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Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Seattle politicians disappointed by NBA's decision but ask for patience
By Emily Heffter and Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporters
While Sacramento celebrated, Seattle political leaders urged patience Monday when the NBA announced its Relocation Committee voted to deny the Kings' move to the Northwest.
Mayor Mike McGinn said in a prepared, measured statement that Seattle needs to focus on remaining in position to get a team when the opportunity presents itself.
McGinn was giddy at the possibility when news of the Kings' sale to investor Chris Hansen broke in January. A possible Sonics return is one of the mayor's key accomplishments, and it had been moving forward with storybook timing for his 2013 re-election campaign.
Monday, McGinn was reserved, and it was Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's turn to be giddy, tweeting: "That's what I'm talking about SACRAMENTO!!!!! WE DID IT!!!!!"
The news was a blow to Seattle arena proponents, but it doesn't kill their chances for a team. Under the agreement Hansen made with the city and King County, he has until Dec. 3, 2017 to secure a team. A draft environmental report is expected in June, with the final version coming in November. An economic impact study and review of plans for the Sodo neighborhood also are under way. Detailed architectural drawings are expected to be filed Tuesday.
"When we entered into the agreement, we actually didn't know how (Hansen) would obtain a team, nor did we know how long it would take," McGinn said. "So in some respects, it's surprising that we were in this position so quickly. We'll just have to see how it continues to play out."
King County Executive Dow Constantine said he was "disappointed, but undeterred."
"Today's decision doesn't mean this effort is over," he said.
Meanwhile, two groups fighting the Sodo location for a proposed arena took a breath Monday.
Peter Steinbrueck, a mayoral challenger who opposes the Sodo site for the arena, said he was relieved by the announcement.
He and other critics said building the arena and proposed adjacent entertainment district in Sodo would tangle traffic and endanger good, family-wage jobs at the Port of Seattle and in other maritime industries.
"The impacts would have been just too great," he said in a statement. "I will work to bring professional basketball to Seattle in the future, should the NBA consider an expansion team."
Two lawyers who brought unsuccessful lawsuits against the proposed arena deal expressed hope Hansen and the city would rethink the location and rethink the financial terms agreed upon by the city and county.
Peter Goldman, who represented local longshore workers in their lawsuit against the arena, stopped short of celebration, but called the announcement Monday "a fantastic opportunity to take a step back and rethink where is the right place for the arena, one that works for jobs, for Sodo and for Seattle Center."
He said the NBA's decision removes the pressure of a team playing in Seattle in the fall and gives the city time to complete environmental and economic impact studies before making a final decision on the location of a new arena.
"We're not disappointed to have time to do this right," Goldman said.
Cleveland Stockmeyer represented four taxpayers who argued that the arena deal did not meet the terms of Seattle Initiative 91, which requires the city to make a profit on any investment in a sports facility.
"This was a half-billion-dollar giveaway," Stockmeyer said.
A judge threw out his lawsuit earlier this month, but said it could be refiled once the deal with Hansen was finalized.
Hansen and investors Erik and Peter Nordstrom were not immediately available to react to the news Monday.
Steve Ballmer, also an investor, told KJR he was disappointed, and that the members of the investment group would talk about the next steps.
The decision puts on hold plans for renovations at Seattle Center's KeyArena, which was set to be the Sonics' home starting in the fall.
Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust said she was shocked and disappointed by the news, and not just because of the improvements KeyArena will have to do without.
"There's a lot of pride and affection for the Sonics at KeyArena," she said. "They have a long history here, and I think everybody here was looking forward to having them back."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @EmilyHeffter
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