SoDo Sonics arena developer: I'm in this for the long haul

Chris Hansen (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE -- SoDo arena investor Chris Hansen says he's in it for the long haul and has the patience to wait it out while the city wrestles with a proposal from the Oak View Group to renovate KeyArena.

Hansen has been quietly sitting on the sidelines as city leaders debate a tentative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Oak View Group has made with the city's economic development staff.

He has been waiting since February on a vote by the city council to vacate a portion of Occidental Avenue, a street he has offered to pay $25 million for because it's needed to complete the construction plans for the arena.

"What's wrong with competition?" Hansen told KOMO News on Tuesday, ending a drought on commenting about Oak View Group’s proposal.

He doesn't see a KeyArena renovation and his arena proposal as an "either-or" situation.

“Me, Wally, the Nordstroms, Russell - our object is to get an NBA team back in Seattle and whatever gets us there, I will support," says Hansen.

He's referring to co-investor and former Seattle Supersonic Wally Walker, brothers Pete and Erik Nordstrom and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

But Hansen made clear that he has doubts the Oak View Group proposal will live up to its hype, especially the financing outlined in its draft MOU with the City of Seattle.

“We are not asking for the level of subsidies they are asking for such as parking, redirection of taxes or other smaller things that are in their proposal," says Hansen.

He touts his revised plan made earlier this year of no public funding and all costs associated with construction of a SoDo Arena would be privately financed. Hansen asked the city to waive an admission tax.

City leaders have shown a preference to renovating KeyArena because it's a city owned property. But he says a deep dive into the numbers show a renovated KeyArena to accommodate the NBA, NHL and a premier concert venue with make it tough for a prospective NBA to come on in and split an arena revenue pie three ways:

“With two people already trying to share the economics before a franchise would even come into the mix, that could be a hindrance to an NBA team and not help," says Hansen.

Hansen believes the economics favor KeyArena becoming an entertainment-only venue that would complement a SoDo Arena being the home for an NBA and NHL team.

In September, his group proposed a privately financed a redo of KeyArena, essentially splitting it in half to make a concert hall on one side and an amphitheater on the other. But when he made the offer, he knew it did not meet the Request for Proposal of a multi-purpose arena.

“We knew that before we were going to submit it that it was going to be rejected," says Hansen. "But the mayor never really did open it up to other things that might be done at the Key."

He says his intent was to present an alternative idea to the city of how both a $90 million renovation to KeyArena can complement a SoDo arena.

He admits he's often asked "when will you give up?" on the idea of a NBA arena in SoDo since city leaders have not acted on his proposal to vacate Occidental Avenue and the NBA has no prospective franchise -- either existing or through expansion on the horizon.

"When the Sonics are here, players get off a plane here, me and Wally are walking into our first game and cheering on the Sonics, that's when we will give up."

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