There is little doubt that those living in Seattle would support a new arena to house an NBA and/or NHL franchise, but quite a few members of City Council aren't so sure it would be financially viable. A lot of the money needed to build the proposed arena would come from public funding, which means there are a lot of rules and regulations that must be met in order to meet financial requirements.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has repeatedly said the proposal to build a new Sodo sports arena with $200 million in public financing meets the requirements of Initiative 91, which demands a financial return on any investment of public money.
But several Seattle City Council members aren't convinced an agreement with San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen to build a $490 million arena and return professional basketball and hockey to the city would in fact provide such a return.
"If you believe that I-91 requires a fair return on the public investment, this proposal does not do that," said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Government Performance and Finance Committee, after the hearing to review the 2006 initiative with city budget staff.
Councilmember Nick Licata agreed. "There appears to be a real gap in their argument that we're getting a return on our investment."
And as for Mayor McGinn's response to those doubts from City Council:
After the hearing, McGinn reasserted his view: "The city's investment will be fully repaid, with principal and interest at a rate that exceeds the return on a Treasury note. In addition, the city will own the land and the arena."
There are a ton of working parts to building a new arena of this magnitude, and those in the city of Seattle are seeing first-hand why it is so difficult to bring in an NBA or NHL franchise when there isn't a viable arena already in place.
Those in support of the arena project can only hope the two sides continue working out a deal that would not only reach the financial requirements, but also get something done in the near future.
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