chansennn.jpg
Seattle Times
Hansen
Update : The proposal calls for a $500 million NBA and NHL arena, with $300 million paid by ArenaCo investors and $200

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Updated: Chris Hansen, Mystery Millionaire, Rises from Shadows with $500M Arena Deal

chansennn.jpg
Seattle Times
Hansen
Update : The proposal calls for a $500 million NBA and NHL arena, with $300 million paid by ArenaCo investors and $200 million by the city and county, which would be repaid. It's all dependent, however, on getting a team to move here. More after the jump.

Earlier post: Unshaven, slouched in a chair, searching for the right words, Chris Hansen appears to have been on a long bender - and seeing his wildest dream perhaps coming true, he probably has. The mystery San Francisco millionaire - Mayor Mike McGinn's best hope for re-election - surfaced from the shadows yesterday to talk a little about himself and his hopes for a new sports arena in Seattle.

"We're very close to announcing our offer to the city," the 44-year-old hedge fund manager told The Seattle Times in a videotaped interview (below). "That's why I'm here."

Hansen appears to be a reluctant savior for sports fans, professing a dislike for publicity and saying he's motivated by devotion to the city where he grew up. If successful, he could give a boost to the unpopular reign of McGinn, even if the mayor - who promised an "open" and "transparent" City Hall - has kept Hansen's proposal (and a paid consultant's contract) under wraps for months.

Raised in Rainier Valley and a graduate of Roosevelt High in the north end, Hansen said he cried as a kid when the Seattle SuperSonics lost in the 1978 NBA finals - and considered it a life-changing moment when the Supes won the 1979 world championship. "I still consider this home," he said.

Now that the year-old arena plan has been revealed - thanks to the digging of Times reporters in the past two months - McGinn was planning a press conference for later today to announce it. Hansen gave no new clues yesterday as to who, exactly, would fund the facility and which teams (Sacramento NBA, Phoenix NHL?) Seattle can steal to lease it.

So far, all that's certain about this deal is that Hansen and whoever his partners might be own some land. He appeared to be trying to take some of the heat off the mayor for keeping the plan hush hush, saying it was done at his request - presumably so he could buy the arena property at an uninflated price.

I think that the reason to keep it quiet is it's just a hard project to put together. There's a lot of real estate acquisition that is necessary, a lot of negations, you know, with the city...We wanted to be quiet in order to assemble the land...

The land was acquired months ago, however, and McGinn continued to withhold the proposal from the city council and public.

Hansen says he's not in this for the money or the politics. He wants to bring the NBA back to Seattle as a "civic obligation."

"I think it's safe to say that I understand the concerns of the citizens and of, you know, the political climate up here, to try to find a solution that did not put a burden on the taxpayers while at the same time maybe it's, you know, possible to build a sports arena, which you can imagine is, is very expensive...." Maybe today we will learn how expensive, and for whom.

Update: The mayor and King County Exec Dow Constantine confirmed receiving the proposal that could lead to building a $500 million NBA and NHL facility that eventually would be owned by the public. "On first look, this could be an exciting proposal," said the mayor at the afternoon press conference, reading from a prepared text. "It could mean the Seattle SuperSonics could play once again in our city."

McGinn says Hansen's proposal is a "promising path" to a return of the NBA. The proposal would include a "significant private investment" of over $300 million by Hansen and his ArenaCo investors, and $200 million from the city and county that would be repaid through taxes and rent revenue from the arena. Hansen's group would pay for any cost overruns and any deal would comply with I-91, the law that mandates the city get a fair return on any public-private partnership, said McGinn.

Constantine seemed more cautious about the plan, saying "If" the deal is reached, the private investors would have to prove they will pay as promised, and said no public subsidy - without a return on investment - can be involved. "It appears Chris Hansen's proposal will meet the terms," he said, but he and the mayor have appointed a committee that includes former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens to study the plan and confirm it's workable.

Importantly, Constantine said Hansen won't be putting his money into the deal until Hansen "secures a team," an arena tenant, and the city and county won't commit until Hansen does. Otherwise, "there will be no arena agreement."

Additional details - announcement, committee members, etc. - here.

 
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