Seattle arena EIS finally done, just needs team to play there, way to pay for building it

The Seattle arena environmental impact statement is done! The Seattle arena environmental impact statement is done! It’s 1600 pages, so if you want to read it you’d better have nothing planned this weekend, but apparently it says that a new arena wouldn’t result in the trafficpocalypse, so that’s something.

Now that that’s done, the main holdup for Chris Hansen’s arena plan is that his deal with the city only accounts for funding an arena if he gets an NBA team. Chris Hansen, unless something fairly dramatic and unlikely happens to throw a wrench into the long-simmering Milwaukee Bucks arena talks in the next few months, is not getting an NBA team anytime in the immediate future. What he might get is an NHL expansion team, but his arena deal only allows for that as an add-on, not the main course.

What to do? Rewrite the deal, obviously, which Hansen now says he’s open to, and as Chris Daniels of KING-5 reports, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is prepared to pursue:

Murray has indicated he’s willing to champion new legislation if someone brings a financial model to the table that makes sense.

Oh, is that all?

Now, it may seem odd that Hansen and Co. can’t just cross out “NBA” in its arena plans and pencil in “NHL” — they have the same season length, after all, and you could still schedule the same number of concerts to go along with them. (Maybe a smidge less if you need more time to pour ice for games, but that shouldn’t be a huge factor.) But keep in mind that Hansen already lost his main money man, Steve Ballmer, when Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for all the money in the world, and that basketball has a built-in fan base from the Sonics days, and that his NBA business plan already looked to offer only wafer-thin margins, and you can start to see that an NHL-first plan might not be a … what’s the hockey equivalent of a slam dunk? An open shot on net? Something involving the five hole? I gotta watch more hockey.

9 comments on “Seattle arena EIS finally done, just needs team to play there, way to pay for building it

  1. Burned out on all the business, it seems alot of people are
    all burned out and have no energy for the NBA, I have not watched a live game since supes left, and there is no hope of getting a team, save maybe in next decade

  2. On a ~$490M arena, if NBA first, there would have been about $120 million in public financing leaving $370 million for Hansen and friends to finance privately. I don’t follow NHL, but I’ve not heard of any NHL owners digging so deep into their pockets as to completely cover that type of money for an arena (while also buying a team). Again, it comes down to how much $ Hansen wants to put into it as an arena operator, even with no NBA team in sight. Even arenaco revenue streams from things like naming rights and admissions taxes are taking a big hit if you’re switching to hockey.

  3. I don’t think Hansen will have any problems finding another investor to go in with him. There are plenty of deep pocketed money men with Seattle ties to choose from. Sure, they won’t have Ballmer level wealth, but only 2 or 3 other people do in this country. Hansen has shown pretty good patience throughout this process, and I’m sure something will get done. I still wouldn’t rule out an expansion team from the NBA. Despite the formal denials, adding 30 new jobs could help the NBA through its next labor negotiation with the NBPA.

  4. The thing about Ballmer, though, was that he *really really* wanted to own an NBA team, price be damned. (As you can see from what he paid for the Clippers.) Between him and Hansen, they were willing to go into a project that probably wouldn’t have made them any money, but would have given them a happy shiny toy. I’m less sure how many deep pocketed people there are with exactly that motivation — though, I guess you only need one.

  5. “Maybe a smidge less if you need more time to pour ice for games, but that shouldn’t be a huge factor.”

    Uh… Ice doesn’t get poured each game. They create the ice at the start of the season and it stays there until the end. It just gets covered up if another event is happening.

  6. The Seattle City Councilmember who did the bulk of the deal-wrangling with Hansen spoke to a reporter friday and sounds pretty negative about doing an NHL option with any public financing. I am impressed with the politicians who are defending to the public a realistic estimate of how much incremental tax revenues a project would bring in.
    “This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” says Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”

    Burgess said that idea (hockey first) is dead on arrival at the City Council, absent a big private investment.

    “We specifically wrote the idea of a hockey-only or hockey-first arena out of the agreement three years ago,” Burgess said. “We did that because it’s very weak financially. It’s just too risky for the city.”

    The reason is that a typical pro hockey team generates about a third less revenue than an NBA team. So city analysts concluded a hockey arena might not be able to cover the city’s bond payments.

    “If we’re going to do hockey, there would have to be a substantial lowering, if not elimination, of the public investment,” Burgess said.

  7. The equivalent to a slam-dunk would be an empty net goal.

    Hockey’s got a buncha bust-o warm weather teams they could move north. But I’m afraid the whole ‘threaten them if they don’t build an arena’ thing isn’t going to work in this case. I mean come on, it’s freakin’ hockey, not football. Too bad cuz I could teach those guys in Seattle a few tricks, haha.