Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund rich guy (I keep wanting to write “millionaire” or “billionaire,” but his net worth doesn’t appear to be public record) who says he’ll build an arena in Seattle with mostly private money, says he’s still committed to the project even if the Sacramento Kings are taken off the board as a relocation target. It’s “somewhat inevitable that we will eventually have a team out here,” said Hansen (is “somewhat inevitable” like “pretty unique”?) last week, adding that he hopes to have an agreement in principle with the city and county by “late spring, early summer.” At which point he hopes to go after an NBA franchise to play there.
It’s not a terrible strategy — as Hansen notes, the NBA is more likely to approve a team for Seattle if there’s a set arena funding plan already in place — and not a terrible deal for Seattle if Hansen’s promises are accurate, though the tax kickback provision would likely still end up costing Seattle and King County taxpayers something, albeit something less than in most other arena deals. (How this gets around the Initiative 91 requirement that the city turn a profit on any arena plan remains to be seen.)
It’s worth noting, though, that at this point all we have is a guy with a bunch of unnamed investors and a piece of paper with some numbers on it — including, apparently, a total private investment for team and arena of $500 million, which since the private arena cost is set at $290 million would imply a team purchase price of $210 million, which seems optimistic, to say the least.
Meanwhile, the talk has already begun about which teams might be ripe to lure to Seattle, with talk focusing on the league-owned New Orleans Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks, assuming the Kings get their new arena. “I think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process,” cautions one stadium expert too humble to mention himself by name, but not too humble to quote himself in the third person. “I would not be surprised to see Seattle get a team in five to eight years, maybe. But I would be surprised to see it happen more quickly than that.”