There’s been a lot of conspiracy-theorizing in comments here about Wayne Gretzky’s recent visit to Bellevue to talk about a new arena there, much of it focused on the notion that this is a gambit by Seattle arena opponents to send a message to the city council: “Hey, don’t worry, if it doesn’t happen here, it’ll happen in the suburbs.” If so, would-be Seattle arena builder Chris Hansen hasn’t gotten the message that that’s supposed to be anti-arena talk, because he’s saying it too:
“We’ve said all along that if an arena isn’t built in Seattle, it probably will be built somewhere else,” Hansen said on 710 ESPN Seattle radio’s “Bob and Groz Show” on Thursday. “I mean, that’s just a fact. Whether it’s Bellevue or Renton or somewhere else that we haven’t thought of, it’s highly likely an arena’s going to be be built in the next three or four years.”
This actually makes more sense as a pro-arena tactic: Seattle councilmembers are more likely to hear “arena in Bellevue” and think, “Oh noes, our precious consumer spending must remain here, not there!” than “Meh, so long as somebody builds it, fine by us.”
Whether the Bellevue arena is a real possibility or a stalking horse remains unclear: A “source close to the situation” told the Bellevue Reporter that “no Bellevue dollars, not even in the form of bond financing, would be included”; given that Hansen has said a Seattle arena without public aid (at least in the form of public bonds and tax kickbacks) isn’t workable, and a Bellevue arena wouldn’t have the same drawing power as a Seattle one (for one thing, it’s reputedly being focused solely on hockey, not basketball), that seems pretty dubious. But if Bellevue really wants to join the arena game by offering a deal that’s less generous than Seattle’s, I say more power to them — that’s the kind of bidding war that I can get behind.