One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and after losing the Sonics to Oklahoma City before the 2008 season, it appears the efforts of one businessman may ensure the presence of both the NBA and the NHL in the Emerald City in the near future.
Chris Hansen, a wealthy hedge-fund manager and Seattle native, secured the necessary votes for a $490 million dollar arena to be nestled near the Seahawks and Mariners.
The Seattle City Council, who has been notorious for its reluctance to approve a package for the new arena, did so only after Hansen guaranteed the city debt on the deal. The council will ultimately put up $200 million for the venture.
“The fact that we have a personal guarantee from Mr. Hansen…that makes a big difference. At the end, we’re going to have something the city is proud of,” commented Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw.
Though Seattle has only been without an NBA franchise for the past four years, there has been quite a wait for an NHL team. The Metropolitans, who disbanded in 1924, were the last major league team to call Seattle home.
And they may not have to wait much longer.
Amid reports that plans for a $475-million arena in the Great White North have been scrapped, Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz led members of the team brass on a tour of KeyArena. The Oilers released a statement on Monday confirming the visit, and are entertaining a number of proposals for relocation.
Hansen made a number of concessions to ensure the deal would come to fruition, including pitching in $7 million for improvements to KeyArena as well as offering to buy the Sonics’ old stomping grounds for $200 million at the end of the city’s 30-year lease agreement.
Hansen released a written statement following the news: “Today’s vote demonstrates that by listening to each other and working hard to address the concerns of all stakeholders that we can make the arena a reality and bring professional basketball and hockey back to Seattle.”
The fears of the two dissenters among the council echoed realities of the past, especially after Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett skipped town with the team overnight four years ago
Council member Nick Licata posed concerns relative to the entertainment value, while Richard Conlin’s reasoning was purely economic.
“Professional sports franchises aren’t like non-profit cultural organizations like operas or symphonies, which don’t threaten to skip town when money’s tight,” commented Conlin. “What some citizens see is that those who have a lot of money are using public resources to get more money.”
But this time, it seems as though Seattle has the ammunition to prevent future heartbreak. Time will tell if the Emerald City becomes the reason for another city’s pain.