NHL Welcomes Expansion Application from Seattle

 Finance, MOU, Other Arenas  Comments Off on NHL Welcomes Expansion Application from Seattle
Dec 082017
 

After 5 long years of being a “tag along” on the SoDo arena plans, local NHL fans have something to rejoice over.  The NHL Board of Governors’ meeting was occurring this week and Seattle’s new MOU with OVG was an inevitable topic.  The board discussed Seattle’s new arena plans and welcomed an application, with a $650 million expansion fee.  Fortunately, OVG has some fairly deep pocketed friends who have been interested in owning a NHL team.

The local reaction was enthusiastic (even if old-school NHL gear was bright enough fans could still make out players through a dense fog and cataracts).

The NHL is so confident in the bid the group authorized a season ticket drive similar to what happened in Las Vegas. Unlike prior non-league-sanctioned ticket waiting lists concerning the NBA’s Kings, the Las Vegas NHL ticket drive involved a deposit.

All of this bodes well for locking in a good deal on a new arena in town and having a professional sport to occupy it soon.  The NBA is still elusive, but at least one team will reduce the number of people intent on public pillory of Leiweke.

OVG CEO Tim Leiweke going as far as asking Seattle to hold him accountable.

“If we don’t have a franchise a year from now, they should take me and put me on top of that arena and while they start tearing that arena down, they should let me dive into the middle of the rubble because I haven’t done my job,” said Leiweke this week.

Added below the break are roundtable interviews put out by Sonics Rising with John Barr, Chris Daniels, and Brian Robinson as well as a “mega fan meeting” with OVG’s Leiweke held after Mayor Durkan signed the MOU.  Continue reading »

Mayor Jenny Durkan Signs OVG MOU, Making MOU Officially a “Go”

 Finance, MOU, Other Arenas  Comments Off on Mayor Jenny Durkan Signs OVG MOU, Making MOU Officially a “Go”
Dec 072017
 

The MOU for a New Arena At Seattle Center, built and operated by Oak View Group, was officially signed by the Mayor and Tim Leiweke in a ceremony at the KeyArena on Wednesday December 6, 2017.  The event included some scolding (but no 4 letter words) of reporter Chris Daniels (later gifted Sonics socks), questions about next moves to acquire teams, questions about “other competing arenas,” and a lot more joy than has been seen at many other press conferences in Seattle of late.  The actual signing of the document produced some special “gift” pens from Mayor Jenny to CM Juarez and CM Bagshaw, although Tim was clearly less focused on rotating through ceremonial pens and more focused on getting on with building the arena/acquiring teams.  Good man, Mr Leiweke.

Video of the press conference and an embedded version of Chris Daniels and Chris Cashman’s The Next Best Podcast episode about the “OVG Enthusiasm Gap” are below the break.  The news that came out from the NHL board of governors the following day is closing that gap, rapidly.

Still unclear is if the Seattle City Council is going to exempt the OVG MOU from I-91 (SMC 20.47) or if the city council will actually try to figure out a calculation for the “cash value” of an arena lease for 55 years to determine I-91 compliance.  While I have faith that the “cash and property” being leased will be a gain of significant value to the city, the calculations are messy and easily challenged in court.  Prior coverage has suggested the council considered explicit exemption in the MOU but the version signed does not reference I-91 or the Seattle Municipal Code Section 20.47.
Continue reading »

Seattle Center Arena Replacement By Oak View Group In December 2017?

 Finance, MOU, Other Arenas, Property  Comments Off on Seattle Center Arena Replacement By Oak View Group In December 2017?
Dec 032017
 

After a long RFP process involving multiple bidders (although Seattle Partners/AEG withdrew when their proposal involving city $250 million in city bonds was not well received) and some additional negotiation, it appears that Seattle’s quest for a new arena suitable for the NHL and NBA is coming to a close on Monday. This has caused some gnashing of teeth among those devoted to Chris Hansen and his plans, which we’ll save for later.

Seattle Center Arena Has Needed Renovation and Waiting on ArenaCo Isn’t Forward Progress

The KeyArena at Seattle Center has been a looming white elephant for the city, thanks to demands of the prior NBA franchise ownership to refurbish the facility with a questionable configuration for hockey. Some reports have suggested that the prior ownership was happy to explore NHL teams and then scuttled that plan in a scorched-earth move, capped by the offset ice re-build. The AECOM report of KeyArena options that the city commissioned outlined multiple scenarios, all requiring 9 figure investments with a future profitability very uncertain, particularly if another large arena is built in the city. At the same time, the Seattle Center arena’s city ownership requires the city make some plans for major investments to keep up with amenity standards, even as a concert, WNBA, and college basketball venue.

AECOM’s report included rough estimates of project costs to repurpose KeyArena, all well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Projections for Key to be self-sustaining were widespread. A2 required no competing large arena in town and B2 required the NBA to play in the renovated KeyArena space

Additional details about the options from the AECOM study are also below.

Details on how the KeyArena would be reconfigured under the scenarios analyzed.

The basis of AECOM’s estimates included modest investment (A1+2), significant renovations preserving pro-sports capacity (B1+2), significant repurposing into multiple entertainment venues (C) and even “something else” (D).

Under both AECOM scenarios with an arena also built in SoDo (A1 and C), the Key projects loses money. Only the Key as the primary arena in town (A2) or with a NBA tenant (B2) would have projected profits. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the Key if the ArenaCo group converts it into a secondary venue. Even the configuration ArenaCo proposed in September as a secondary venue is different from Scenario C, lacking acoustically divided stages and with a lower maximum capacity, which could be even less profitable.

ArenaCo’s Composition and Faith In Their Ability to Complete Project Has Changed

While the SoDo group has done an admirable job of crafting a good deal for the city, re-authorizing the city’s partnership with the ArenaCo group without a plan to actually build an arena ahead of a sports franchise would be turning our collective backs on going forward with having a new arena in Seattle. ArenaCo’s named investors, with the loss of the $37B investor, no longer have the majority of the capital once advertised for the expensive project of building an arena with mostly-private funds and purchasing professional sports team(s).

Revisiting SoDo Land Purchases, Property Tax Bills

 Finance, Property  Comments Off on Revisiting SoDo Land Purchases, Property Tax Bills
Jun 072017
 

SoDo Land Purchases Locked Hansen In On Site, Created Street Vacation Requirement

One way that Hansen was able to focus his efforts in SoDo, on a tract of land that required a street vacation to construct an arena, was by buying the land for the arena and plenty of land from his neighbors.  My recent trip through the public records indicates WSA properties is paying about $786k in property tax bills each year on executed land purchases of approximately $122M in total.  Note:  This tally leaves out the Dream Girls establishment and the Mariner’s lot indicated in yellow in the picture from the King County Parcel Viewer.

SoDo land plats with Arena site circled and WSA properties/Hansen purchased land in blue, Mariner’s lot highlighted in yellow.

The current list of sites purchased by Hansen under various WSA Properties LLCs is below, proceeding counterclockwise from the highlighted Mariner’s lot.  The address and last 4 digits of the parcel number, Hansen/WSA’s purchase date, the purchase price (or currently assessed value if indicated with a ~), and the annual property tax bill for that property.

North of Arena block

1500 1st Ave S - 6430   not sold m  ~$4.3M      
1518 1st Ave S - 6440   10/2016      $25M      $82,540
1526 1st Ave S - 6445   10/2016      included  $14,490
1530 1st Ave S - 6450   not sold dg ~$3.9M
1534 1st Ave S - 6455   4/2012       $4.3M     $32,198
1548 1st Ave S - 6460   5/2012       $9.5M     $18,325
1556 1st Ave S - 6465   5/2012       included  $38,027

West Half of Arena

1700 1st Ave S - 6400   8/2012       $8M       $37,561
1714 1st Ave S - 6405   7/2012       $5.6M     $16,110
17XX 1st Ave S - 6410   7/2012       included  $32,188
1730 1st Ave S - 6415   9/2012       $1.7M     $16,110
1740 1st Ave S - 6417   4/2013       $9M       $20,132
1746 1st Ave S - 6420   4/2013       included  $20,123
1760 1st Ave S - 6425   4/2013       included  $40,242

West of 1st Ave

1757 1st Ave S - 7110   12/2012      $1.8M     $18,012
1915 1st Ave S - 7135   9/2012       $3.2M     $23,006

South of Arena (garage)

2228 Occidental - 6125  9/2016      $32M       $17,428
1900 Occidental - 6115  9/2016      included   $124,064

East Half of Arena

1750 Occidental - 6285  12/2011     $22M       $237,986

note: fixed links that were to .gov are now .com

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.

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.

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.

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.”