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Chris Hansen tries to revive SoDo arena project to lure Sonics back

Artist rendering of proposed basketball arena in the SoDo District.

SEATTLE -- Chris Hansen and his investment team are taking another shot at getting the city of Seattle to approve measures that could one day lead to a new arena being built in the city's SoDo neighborhood to woo back the Seattle Supersonics.

Hansen sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council asking once again for the city to approve the vacation of a portion of Occidental Avenue inside the proposed arena's footprint.

"The intent of this application is to make possible a shovel-ready arena project to put Seattle in the best possible position to attract an NBA team," Hansen wrote in the letter.

Hansen said he has addressed concerns in the deal since their original proposal was rejected in 2016, including: promising no area will be built unless Seattle officially has an NBA team in hand, the arena is now 100 percent privately funded with no taxpayer dollars used, and $1.3 million for improved freight mobility in conjunction with the recently approved Lander Street Overpass. The proposal also tries to allay scheduling fears of too many events in the same place with its proximity to T-Mobile Park and CenturyLink Field by stating with just an NBA team there, avoiding scheduling conflicts would be easier.

Hansen's group also said the arena would provide "an insurance policy" for the city should an NBA team balk at playing at the renovated Seattle Center Arena. They cited a recent ESPN article stating that Seattle might need to have a second new arena with the Sonics as a main tenant if they're to beat out other markets wanting an NBA franchise.

"Having both Seattle Center and SoDo as viable options for potential NBA owners would send a powerful message to the NBA, that not only is Seattle the best available market, but we also understand what an NBA team requires to be successful," Hansen wrote.

Hansen's arena prospects were dealt a serious blow in May, 2016 when the Seattle City Council rejected a proposal to sell a small section of Occidental Avenue to Hansen's group by a 5-4 margin. The vacating of the street was viewed as the last major step toward Hansen getting a master-use permit and making the $490 million arena shovel ready to lure an NBA team. A memorandum of understanding allowing $200 million in public financing for the project with the city and King County expired in late 2017.

The project has faced fierce opposition from the Port of Seattle, fearing game-day impacts to freight traffic, and the Seattle Mariners, which would butt up against the club's parking garage at T-Mobile Park.

The city has since shifted focus and partnered with Oak View Group to renovate KeyArena into a new arena that will house a new expansion NHL franchise and several concerts.

Hansen's partners include former Sonics general manager Wally Walker, Erik and Pete Nordstrom, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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