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Originally published September 19, 2012 at 8:52 PM | Page modified September 19, 2012 at 9:58 PM

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King County Council studies new arena deal

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Larry Gossett see no showstoppers in NBA-arena-promoter Chris Hansen's agreement with the Seattle City Council.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Despite reservations about some parts of Chris Hansen's revised agreement with the Seattle City Council, top King County officials said they expect to reach a final pact soon.

The Metropolitan King County Council probably will vote Oct. 8 or 15 on investor Hansen's plan for a $490 million basketball and hockey arena south of Safeco Field, Council Chairman Larry Gossett said.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine had hoped the council would vote next Monday, the same day as the City Council, but County Council members felt they needed more time to study details of the agreement, Gossett said.

"I am confident that we will come out with a deal" that will make it possible to bring professional basketball back to Seattle, Gossett said.

The County Council in July approved a deal McGinn and Constantine negotiated with Hansen, but the City Council later renegotiated it to create a $40 million fund to improve roads serving the Port of Seattle and other Sodo businesses.

The city and county would sell $200 million in bonds backed by taxes and rents generated by the arena.

The six County Council members who voted for the earlier deal said last week they were concerned the new deal "would potentially require King County to take on a larger financial obligation than previously approved."

County Council budget staff said the county would have to pay up to $16 million more under the latest agreement for transportation improvements near the arena, if Hansen built the arena with an NBA team but without an NHL hockey team. But after studying the deal further, staff concluded the additional cost would be no more than $10 million, said council budget chief Joe McDermott.

McDermott said he is now satisfied with most financial aspects of the revised deal but is unhappy it makes pedestrian links to two light-rail stations a second-tier priority for the $40 million transportation fund. In the earlier agreement, Hansen agreed to help pay for the projects.

"I really believe that that pedestrian access is important," McDermott said.

McDermott said he expects negotiations to continue after the City Council takes its scheduled vote Monday and later when it votes on any county modifications to the deal.

County Councilmember Bob Ferguson said he wants to make sure the reduced funding for an economic-impact analysis is enough to do the job. Speaking more broadly, he said, "I don't see any deal-breakers in the direction the city is heading."

Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who voted against the first deal with Hansen, said the transportation fund "is a good start" toward making sure freight can keep moving on Sodo roads. He said he wants to be certain the county and the Port have a say in planning the transportation improvements.

Constantine said he sees no "dramatic differences" between the city and county, and expects the two governments to reach final terms with Hansen "in a matter of weeks or days."

Constantine said any risks to the county would be "negligible from a financial perspective" and would not be heightened by the City Council's restructured deal.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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