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.