Russ Partners with SoDo Arena Group (ArenaCo) “not just for PR”

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Nov 142016
 

Chris Hansen’s “all private, but not really” arena plans needed to be re-injected into the news cycle a bit more and so there’s this

Bringing local celebrities into ownership groups is not exactly new, of course.  Will Smith owns a bit of the 76ers, Jay Z owned a tiny bit of the Barclay’s Center and Nets, Fergie and JLo (and many others) own a bit of the Dolphins, etc.

But, as far as generating local excitement for Hansen’s plans vs an almost-RFP’ed “something” to the KeyArena, this bit of news may be exciting enough to be worth giving Russell Wilson a chunk of the arena/team, if it happens.  (As these are usually private transactions, we have no idea if Russell becomes a partner as payment for endorsement services or if he signs a check from his personal bank account and the percentages involved have not been disclosed).

Now if only Hansen could find a NHL team not too cheap to participate in his privately financed arena.  Oh bother.

The Coyotes and Arizona State University announced that the Coyotes have entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Catellus Development Corp., ASU’s athletic facilities district developer, to work towards the finalization of a new arena and commercial development project within the 330-acre district along Tempe Town Lake.

Correction:  An “unnamed, but familiar” source says it’s not just for PR, but won’t tell us any terms of the arrangement.  Not just a PR figurehead could still be “we’ll give you 0.1% of the arena if you schmooze the right councilmembers and talk up the deal on sports radio”.

A person familiar with the agreement told KIRO Radio’s Michael Lewis that Wilson independently approached the Seattle Arena partnership, making it a five-member team. Wilson is a financial investor – not just a PR figurehead – in the partnership, though the source would not disclose the terms

Hansen Seeks to Terminate MOU in SoDo, Build Privately and Scoops KeyArena Remodel RFP

 Finance, MOU, Other Arenas, PR Campaign  Comments Off on Hansen Seeks to Terminate MOU in SoDo, Build Privately and Scoops KeyArena Remodel RFP
Oct 312016
 

Chris Hansen and SoDo Arena

Chris Hansen re-emerged from the inky shadows and dropped a bit of a bombshell last week in a letter sent to the City Council, County Executive Constantine, and Mayor Ed Murray.  Hansen says his group no longer needs public bonds to assist with financing the arena (even though it wasn’t about the financing but a means to return tax money to the project) and is, instead, able to proceed with only future tax money being expressly abated.

We have concluded that a changed economic climate makes possible the private financing of the arena. For that reason, and to address concerns expressed by city council members, we would consider revising the street vacation petition to eliminate public financing of the arena. In such a case the MOU would be terminated and the rights and obligations of the parties under the MOU would end. The City and County would recoup the $200 million in debt capacity, and tax revenue streams generated by the arena would cease to be encumbered for arena debt service.

  • Approval of the street vacation
  • Granting of a waiver of the City’s admissions tax for the arena, just as similar waivers have been granted for the other sports venues
  • Adjustment of the City’s B&O tax rate for revenue generated out-of-town

The letter glosses over the fact that the admissions tax was the largest chunk of the money for the prior bond repayments and the other venues in town (Centurylink and SafeCo Field) did a tax-swap where the county collects admissions tax even though they’re venues within the city limits (and they only collect a fraction of the legally allowed 10% admissions tax).  Details may be coming, but a few days later the public learned why Hansen was grabbing headlines where he could.

KeyArena Remodel RFP On the Way

We learned a few days after Hansen’s announcement that senior analyst for Mayor Murray, Sara Belz, had been a point person for soliciting KeyArena renovation proposals with Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke in one group and current KeyArena operator AEG in another.  Apparently the discussions have been off-and-on for a while, maybe being hinted at during the “did AEGCOM’s report get hidden by the council” story in April 2016.  The mayor was planning to make an announcement of the plan to issue the official RFP to renovate the KeyArena in January 2017 and Hansen may have rushed his announcement to refocus the public on his plan.  Details are even more unknown, since an RFP is mostly a framework for a project and bidders need to respond appropriately.

Still, as the NBA season kicks off, Seattle has a lot of arena news, but there are no NBA teams available, no plans to expand the league, and then there’s the great unknown of the NHL.

Brutal Public Backlash Against City Councilwomen Continues

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May 092016
 

The Seattle City Council has learned to have a pretty thick skin when it comes to public comments.  I’m sure their staff filters a lot of vile e-mails and tweets, and they have put up with StandUpAmerica and the like for a while now (even Megan Murphy? who spoke after Josh crazily, but didn’t graciously accept council’s cheer for her expression of support).  After rejecting the Street Vacation, a barrage of insults (and apparently some support) were hurled at the council members voting against the vacation, particularly the 5 of 5 female councilwomen who voted against the vacation.  Chris Hansen eventually posted a warning not spew such ire, but that didn’t stop it.  At this morning’s council briefing, a full week after the vote, the council resolved to find a way to stand up to some of the more egregious breaks of decorum (President Harrell at 1:30 and Bagshaw at 8:20). Harrell’s statement is more of “shame on you” as opposed to Bagshaw’s suggestion of taking some sort of stand.

This afternoon, one person apparently took their two minutes for public comment as an opportunity to attack the council some more, in front of cameras.  Of course, this elicits “if you can’t stand the heat, don’t be on the city council” comments from the likes of Jason Rantz (who needs some web-savy people to appropriately link to this afternoon’s full council video, once the 5/9 video is actually posted).  EDIT:  Video has been posted of Josh Shea making the targeted comments 6:10.

After spending countless hours on an arena for a team that looks even more impossible than 5 years ago, angry public backlash over something that won’t matter until a team is acquired is an interesting tact that’s sure to make city government wary of ever entertaining any hypothetical arena deals in the future.

May 022016
 

Videos will be posted later and we can all enjoy hearing councilmembers parade their personality today (be that Bruce’s sports phrase usage, Gonzales’ groaning at said sports phrases, Juarez’s talk of dams, or Johnson’s suggestion that 30% of the city is used for roads, as if a city can function with only 10′ footpaths and bus lanes).

Short summary – O’Brien, Burgess, Harrell, and Johnson voted in favor of the street vacation and Sawant, Herbold, Gonzales, Juarez, and Bagshaw voted against the street vacation.  There were many amendments and clarifications stated (including that a privately financed arena could be built to the terms of the MOU, excluding all those bits about public financing).  Interestingly, the Sonics Rising council vote live thread had a poll predicting the “yes” votes from the council which, at the start of the council meeting, had a tie between 4 and 5 (failing and passing), suggesting many knew all too well that the knife was being readied (insert GIF of proud new pappa Roose Bolton behind shived by “bastard” Ramsey Bolton).

Screencap from shortly after the full council vote concluded.

Screencap from shortly after the full council vote concluded.

In any event, now Hansen has to consider applying again?, changing his preferred site, or how he’ll design a privately financed arena with a public right of way running through the middle of it.  The location in SoDo requiring a street vacation has been something Hansen was pretty well set on, to the point of acquiring properties long before the MOU was even approved.  The current function of Occidental is why Hansen’s group carved a new North-South access road to the East of the arena.  It’s also a part of why the EIS’s site selection was somewhat lacking, it didn’t really give much imagination to using street-vacation-required parcels.  In many respects, this is the city council’s procedural way to escape this roller-coaster they’ve been on for years, particularly with a Nov 2017 expiration date functioning not so much as a deadline but being a harbinger of MOU re-negotiations/extensions.

Of course, Hansen does still own (or have options on) a bunch of land in SoDo, so he could still build LA Live-like attractions or parking garages or new commercial spaces like TV studios, if they pencil out.

Edit:  Video from the Seattle Channel has been posted.  The council takes up the street vacation at 1:12:15.

May 2nd – Expected Full Council Vote for Occidental Avenue South Street Vacation

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May 022016
 

The recommendation from the Sustainability and Transportation Committee was completed two weeks ago.  This afternoon, at 2 PM, the full council will consider and, likely, take a vote on the amended Occidental Avenue South street vacation.

Important scheduling parameters were agreed upon last week, leading to the following section of the vacation conditions

  • Events at the Arena on any non-holiday weekday or weeknight shall be separated from other events at the Arena by a minimum of 3 hours between the projected end time of one event and the scheduled start time of the next event.
  • No Arena event on any non-holiday weekday or weeknight may be scheduled to begin or end within one hour of the scheduled start or end time of any event at Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field, or both, if 1) the reasonably anticipated attendance at the Arena and one or more of those fields is more than 45,000 attendees, or 2) there would otherwise be three scheduled events starting or ending within an hour of each other at the Arena, Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field.
  • No Arena event shall start between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm on non-holiday weekdays if 1) the reasonably anticipated attendance at Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, and the Arena would exceed 15,000 persons, and 2) the Arena event is otherwise scheduled to occur within an hour of the start or end times of events at Safeco Field or CenturyLink or both.
 Posted by at 9:22 am

Street Vacation Documents Show the Evolving SoDo Arena Design

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Apr 202016
 

One of the screwy things in the early “jet turbine” arena designs was the way that the south end of the Mariners’ parking garage was going to be accessed, via a tunnel cut out of the building and masked behind a “green wall.”  This would be an ~20 ft notch cut into the base of the arena.  March 2013 Vacation Petition

Tunnel design from the March 2013 street vacation petition

Tunnel design from the March 2013 street vacation petition

More recent documents show the access tunnel was no longer a tunnel, instead being a roadway external to the building but still west of the single set of railroad tracks along the west end of BNSF’s property (here is a google street view of the area with tracks).  April 19, 2016 presentation (note that earlier 2016 presentations to the council’s sustainability and transportation committee have similar sketches)

Access road now external to building in April 19 2016 vacation presentation.

Access road now external to building in April 19 2016 vacation presentation.

A view from the east in the same April 19 presentation.

A view from the east in the same April 19 presentation.

At some point, should the council be concerned about the original street vacation petition (long delayed by Hansen’s own actions) not being consistent with the current arena design?  Is the access road, as unobstructed as presented here, a defined requirement of the vacation (I don’t see any bullets suggesting that) ?

Fourth Arena Hearing On 4/19 and Materials/Amendments Are Online

 Finance, PR Campaign, Property  Comments Off on Fourth Arena Hearing On 4/19 and Materials/Amendments Are Online
Apr 142016
 

The last (third or second, depending on how you count the evening comment period) meeting for the Occidental Street Vacation for the proposed arena had several amendments proposed, including reducing the street vacation’s timeframe to 5 years and adding language meant to emphasize arena-contingent conditional approval.

 

April 19th at 2PM is the next regularly scheduled committee meeting, where the street vacation could be forwarded to a full council.  Materials have been posted online for that presentation.

 

Edit:  Seattle Bike Blog is advocating for protected bike lanes on 1st avenue, instigated by the arena.

Sonics Rising is trying to muck-rake a comparison of Port aviation vs seaport operations and tries to stir public anger over the port pledging its taxing authority to contribute to the viaduct replacement, as if that contribution wasn’t a “business as usual” ask by the government to fund projects from local taxpayers without going through a public vote/levy.  In this case, the port’s contribution of “up to $300 million” was to help plug the gap left by the state lowering the toll threshold from $400 million to 200 million.

Third Arena Street Vacation Hearing Held – Video Up

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Apr 082016
 

The Sustainability and Transportation Committee held the third meeting on the WSA Properties petition to vacate Occidental Avenue to make way for Hansen’s sports arena.  The video of the meeting starts with some public comments from politicians and leaders from the Port of Seattle and some Save Our Sonics leaders too.  The SDOT part is at 42:45 and then the Port of Seattle’s consultant, Marnie Hughes? starts at the 2 hour mark.  Councilmembers O’Brien, Johnson, Juarez, Burgess, and Harrell were in attendance (only O’Brien and Johnson are assigned to the committee, Sawant and Herbold (alternate) were both absent).

Harrell took a bit of umbrage at the Port’s legal council’s suggestion of legal challenges and Marnie dropped the hot potato of making the council consider potential future use of the right of way that’s being vacated.  Johnson veered off for a bit to discuss tolling nearby freeways and seemed to wish to have a public forum to suggest tolling I-90 would benefit Port traffic predictability.  Marnie points out that the plan has changed a bit from how it’s initially presented, such that a  new parking garage is now directly south of the arena which wasn’t previously accounted for.