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

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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.

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

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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.

3 of 3 Against SoDo Arena on KUOW Week in Review

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Mar 182016
 

Audio will be up here later (about 7:30 into this mp3 and it will replay Friday at 7 PM on KUOW), but former King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, Q13 Analyst (and very missed Seattle Channel host) C.R. Douglas, and Ijeoma Oluo all voiced disapproval of building an arena in SoDo and described the street vacation as simply going through the motions half-heartedly at City Hall.  The feeling on the panel is that KeyArena is very much the preferred location.  Jane Hague even goes as far as to say this project should be privately financed.  Also mentioned in the show, Hansen’s shine may have been tarnished by the secret Sacramento political donations and fines.

Councilwoman Hague’s originally voted FOR the Arena MOU (the King County Council vote in 2012 was unanimous).  Obviously, time has changed how our councilmembers feel about going forward with a SoDo arena.  In original discussions with the Seattle City Council, the City Council pressed for a list of owners that could be financially vetted and the group’s only publicly disclosed billionaire, Steve Ballmer, has left for the Clippers.

From 2012 – “There are many miles to go and promises to keep,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “This begins the process of measuring environmental, economic and transportation impacts on not only the SODO site but other sites that also may emerge.”

Maddeningly, C.R. also comes down on the side of being able to be the pace car in the left lane of the highway.

KeyArena Remodel – Geoff Baker and Sports Radio Roundup

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Feb 252016
 

Geoff Baker at the Seattle Times has launched into a theory that the city council buried the AECOM report about potential use of the Seattle Center Coliseum (formerly sponsored to be named the KeyArena).  The city council drafted a memo that, as Field of Schemes puts it, says “nyah” but the report does have footers and headings with April, May, and June dates in just the first few pages, despite titling it for a June release.  The April and May footers agree well with Baker’s published timeline and suggest some sort of lackadaisical editing as delays occurred.  Godden is reported to have said the report was posted to the council website, but I was looking and the council’s nice collection of arena documents had gone 404 by May, so we’re left to presume Jean is referring to official city clerk files, somewhere, while not discussing it publicly.

 

Local sports radio personalities Danny, Dave and Moore discuss this between about 20 – 34 minutes in the following show.  The hosts appear to have not actually read the AECOM report, instead looking at pictures, as evidenced by commenting about “simply twisting the ice” as the report clearly states that the rebuild completed in the 90s made the lower bowl and seats a structure separate from the roof floating structure, allowing for a relatively cheap rebuild of the new configuration.  It would require excavation and new seating, etc but apparently there’s a lot of unused space below that roofline currently.

 

Ian and Puck also discussed the same things in their 2-23 hour 1 show at 11:30ish here, with added rants about “bikes” and “bertha” thrown in.  Softy also interviewed Chris Daniels in his 2-23 hour 3 show here who does agree that the delays are oddly timed (Chris starts speaking at about 18:30 into the show).  Daniels suggests that a soft majority of the council is ready to vote in favor of the vacation to clear the plate,being  somewhat emboldened by recent media coverage.

The sports radio folks are pushing hate on the Seattle Times and a public comment “rally” at the street vacation hearing, while calling that vacation the “last major step” which is, of course, factually wrong as made very clear by the county council stating they had to vote before issuing any bonds (and the city would have to do so as well).  Oh well, February is kind of boring for sports around here.

 

Sports radio is pushing the public comment period on March 15th at 5:30 as the next “battle” and “showdown” and is not really discussing all the nuances of the vacation (what public benefits are required, etc), so expect lots of “rah”.  You can read the source vacation documents posted here. March – April 2016 is several months behind the timeline outlined a year ago for when this would occur.

SoDo Arena’s Necessary Occidental Avenue S Street Vacation Resurfaces

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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.