Local officials vow to stay ready for the next NBA opportunity
Local politicians expressed disappointment that the NBA voted to keep the Kings in Sacramento but vowed to be prepared if another opportunity presents itself.
Seattle Times staff reporter
While the NBA’s decision Wednesday to keep the Kings in Sacramento was a blow to many of Seattle’s political leaders, they vowed to continue the environmental and economic reviews already under way for a new sports arena in Sodo.
“I share the disappointment of Sonics fans about today’s vote. But we are in this for the long haul,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
McGinn noted that the agreement with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million arena is good for five years, and that the city would continue to work with him to bring a professional basketball team back to Seattle.
City Councilmember Tim Burgess, one of seven candidates running against McGinn for mayor, also expressed disappointment along with the hope that the city would get another chance at a team.
“Chris Hansen and his partners have displayed amazing commitment in their efforts to secure a team for Seattle’s fans. The city’s role has always been to prepare for a team should one be available. We will be prepared,” Burgess said.
Peter Steinbrueck, the only mayoral candidate to oppose the Sodo location for a new arena because of its proximity to maritime jobs, repeated his calls for a thorough evaluation of alternate sites including KeyArena.
“I fully support bringing an NBA team to Seattle. I also support an open, objective and public process for deciding where the sports arena for the team will be built,” Steinbrueck said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine called Hansen a “patient, determined man.”
“The Hansen group has an agreement for a proposed arena, and an energized base of fans and businesses ready to step forward when the time comes. And the time will come,” Constantine said.
That sentiment was echoed by some on the County Council, as well.
McGinn stood to gain the most politically had Seattle secured the team. He brokered a deal with Hansen and King County to provide up to $200 million in public funding to build the arena and, had the NBA approved their relocation, the Kings could have been playing at KeyArena in September, just weeks before the general election.
Should McGinn lose his job, there’s a question about whether Seattle’s next mayor would be as big a supporter of the NBA.
After all, it was only a few years ago when then-Mayor Greg Nickels was criticized for not doing enough to keep the Sonics in town. But he also didn’t have support from the Legislature, nor a buyer like Hansen who wanted to keep the team here.
State Sen. Ed Murray, who has joined the crowded field running against McGinn, has said the arena would not be his first priority, but he wouldn’t undo the deal already struck between the city and county.
McGinn has gained the support of the enthusiastic sports fans who have applauded his efforts. And the city-county agreement reached with Hansen took some of the edge off McGinn’s reputation for not working well with others.
But not everyone is a fan of the NBA. Some Seattle voters have questioned whether the city should help pay for a new sports arena while investors, such as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, seemed willing to pay millions above the market value for a basketball franchise.
McGinn also was criticized for conducting months of secret negotiations in 2011 with Hansen without consulting key stakeholders in the Sodo neighborhood, including the Port of Seattle and the Mariners.
An Elway Poll a year ago found that a majority of city and county respondents supported a new arena, but more than 60 percent also said it should be privately financed and that there should be no risk that any public money would be needed to pay for it.
The public-private partnership negotiated with Hansen calls for the construction bonds to be repaid through tax revenues and rent generated by the arena.
In the wake of the NBA decision, the local longshore workers union — which lost a legal challenge to the agreement with Hansen — Thursday called on elected leaders to “step back, take a deep breath” and consider Memorial Stadium and KeyArena as alternative arena sites.
Peter Goldman, an attorney representing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said, “As a 30-year Seattle resident, I understand Sonics fans’ pain and frustration. But sound public policy and the rule of law must come before professional sports, no matter how much sports means to our community.”
A draft report of an environmental review of a new arena that includes both Sodo and Seattle Center is due in June, with a final report expected in November. Studies are also under way on the economic impact of a new arena and the effects on the surrounding area, including Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District.
This story includes material from Times archives. Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes