who the first US team to win the Stanley cup was, or what city that team came from. The answer is the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans. They beat Montreal and won the cup in 1917. Seattle also used to have a fabulous ice arena downtown — until it was torn down and replaced with a high-rise office building. Check out the history, it’s pretty interesting. And there’s thousands of people in Seattle driving to places like Kent, Renton, Lynnwood, Kirkland, and farther to play ice hockey. (Yes, thousands. Yes, ice hockey. Don’t believe me? Count noses.) It’s time for hockey’s return to Seattle.

    The problem is, Seattle and Washington are hard-wired to discourage elected officials from making choices for us. You see, we debate things like public transportation fixes for over 40 years, keep saying we want them, only to vote four times on four public votes to finally kill it in the last round. (Nee, the monorail.) Does anyone think some series of new, stupid public votes won’t quickly materialize, leaving Seattle once again beholden to the whimsy of about 20% of registered voters, most of whom won’t really understand all of what they’re voting on?

    Yes, the city’s elected public servants have already spent countless hours researching this arena, hired consultants to do that too, appointed unbiased panelists to do that too, held hearings, and all have conscientiously done their job responsibly. They’ve decided it’s time to do this. Now, however, it’s time for all the stupid uninformed public votes to take place, perhaps numbers of them, then court challenges, then public records act requests, then lawsuits over all that. In the end, all of the normal stupidity and waste will squander yet another good public idea. Good bye, arena. We love Key Arena, right? We love its eerie silence, unused by any NBA team for years now. And we know we love it because Seattle’s a city that’s incapable of getting anything bold done. After all, Seattle’s proven time and again that all it can do is outlaw plastic bags — anything more bold than that, though, forget it.

  • Shoes required September 12, 2012 (12:16 am)

    By the way, just saw a great NHL hockey story on Seattle and hockey, which I urge all to read:

  • Tom L. September 12, 2012 (8:12 am)

    The property taxes that come from this parcel is a tiny fraction of the city revenue. And the increase of property and sales taxes after the facility is online will likely balance it out anyway. The city confirmed early on that the $200M in bonds doesn’t impact the ability to bond any other projects that might come up. And the city gets the arena as an asset at the end of the lease. That’s the extent of public participation.
    Anyone care to look at what improvements the city kicked in to the Mariners, or any of the South Lake Union infrastructure to support Paul Allen’s empire down there? Didn’t hear any uproar about that.

  • sw September 12, 2012 (8:45 am)

    Amen, Tom L. When facts are considered instead of empty rhetoric, the arena is a good investment. People are quick to complain because “sports” are involved – discounting the many other opportunities the arena will provide. Would we be opposed to an NCAA quarterfinal tournament which would bring thousands of people to town – filling hotels and restaurants? Much easier to pile on than to educate yourself on the facts.

    I think “visitor” said it best in an earlier post: “There’s just so much propaganda out there. It seems people will believe whatever they WANT to believe, whether it’s true or not.”

  • dick September 12, 2012 (9:28 am)

    “The new agreement creates a $40 million SODO Transportation Infrastructure Fund to address longstanding transportation problems in the area. The Fund will initially be a collaboration between the City and County, but additional funding will be sought from other public and private partners, including the Port of Seattle and state and federal governments.”

    Where exactly is that $40 million coming from? And what kind of improvements? You can’t exactly add more lanes to any of the streets in SODO.

  • sw September 12, 2012 (10:05 am)

    From this morning’s Seattle Times:

    “The revised agreement directs $40 million into a transportation fund repaid by Hansen that would prioritize freight mobility and other infrastructure improvements identified by Sodo maritime business and industry leaders, including the Port.”

    The $40MM comes from Hansen’s pocket. If you continue reading the article, it also mentions that he is making a personal guarantee that debt payments will be covered. He has also agreed to annual independent audits of his personal finances to ensure that he is able to do so.

    This arena deal is unprecedented on many levels. Ignore the rhetoric, look at the facts.

  • Dick September 12, 2012 (10:44 am)

    Unprecedented indeed. Still curious what that $40M is going to produce in traffic improvements. Tracfic improvements are not Seattle’s fortè.

  • sw September 12, 2012 (11:27 am)

    Dick – I agree on that point 100%. :-)

  • Red September 12, 2012 (5:01 pm)

    No matter how much you complain about the traffic, the investment and whatever else you downers want to complain about – think about how great this is for Seattle! Why do people not want the economic growth here? Sports= a lot of money spent in local restaurants, shops and hotels……also, let’s not forget the jobs this will also create. Last time I checked our unemployment rate is still out of control. So stop your cry baby selfs and think about how this is really a great thing!!!!! Can’t wait :)

  • David Kerlick September 12, 2012 (5:36 pm)

    Private for-profit corporate sports teams are not an acceptable use of public funds.

  • nickn September 12, 2012 (10:17 pm)

    Except that it’s not great for Seattle. The public funding for sports arenas doesn’t make the income that the promoters promise;

    We don’t have money in the budget for operating expenses for the library without a separate referendum but there’s money to pay for stadium costs without a public referendum.

  • sw September 13, 2012 (8:43 am)

    Quoting the Seattle Times for objective reporting on stadium issues? Please. People who study public financing on sports stadia have come out and said that the original MOU was actually a good deal. The revised MOU is even a better deal for the City.

    You cannot compare libraries (or schools, police, etc) to a sports arena. The arena will generate the income needed to repay bonds. Libraries do not (well, except for fines – but that’s not enough to cover their operating cost). This is why we have levies to support those public assets.

    Public money went into creating McCaw Hall – did you hear any outcry over that? I rarely go to the opera or ballet, but I support the arts and those who patronize them, and the building is a civic asset. The bonds for Safeco Field were paid off early due to the revenue generated by the ballpark – is that still considered a “bad” investment?

    Forget sports for a minute and consider all the other events that would be held at this building. We currently lose out on big concerts to Portland and Vancouver because we don’t have a facility that can handle them. We don’t host large NCAA tournaments, political conventions, etc. for lack of a proper facility. How much money do you think would be put into our local economy by hosting a NCAA regional tournament? That income could be stimulating our economy but is currently going elsewhere.

    There is more to this arena deal than just the Sonics or a hockey team. This building will have more versatility and usage than Safeco and The Clink combined, and the spillover effect to our economy will be more than measurable.

  • dick September 13, 2012 (8:56 am)

    Well, Red, those of us who work outside of West Seattle should be concerned about traffic. The economic benefits would be great, but at the cost of more time sitting in traffic and the PITA of trying to get through SODO with constant events happening seems crazy.

    NBA reg season home games – 41
    NHL reg season home games – 41
    MLB reg season home games – 81
    NFL – 8
    MLS – 17
    Total- 188

    That’s a regular season event more than every other day of the year. Plus there’s exhibition soccer matches, tournament games, and post season for any of the sports teams (if we’re lucky). That’s a LOT of extra people in the SODO area. And, before the stadium is even built, the viaduct will no longer be an option for getting in and out of downtown due to the by-pass tunnel. Why can’t they build a stadium elsewhere in the city?

    Don’t believe all the hype about how great this will be for everyone when it’s coming from those who would financially be benefitting the most from this. Remember how privatizing liquor sales was going to drive prices down? Or so we were told…..

  • I Wonder September 14, 2012 (11:10 am)

    Name one place in Seattle that is viable and more mass transit centric than SODO. (Ferry, vehicle, bus, train and rail).
    And now you are comparing the liquor sales intiative to this? *grasping at straws*
    The infrastructure is in place, lets use it.

  • Dick September 14, 2012 (5:40 pm)

    It’s not a matter of getting TO SODO, it’s a matter of getting THROUGH SODO. When the viaduct is gone, all the people who work downtown and and live in the SW will be having to take surface streets to get out of the city. Have you tried to drive through SODO when there’s a game? Ever tried to drive through Queen Anne when there was a game? Plus, people who work on the east side have to get through that area. I’d love a hockey team here, but I’m not blinded with outrage that my basketball team was “stolen” from me. Nothing is final yet and I hope a different site is chosen.

    As for the liquor initiative? Not really grasping at straws. People here what they want to hear and that’s often enough to get them on board. In this case, I think there’s a lot of people who are more concerned with having an NBA team back in town than how another stadium in SODO will impact their (and all of ours) lives.

Sorry, comment time is over.