2012 newsmakers: Chris Hansen
Chris Hansen is the man with the plan to bring the NBA back to Seattle, and an NHL team, too. His proposal for a new arena has been approved, but he has to find an NBA team before construction on the new arena can begin.
A year ago on Christmas Eve, Chris Hansen exploded on the Seattle sports scene as something of a mysterious, modern-day Santa Claus.
At the time, details about the Bay Area hedge-fund manager were sketchy. The Seattle Times first reported he purchased land in the Sodo District south of Safeco Field with the intent of luring an NBA team back to the city.
We learned that Hansen, a 44-year-old basketball enthusiast, moved to Seattle at the age of 5 and fell in love with the Sonics team that won the NBA title in 1979. He became a self-made billionaire, but his affection for his Sonics never waned.
About this time last year, he met with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in secret on a plan to build a $490 million downtown arena in hopes of bringing the Sonics back to Seattle and securing an NHL franchise.
The arena plan became a heated political debate. Hansen had allies in McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine but powerful opponents in the Mariners and the Port of Seattle.
In May, Hansen reached an agreement with McGinn and Constantine. After rancorous debate and about a dozen public meetings, the deal was finalized Oct. 15 when the Metropolitan King County Council voted unanimously to approve a deal that called for $200 million in public funds.
Hansen released conceptual architectural designs of the proposed 725,000 square-foot arena in November, but Hansen can't begin construction until he secures an NBA team.