SEATTLE – In near back-to-back votes Monday afternoon, the King County and Seattle councils approved the proposed NBA / NHL arena project in Seattle's SODO neighborhood. County councilmembers voted unanimously (9-0) to approve the revised deal, while the city coucil vote was 7-2.
Investor and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen wants to build the $490 million arena south of Safeco Field and has already snapped up $53 million in land for the project. Monday's approval by the two councils means Hansen can now begin shopping for an NBA and NHL franchise.
The deal reached with the two councils calls for up to $145 million in public financing if Hansen can get one team to fill the building. Public financing would be $200 million for two teams. The financing would be paid by arena-generating revenue and includes no new taxes.
City Council members say the deal was dead until Hansen agreed to use $40 million of the public financing for a transportation fund and up to $7 million more for KeyArena modifications. It’s likely an NBA team would have to play at KeyArena while the proposed arena is under construction.
On Monday, Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union unveiled a lawsuit aimed at blocking the construction of the arena in SODO, which is near the busy Port of Seattle. The union argues that the two council erred in endorsing the SODO location before environmental reviews were conducted.
The legislation approved by the councils on Monday requires a full environmental impact study (EIS) on the SODO location.
But Local 19 officials said they believe the EIS will be a “sham” and make a “mockery” of the process.
"The law needs to apply equally to all, all who wish to make an investment to the city. Environmental review is the same, whether you're a small contractor or a hedge fund manager," said Max Vekich with ILWU Local 52 and a former state legislator. "We have to step in and advocate, for not only for ourselves, but for the public who will see money and resources wasted on a sham process. A sham process that would have to be repeated."
Members of both the city and county councils say the deal includes strict language for the EIS.
KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report