Hansen waves Bellevue arena saber as Seattle vote nears

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.

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18 comments on “Hansen waves Bellevue arena saber as Seattle vote nears

  1. Neil, there is a new story in the Seattle Times regarding this topic. It is certainly not a pro arena tactic. Don Levin admits that he has been meeting with Bellevue. He will not admit Gretzkys involvement but sounds like too big of a coincident that he was in town 4 days before the vote.

    Seems like you disagree, but Hansen has already admitted that he is in no way working with Don Levin. Then the logic conclusion is that Don thinks that this is the last time he can really be heard since after the votes it would be too late. This leads me to believe that this was arranged by ANTI SoDO arena people rather than PRO arena people.

    seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/hockey/2018783532_hockey27.html

  2. Levin says he has 100Million to put toward an arena (in either location) but he has been focused on Bellevue. 100M doesn’t get you much and it sounds like “they” have a site in Bellevue already. “They” is Bellevue so with no specifics, I am pretty sure the city will retain ownership which makes it pretty close to on par with Seattle-Hansen, doesn’t it?

    Hansen has ducked questions about other locations/cities on a couple radio appearances to focus on the SoDo site but it is fairly obvious he’s had talks with Bellevue.

  3. Hansen doesn’t have to be working with Don Levin to take advantage of his interest in order to pressure Seattle.

  4. Again, I am not saying that Hansen will not be making lemonade out of lemons here. He will certainly try to put a positive spin on this that favors him, as he should.

    I am arguing that this was not a ‘pro arena tactic’ as you called it. To the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the anti arena people are in the ‘let us throw everything at the wall phase’ and were much more likely to turn this into a news story than Hansen was. You really have to understand the existing relationship between the Mariners, Reichbauer, and Bellevue officials. The latter two BADLY want a Bellevue arena and thought that they were on their way there with Levin before Hansen showed up out of left field. The Mariners just want the SoDo location dropped from the discussion and are working with the other two parties.

  5. And that is not to say that I am in any way confident about the City Council vote. I would just like to point out that the Budget Committee is chaired by this guy

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSKSp8X4sI0

  6. If by “anti-arena people” you mean the people who want to build an arena in Bellevue, then sure, that interpretation makes sense. This certainly works as a last-second attempt to wedge Bellevue into the discussion. Whether it makes Seattle less likely to pass the SoDo project, there I’m skeptical – but I admit that the politics of this are much weirder than in the typical case.

  7. It’s pretty funny to hear people talk about conspiracies on the Bellevue story. As if a King County Council member can beckon to town a man as powerful as Wayne Gretzky for political purposes. What’s next – Michael Jordan at Tim Burgess’ beck and call? It’s all pretty ridiculous, and shows how scared the Hansen side is of this news.

    That said, good for Gretzky and Don Levin for making their own decision to enter the arena debate publicly this week. God knows the Seattle area needs more arena options than Sodo – we shouldn’t be dictated to by one man (Hansen).

  8. yes, i should have been more clear. By ‘anti arena’ I meant ‘anti SoDo arena’. Their goal is the same, to defeat the Hansen plan.

  9. This is old news. What we have here is an investor with $100 million and a desire to own an NHL franchise. Levin has been in talks with a few cities here in Washington State. He doesn’t care where it is he just wants a team. This was brought back up in the press to create doubt and confusion for the SODO arena proposal. My guess is it’s the arena group in Bellevue that isn’t quite ready to put a proposal together due to lack of investors but realizes their ship is about to sail when the county/city councils approve Hansen’s MOU. I think anyone who is smart can read between the lines on this one. The article says that no money from Bellevue will be put in to the arena and the investor has $100 million. Where will the rest come from? This is an attempt to derail the SODO arena that will probably backfire because it will more than likely increase the probability of the City Council voting yes to keep the money in Seattle.

  10. Neil,

    What was Hansen supposed to say? After the news cycle picked up the retreaded Bellevue efforts (which isn’t current news at all), Hansen of course was going to be asked about the Bellevue effort.

    Hansen had a choice of:

    A) If the proposal is not approved in Seattle, it won’t be built
    B) If the proposal is not approved in Seattle, it will be built somewhere else
    C) No Comment

    Now, based on how you have essentially twisted his meaning to fit your narrative in this post, any one of those choices would have been the wrong choice to you.

    Hansen isn’t “wav[ing] the Bellevue arena sabre” as you so eloquently try to describe this as an extortion attempt, but he is simply trying to answer questions how he perceives as truthful. I guess this is why so many public people speak in platitudes, because otherwise their intentions get twisted.

  11. Good point Grant. When the MOU was first addressed by the Seattle Arena Review Panel seattle.gov/arena/docs/FINALArenaReviewPanelReport.pdf the MOU was supposed to be a nonbinding agreement.
    1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Consideration: The Mayor and County Executive anticipate transmitting a nonbinding agreement between the City, County and Investor group providing a more detailed outline of the arena proposal and the public/private partnership. The MOU will be considered by both the City and County Councils and would be endorsed by resolution.
    By changing it to a binding agreement Seattle and King County are significantly more “locked in” to ArenaCo’s agreement for up to 5 years. If another arena comes along and the County pursues it after signing a binding MOU with ArenaCo (and abandons ArenaCo plans) they may have grounds for a lawsuit.

  12. If I were Hansen, and I were asked about a Bellevue plan and thought it was meant to derail my SoDo plan, I would have said something along the lines of “I don’t know anything about any Bellevue plan. The only plan on the table is mine.”

    But maybe you’re right, and he’s just terminally honest. He seems savvier than that, though.

  13. Neil Says:”If I were Hansen, and I were asked about a Bellevue plan and thought it was meant to derail my SoDo plan, I would have said something along the lines of “I don’t know anything about any Bellevue plan. The only plan on the table is mine.”

    Neil, that would be a lie if he said that. We have all known about the Bellevue efforts to build an arena for about a year. I guess I just don’t see how Hansen acknowledging the fact that an arena will be built in the next 3-4 years makes him any less Savy?

  14. Hansen has a plan. Bellevue has a guy who claims he has one-fifth of the money for a plan.

    To take that and go on the radio and say “This will happen in Bellevue if you don’t build it here,” if you believe that this statement would be a roadblock to getting your own plan in Seattle passed … you’re going to have to explain the logic in that to me.

  15. This will be of interest I’m sure:

    “The Commission believes that more review should be conducted before signing the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)”

    www.cityofseattle.net/planningcommission/docs/SPCreviewofproposedSODOarena.pdf

  16. “To take that and go on the radio and say “This will happen in Bellevue if you don’t build it here,””

    I don’t recall Chris Hansen ever saying the above quote Neil. Maybe you could help me find that?

  17. “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.”

  18. Thanks Neil, that’s the way I remember hearing it. I didn’t think that he said it will happen in Bellevue specifically like your quote indicated.

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