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.

SoDo Arena’s Necessary Occidental Avenue S Street Vacation Resurfaces

 Lawsuit, PR Campaign, Property  Comments Off on SoDo Arena’s Necessary Occidental Avenue S Street Vacation Resurfaces
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.

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.”

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?

Ed Murray on Ask the Mayor says MOU stands, no NHL-first-ies

 Finance, MOU, Security  Comments Off on Ed Murray on Ask the Mayor says MOU stands, no NHL-first-ies
Nov 132014
 

A great deal of hand-wringing from McGinn’s ousting has revolved around Murray’s lukewarm support of any NBA ambitions.  The NHL continues to explore the Seattle arena proposal, but nobody is committed to being Hansen’s deep-pocketed partner in making their mostly revenue-neutral* arena deal work.  Nobody in a power position is itching to re-open the MOU to renegotiation and Mayor Ed Murray made a NHL dream-shattering statement that an arena without an NBA team just wasn’t going to pencil out for the city, the NHL is not stable enough a partner to proceed with.  For video confirmation, watch the response at 55:50.

(* neutral to the city funds because we assume that the public is too math-illiterate to realize they’re paying higher property taxes due to the arena and, because those higher taxes pay arena bonds rather than tax stuff, we also assume the arena would not require any of the city/county services the taxes it generates would usually pay for)
 

Dow Constantine on NBA Arena

 Finance, MOU  Comments Off on Dow Constantine on NBA Arena
Oct 052014
 

In this clip from the Seattle Channel’s Civic Cocktail program October 1st, Dow Constantine was asked about the NBA arena.

 

Dow is still thinking Hansen will bring basketball to Seattle, even without Steve Ballmer.  Then again, Dow and the county benefit greatly from a “free rider” position in the NBA arena if only one team, the NBA, is signed on by the time the building is completed.

Hansen’s Arena EIS Documents Finally Submitted, Sports Reporters/Cheerleaders Stir

 MOU, PR Campaign, Property  Comments Off on Hansen’s Arena EIS Documents Finally Submitted, Sports Reporters/Cheerleaders Stir
Oct 022014
 

After months of delay and meandering careful collection of detailed analysis and predictions, Hansen’s team has submitted all requested info to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.  As you can see by hours billed, work has been sparse, on the city’s side, for many months.

King5’s Chris Daniels continues to beat the arena drum, including dropping old details into his stories and not reporting the more negative finding that other outlets have (the leaders did not want to open the MOU to NHL first at this time).

The NHL is widely believed to be anxious to bring a team to the Seattle market. There was no formal presentation about the market during a league meeting on Tuesday. An NHL spokesman also said there were no formal talks about expansion during the owners meetings in New York City.

The league’s commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly both flew to Seattle earlier this year, along with potential owner Victor Coleman. They all met with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Bettman later said the meeting was to get an update on the status of the arena. Murray says the league leaders also asked the city about the possibility of changing the Memorandum of Understanding on the arena, to allow for an NHL team to prompt construction.

 

Paul Allen Wants to Put NHL in Portland

Humorously, one ex-Microsoftee who actually lives in Seattle is speaking publicly about their desire to put an NHL team into the underutilized arena his LLC owns. Once you own the building, it really helps to have as many events in it as possible (and it’s best if the potential team owner is interested in doing that to minimize their sunk arena costs, or else you end up with Ackerley).