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Key investor wants Seattle to publicly compare arena proposals to consider best option

A key investor with the group wanting to build a new sports arena in SODO is challenging Seattle’s Mayor and City Council to compare the SODO arena against the Oak View Group’s proposal to redevelop KeyArena. (Artist renderings)

SEATTLE - A key investor with the group wanting to build a new sports arena in SODO is challenging Seattle’s Mayor and City Council to compare the SODO arena against the Oak View Group’s proposal to redevelop KeyArena.

Wally Walker said in order to be fully transparent with the public, the city needs to start comparing the two proposals in public so citizens can see what city leaders are looking.

“Let’s absolutely compare the two proposals side by side in a public forum,” said Walker. “It’s time”.

During a meeting of the Seattle City Council Select Committee on Civic Arenas on Monday, several council members spoke about the lack of transparency when a Memorandum of Understanding was hammered out in 2012 between then mayor Mike McGinn and Chris Hansen, the principal investor in the Seattle Arena project in SODO.

“The process that was followed disadvantaged the council,” Councilmember Tim Burgess said during the briefing. “Because we learned about it all after the fact and we had to start from scratch.”

Burgess was part of the City Council that approved the MOU between Mayor McGinn and Hansen. This time around, city councilmembers want to openly work with the mayor to draft an MOU with the Oak View Group.

“We need to be a transparent as can be, that is important in this process,” said co-chairperson of the Committee Debora Juarez.

McGinn, a backer of the SODO arena and mayoral candidate, said the accusations of backroom dealing in 2012 are bogus.

“Nice spin is what I would say to that,” said McGinn, standing outside the city council chambers. “Because what they (city councilmembers) are doing is developing a process where they can collect their votes in private and pass it without a real public review.”

It was the first meeting of the committee since Seattle Mayor Ed Murray selected the proposal by Los Angeles based Oak View Group to redevelop KeyArena into a NBA and NHL ready acceptable arena. The committee is establishing the criteria that should be included in an MOU with the Oak View Group, similar to one that was crafted with Chris Hansen in 2012.

But, the committee has no intention to compare the two arena proposals until much, much later in the process if it decides to it at all.

“If it doesn't, people should raise their hands and actually beyond that, get loud about it,” said Walker. “It has to happen, it’s too big an issue, it's too public an issue to not be a great side by side analysis.”

Mayor Ed Murray and his staff have been given a September 12 deadline to propose an MOU with Oak View Group to the city council. The MOU between the city and Chris Hansen’s group expires December 4, the same day the city council has its first opportunity to approve an MOU with the Oak View Group.

Walker wants to city to be more transparent and start comparing the two proposals in public going forward.

“The more the two deals are compared side by side, the better it is for the right outcome which is absolutely SODO," he said.

Walker said the public will then see how much property tax revenue the SODO arena will generate for the city and state compared to a redone KeyArena, where there’s no property tax because its owned by the city.

“If they are willing to forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, they - the politicians - that's their right, I think it’s crazy,” said Walker.

The former Seattle Sonics forward said he has been in touch with council members, but said the city hasn’t asked the Hansen group to participate in any new discussions.

“We would be delighted to have that conversation,” said Walker. “It’s up to the city council, they have to run their process, they are the decision makers when it comes to the arena.”

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