Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says chances of NBA’s return are ‘hell of a lot better’

Jun 21, 2012, 11:04 AM | Updated: 2:29 pm

By Stephanie Klein

Just days after meeting with both the King County Council and Seattle City Council, investor Chris Hansen seems to be on a roll with his proposal to build an arena in the SoDo neighborhood that could bring the NBA back to Seattle.

Mayor Mike McGinn joined “Brock and Salk” Thursday morning and said Hansen’s deal is unlike anything they’ve seen in the past.

“Normally, what happens is somebody comes to town and says ‘Come up with a new tax. Start taxing hotels, restaurants or car rentals, or something and give that new money to us,'” he said.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn tells “Brock and Salk” that Chris Hansen’s arena proposal is much different than deals the city has seen in the past. ( photo)

Hansen has proposed building a nearly $500 million arena just south of Safeco and CenturyLink fields. The plan calls for nearly $300 million in private investment from Hansen’s group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The amount of public support would be $200 million if an NBA and NHL franchise moved here.

While it’s not a done deal yet, the mayor is optimistic both councils, Hansen, and maybe even the NBA are moving in the right direction.

“We have [commissioner] David Stern saying that he’s supportive of the proposal to the NBA board of governors and we’ve got a proposal in front of the city council,” McGinn said. “I don’t know how good our chances are, but they’re a hell of a lot better than they were two years ago.”

Hansen and his group are running into critics concerned about taxes, those who would rather an arena be located on the Eastside, and businesses worried about potential traffic issues.

In a study paid for by the investment group, traffic was determined not to be an issue. But the Port of Seattle is clearly not convinced and said without major improvements, a new arena would “kill” jobs in SoDo.

McGinn is confident the city can handle the extra crowds.

“It’s an arena. It’s not a stadium. It’s 18,000 seats. It’s not 45 or 70 thousand seats. It’s a lot smaller. The events are at night. People get there a bunch of different ways and we have more transit there than anywhere else in the city,” he said.

McGinn teased that it would not be a good sign if Seattle was without traffic.

All joking aside, the mayor is optimistic, but said he’s moving forward on a promising plan with caution.

“It would be wonderful to bring the Sonics back, but we do have constraints that we have to work within. One is we have a very, very difficult budget situation,” he said. “We’re making deep cuts in our budget.”

The city and county councils are expected to vote on the proposed arena deal later this summer. County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer asked Hansen Wednesday about a vote by King County residents, but Hansen shot it down, saying he hoped the council would make the decision itself.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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