Feb 022016
 

Street Vacation Hearings in March

Chris Daniels reported that Mayor Ed Murray has thrown some weight around to push the Occidental Avenue South street vacation forward to a vote.  Councilmember O’Brien has scheduled the public meeting at the “afterhours” time of 5:30 PM March 15th (sure to be more pep rally than discussion of the public’s value of the street) with subsequent potential subcommittee meetings on April 5th and 19th and, based on the subcommittee’s recommendation, a full council vote following as early as the 25th.  The street currently runs through the middle of Hansen’s proposed arena and would need to be removed to allow construction of the arena.

I am still looking for application documents related to the street vacation, but right now I’m only seeing this document related to designating Occidental Avenue S a Green Street in front of Centurylink and next to SafeCo’s parking garage. (UPDATE – see edit at bottom for a map of this one block street vacation).

The hashed green outline marks the newer green street designation.

The hashed green outline marks the newer green street designation.

The Occidental Avenue S street vacation is expected to only be granted with the acquisition of an NBA team, construction of an arena, pedestrian walkways, and many other improvements.  The county and city councils would still have to vote to issue bonds used to pay Hansen for the arena land and portion of the arena, but if that vote must occur prior to construction activity is something I’ll have to review.  As it stands now, the 5 year deadline on Hansen’s MOU expires in October 2017.

Seattle’s SoDo Arena – No Need to Rush

I will remind you that in May 2013, nearly 3 years ago, comments were along the lines of

“We think we’ll get through the EIS process at the end of the year, and then we’ll probably pay some appeals and (there will) be some things we need to mitigate,” Hansen said. “And we think it will be shovel-ready by this time next year.”

While Sacramento’s arena was, locally, viewed as being further behind in early 2013, with full motivation the Sacramento arena has pushed forward to a very complete state (live cameras here) with opening expected by October 2016.

 

Edit 2/4 – Documents related to the street vacation are trickling in.  This has a map.

Vacated street is the blue portion inside the arena project site outlined in red.

Vacated street is the blue portion inside the arena project site outlined in red.

CM Lisa Herbold Affirms “No NHL-First Arena”

 Finance, Property  Comments Off on CM Lisa Herbold Affirms “No NHL-First Arena”
Dec 072015
 

Lisa Herbold, the former Nick Licata aide, is officially the Councilwoman-Elect for Seattle City Council District 1 after a manual recount.  Nick Licata was a council member who once testified to Congress (along with economists Brad Humphreys and Heywood Sanders and Field of Schemes author Neil deMause) about professional sports’ extortion of the cities, particularly from his experiences with the Sonics.  Nick is retiring from the council and was one of the two members who voted against Hansen’s SoDo arena MOU.

In Lisa’s interview with Tracy Record of the West Seattle Blog, Lisa mentioned a desire to keep a close watch on the SoDo arena proposal and that no NHL-first scenarios happen.  This should not surprise anyone who listened to the Seattle Arena Review Committee’s report or the councilmember comments while voting on the MOU (which, when first announced by McGinn and Constantine, was “must have NHL and NBA both before building”).

She also plans to keep close watch on the SODO arena proposal, insistent that it can’t be built “hockey-first.”

Personally, I wish she’d also commit to shelve any street vacation votes as well.  It only serves to pave the way for Hansen’s land parcels to be stitched together.

NHL Dream Still Being Kept Alive, *crickets* From the NBA

 MOU, Property  Comments Off on NHL Dream Still Being Kept Alive, *crickets* From the NBA
Dec 032015
 

Local arena supporters have been having a field day tearing into a local sports reporter’s overplay of someone expressing interest in KeyArena remodels.  Unfortunately, such all-hat, no cattle individuals are extremely common in the world of professional sports ownership dreams.  The KeyArena alternate uses study that recently came out similarly throws out many options for the site, but none of the options are so instantly appealing to be an obvious use for city money/resources.

Speaking of which, another local reporter, Chris Daniels, is continuing to sing the sirens’ call to NHL fans by poring through some of the public record e-mails with NHL-potential-owner Victor Coleman.  This is the same Coleman who was rumored to bid for NHL expansion before declining to do so and has sometimes been linked to Hansen’s SoDo projects but also hasn’t committed to be a firm partner.  There’s keeping things open for negotiation, sure, but you probably do want to come up with an NHL-first MOU that’s acceptable (or *gasp* do it with 100% private money) and that’s a pandora’s box Victor hasn’t opened yet.

Occidental Street Vacation

For those keeping track, SDOT did forward their recommendation to approve the street vacation of Occidental Avenue for Hansen’s arena.  Daniels forecasts this issue will sleep through the holidays and return to be taken up by the new city council.

On Monday, the Mayor Murray’s office, along with SDOT, forwarded a street vacation recommendation to the Seattle City Council. Hansen has offered to build a public park, pedestrian walkway, and parking garage in exchange for eliminating a 680-foot stretch of Occidental Avenue South needed to build the arena. The recommendation concluded “that Occidental is not necessary to freight movement or Port Operations.”  The council is not expected to take up the issue until at least January.

You’ll recall the MOU vote in Seattle was 7-2 under Bagshaw, Burgess, Clark, Conlin, Godden, Harrell, Licata, O’Brien, Rasmussen with the italicized members in opposition.  This new street vacation will likely face Bagshaw, Burgess, Harrell, and O’Brien as returning “Yes” and “D1 Herbold?”, Sawant, Rob Johnson, Debora Juarez, and Lorena Gonzalez as new members.  Will they go forward voting on a street vacation for a project with no start date and is that a strategy to further cement Hansen’s site as the only one to consider ?

Tim Burgess, Council’s Arena Negotiator, Says an NHL-Only or NHL-First Arena Unlikely

 Finance, MOU, Security  Comments Off on Tim Burgess, Council’s Arena Negotiator, Says an NHL-Only or NHL-First Arena Unlikely
May 082015
 

Tonight, we have a few words from Tim Burgess which clarify that the NHL was not considered a stable investment of the public’s money as far back as the 2012 negotiations.  When combined with the reported tensions between Hansen’s NHL guy, Coleman, it sounds like Chris has been backed into a corner that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars that only Ballmer was willing to burn.

“We specifically wrote the idea of a hockey-only or hockey-first arena out of the agreement three years ago,” Burgess said. “We did that because it’s very weak financially. It’s just too risky for the city.”
The reason is that a typical pro hockey team generates about a third less revenue than an NBA team. So city analysts concluded a hockey arena might not be able to cover the city’s bond payments.
“If we’re going to do hockey, there would have to be a substantial lowering, if not elimination, of the public investment,” Burgess said.

That alone could be a fatal blow. But the arena also now has a triple whammy of political problems.
-One is that Hansen got in trouble down in California for making an illegal, undisclosed campaign contribution.
“That caused a few of my colleagues to be very concerned about his methods and style,” Burgess said.
-Two is that the big money behind the project, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, bolted when he bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. It didn’t escape notice at City Hall that $2 billion could have built the Sodo arena four times over. Yet they needed public help?
-And the capper: News hit last month that a different group has proposed building an arena in Tukwila. They said it would be 100 percent privately financed.
You can’t compete with free. Burgess suggested it would be next to impossible now to convince Seattle citizens to help pay for an arena when another group is willing to do one without public money “only 15 minutes away.”

SoDo Arena Final Environmental Impact Study Released – Murray Reminds Everyone NHL First Requires Money

 Finance, Security  Comments Off on SoDo Arena Final Environmental Impact Study Released – Murray Reminds Everyone NHL First Requires Money
May 082015
 

People have been working themselves up into a tizzy about alternate arena proposals related to the NHL in Tukwilla and Bellevue.  Are they real, privately funded plans or just distractions prior to the SoDo arena FEIS being released ?  Nobody really knows as NHL team owners tend to do very little without public subsidy.

The FEIS is a huge document I’ll browse through later.  It’s being said that the document did not uncover huge roadblocks but did take a rather low-end view on traffic impacts and estimated a negative impact to the Port of Seattle of $-115,584 a year or so.

I also have noticed that the whole City of Seattle collection of arena documents for the city has gone dark with a 404 error.  (I think I found the re-designed collection for the County)  Hopefully, that’s a temporary issue.

NHL-First Means Sweeten the Private Money Pot

Ed Murray’s comments to the Seattle Times suggest the NHL first proposal will have to put in even more private money towards an arena than the NBA-only one.  I guess Ed realizes that NHL-associated taxes and benefits are likely to be far fewer than that of a NBA team.

While hailing Thursday’s release of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as “another major milestone” reached, Murray said he’s prepared to look elsewhere if entrepreneur Chris Hansen and his hockey partner can’t produce an “NHL first” funding proposal by fall. Murray told The Seattle Times he needs a “much, much better” public funding package to present to the Seattle City Council than the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hansen, the city and King County.

That deal calls for up to $200 million in bonds toward a $490 million arena if an NBA team is acquired. But Murray believes there’s no chance of that now, meaning a new proposal with more private money for a riskier “NHL-first” scenario is needed.

“Folks have got to come up with a plan that’s viable for us to finalize this process,’’ said Murray, who needs less public funding to help him sell the council on a request to close a street that’s part of the 627-page EIS. “The timeline you see for decisions on the arena are the timelines for when we either go forward, or we pull the plug.’’

As a refresher of how much public financing (aka, the money the public would be getting to support public functions if this were an entirely private arena) is involved, from way back in September 13, 2012’s meeting we had this chart.  Does Hansen and his NHL partner have a way to sink $400+ million into just the arena and still have things pencil out ?

The range of public money that would be going to the arena project under NBA-only and NBA+NHL scenarios.

The range of public money that would be going to the arena project under NBA-only and NBA+NHL scenarios.

Reality of “no team owner $$ and no arena = no NHL” hits Geoff Baker

 Finance  Comments Off on Reality of “no team owner $$ and no arena = no NHL” hits Geoff Baker
Apr 242015
 

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has many, many pieces where he pines for the NHL to grace Seattle.  He stirs up passions with stories of the NHL leaders meeting with rich guys who drop hints of Seattle, Bellevue, or Tukwilla sites for an arena.  Eventually, reality comes crashing in, as in today’s piece from a AP Sports Editors meeting.  Nobody with as deep pockets as Ballmer is rumored for the NHL in Seattle, and without an NBA team committing both city and private money to an arena, any NHL team would need to throw in big money.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear Friday that Seattle needs an arena plan and financing in place before the league even considers expanding there.

“From a distance, it won’t warrant — if it does at all — serious consideration until there’s a realistic expectation that there’s going to be an arena there,’’ Bettman said. “You’ve got your approvals, you’ve got your financing — you’re ready to go. You’re basically saying, ‘Listen, if we get a team, we’re committed to and are ready to break ground, because this building can be a reality.’ ’’

Why, yes, for a league with many teams on shaky financials, it probably doesn’t make sense to expand to Seattle until a gift arena suddenly appears.  Would you like to look at the KeyArena, because the city council would love to show you around and could cut a nice deal ?

Sports Reporters Find Arena Review Process Confusing, Unclear

 Finance, MOU  Comments Off on Sports Reporters Find Arena Review Process Confusing, Unclear
Jan 192015
 

If you were thinking that the Hansen Team’s secretive “what has been submitted, what is the city waiting on, what is Hansen delaying on” approach to getting an arena approved for building is not transparent, you’re not alone.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has to make a lot of calls to city workers and still can’t figure out what to write about, so “we need transparency” it is!

On Friday, the city’s department of planning and development revealed the proposed arena’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) had been delayed three more months because of the complexity of issues involved. That realistically pushes well into 2016 the time frame for issuing any permits for the project proposed by entrepreneur Chris Hansen.

And it prompted an unusual news release from Murray’s office — on Saturday morning, no less — saying he wants more transparency from the planning department his office oversees.

Translated into plain English: Murray is taking heat over the latest delay (ed: or he hates getting phone calls from sports reporters on Friday afternoon).

“There’s some frustration out there on both sides of this,’’ (Murray) said in a phone interview. “People on both sides are struggling to understand the process.’’

Murray is not exactly a huge sports fan, but does perform ceremonial functions (waves to the crowd) at playoff games.  Mayor Murray really has not been involved in any of the arena approval steps (they were before he took office) and, aside from Geoff getting him on the phone to talk about sports, I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be “ushering along” to please sports fans currently distracted by OT wins by a team playing the worst game of the season (until the last minutes of the 4th quarter).  But, transparency!

Frankly, this arena saga could use greater transparency from all sides.

….

Hansen also could be more transparent. Much of this now yearlong EIS delay stemmed from him not submitting requested paperwork until late September.

….

It’s also worth noting the city isn’t compiling the EIS. That falls to consultant Katy Chaney of URS Corp.

But we don’t know exactly why she needs more time. Neither does the mayor, from what he told me.

And that’s problematic. It’s OK in a democracy to request that anyone wanting public money be put through rigorous screening. What isn’t OK is dragging things out indefinitely for reasons few understand.

There’s no evidence that’s being done here. But when the public remains in the dark about a process — even if via ignorance — it can lead to abuse.

Murray needs to spread the word about how this process will unfold. Some sports fans might not like the result, but they’ll at least see it coming.

If only someone in the driver’s seat on EIS submissions, the state of the ownership group, if the Bucks are for sale, and very familiar with where things stand had a website they could put that on…..   but then what would Geoff do to keep busy?

Economic Impact Analysis Documents from 2013

 Finance, Property  Comments Off on Economic Impact Analysis Documents from 2013
Jan 182015
 

Economic Impact Analysis

If you’re wondering about what Pro Forma Advisors writes about the economic impact of an arena, they think it’s pretty swell with $30-34 million a year in net operating income a year. Amazingly, this is based on 82 annual events that aren’t NBA and NHL. The Pro Forma presentation is here and a topsheet is here.