As most of you know by now, the Seattle City Council approved an arena plan yesterday. I had a few questions though so I e-mailed Chris Daniels of Seattle's KING5 TV to see if he could enlighten me.
A: My current understanding is that Seattle needs a core tenant before construction on an Arena can begin, is that correct?
A: Yesterday, Councilman Bruce Harrell stated: "I think Sonics fans will be excited to know that we'll have an NBA team here shortly". Was this just bluster or does there seem to be a real feeling in the city that a team is standing by in the wings to come to Seattle? Is it possible the NBA would grant Seattle an expansion team, or would it have to be a team that is bought/relocated?
CD: I don't think expansion should be ruled out. In fact - I think that's what Hansen and others would prefer. But given the current state of NBA economics, it's probably not likely. As far as Harrell is concerned, other Councilmembers have suggested they know nothing about Chris Hansen's tenant plans, and that's coming from the Council's chief negotiators on this issue. Harrell was not one of them.
A: The Maloof Family has repeatedly stated their desire that they do not want to sell the Kings. Would Chris Hansen be amenable to buying a minority share in a team like the Kings and letting the Maloofs remain in charge in order to bring a team to Seattle or does he actually want to be a majority owner outright?
CD: Hansen has suggested he wants to be the majority owner of an NBA franchise. Steve Ballmer* sold 1B in stock a while back. I don't think they'd be willing to be minority owners.
(*Editorial Note: Steve Ballmer is part of the Seattle Arena investment group and has an estimated net worth of $15.7 billion.)
A: What are the biggest potential hiccups for the Seattle Arena Plan?
CD: It still needs County Council approval. But that body already approved the deal back in July. It just needs to approve the City mandated changes, and six council members have already signaled their support.
There is now language written into the deal which calls for an economic analysis and environmental analysis, which have the potential to unwind the deal a year from now. The EIS will study other locations and impact in the designated area. If the SoDo site isn't optimal, for whatever reason, it could throw the whole thing off. However, Hansen has already spent $50+ million on land, so I'm guessing, based on other previous concessions, he will do what he can to rectify any issue.
A: Could the arena be built without a basketball team, but perhaps with a NHL team as it's core tenant? Or is the focus trying to be basketball?
CD: Hansen has made it clear he wants to own an NBA team. An NBA team could play in Key Arena for a couple years while the arena is built. An NHL team is more problematic, because of the Key Arena size, and configuration. It would only seat 11-11,500 for Hockey*, so that's a problem for any prospective owner.
(*Editorial note: The Edmonton Oilers, the team whose ownership visited Seattle and Key Arena recently, averaged 16,839 people for attendance in 2011-12, a sellout each night)
Big thank you to Chris for taking the time out of his day to answer my questions. Follow him on Twitter to keep abreast of the Seattle Arena story.