Last week Brad and I sent email letters to the Seattle City Council and the King County Council. We each got two emails back. Both of us received one from from Joe McDermott, King County Councilmember, District 8. Brad also received a response from Larry Phillips, Councilmember Metropolitain King County Council, District 4. The second response that I received was from James Bush, Communication Specialist for King County Executive Dow Constantine. The letter from Joe McDermott was a template response, the same letter was sent to Brad and I. Here is all three letters. There is a lot of good information in the letters.
Here is the Joe McDermott letter:
Thank you very much for your email.
As you know, in May, Chris Hansen reached a memorandum of understanding with County Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor McGinn to construct a facility in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood with the ability to host NBA and NHL teams.
I agree that this is an exciting proposition and potentially a great opportunity for the region; and I know that for many fans this proposal is a reason to have great hope that the Sonics will play in Seattle again.
As exciting as this proposal is, many questions remain to be answered. That is why, as Chair of the County’s Budget & Fiscal Management Committee, I have brought together a panel of outside experts that will provide councilmembers with independent analysis of the plan. The panel is comprised of experts in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation who have generously volunteered their time and expertise to help the Council better understand the benefits and risks of the proposal.
On June 5th the Budget Committee had its first briefing on the ordinance. Tuesday the committee met again for a presentation and discussion with Hansen and to give all members their first chance to hear from our panel of experts. Some have suggested putting this proposal up for a public vote; however, we are elected to make just this sort of decision and I believe it is our responsibility as elected representatives to resolve this at the Council level. The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, and the entire King County Council, are dedicated to fully vetting the all aspects of the proposal andI’m looking forward to a robust discussion and to continuing to work with all the stake holders.
An important part of that discuss is hearing from you directly. To that end, the King County Council and Seattle City Council will be holding a joint public meeting on Thursday, July 19th to hear from the public. The meeting begins at 5:30pm at Seattle City Hall and all are invited to attend and give in-person testimony. Both Councils will accept written public comments at any time as well. Please find details for that meeting below:
Public hearing on proposed SODO arena legislation
Thursday, July 19th
5:30 p.m. Sign-up begins at 5:00 p.m.
Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave, First Floor
Again, thank you for your thoughtful input on this subject. I look forward to an ongoing dialogue with you and other members of the community as this process continues to unfold.
Please keep in touch,
Here is the letter from James Bush that speaks on behalf of Dow Constantine:
Dear Mr. Kelley:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the proposal from investor Chris Hansen to construct a basketball/hockey arena in the SODO neighborhood and to bring NBA basketball and NHL hockey franchises to Seattle.
On May 16, Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn released proposed agreements between the City, the County, and ArenaCo (Mr. Hanson’s company) to govern the financing of a new multi-purpose arena.
This proposal represents a unique opportunity for our region. Under the agreement, Mr. Hansen and his co-investors would invest more than $800 million in private capital in the purchase of teams and arena construction, with the City and County issuing public debt totaling $200 million. This proposal represents the largest contribution of private capital ever to a public stadium or arena project. It is important to note that all of the public issued debt will be repaid by the taxes generated from the site and rent paid for by the team owners. No new taxes are proposed as part of this project.
At the start of this process, Executive Constantine and Mayor McGinn established several principles for any agreement reached between the City, County and the private investor. These principles are:
· A new arena must be self-funding, and not rely on new taxes;
· Existing City and County funds and services will not be adversely impacted;
· Private investors would bear risk against revenue shortfalls;
· Any project cost overruns will be the responsibility of the private investors;
· Private funding should be provided for a study of ways that Key Arena can be modified to keep it a financially successful part of Seattle Center.
No bonds will be issued for arena construction until Mr. Hansen and his group land an NBA franchise, and the bonds will be repaid by the revenues generated by this facility. Under his proposal, Mr. Hansen and his group will pay for any cost overruns and any shortfall in revenue.
A panel of community leaders and finance experts examined the preliminary proposal and, on April 4, endorsed moving forward, while identifying issues for further study, including the impacts of a new arena on traffic and transportation. The King County Council is now evaluating this proposal.
King County is working with various parties to address any transportation impacts caused by the new proposed arena, as well as the broader transportation needs of the South Downtown (“SoDo”) area of Seattle. Mr. Hanson also recently commissioned a transportation study that shows how arena generated traffic could be accommodated, particularly on days where events might overlap with other stadium traffic.
And, while there are challenges in the SoDo neighborhood, including freight mobility issues, we must remember that it is the largest transportation hub in our region—with service from Link light rail, a Sounder commuter train line, three bus rapid transit lines, 21 Metro bus lines, nine Sound Transit express bus lines, four ferry routes, two interstate freeways, and a future deep bore tunnel. There is no other site in the region so well served by major transportation assets.
King County Council and the Seattle City Council are now in the process of review the arena proposal. Executive Constantine looks forward to working with these legislative bodies as their members consider this unique opportunity.
for King County Executive Dow Constantine
Here is the letter from Larry Phillips:
Dear Mr. Dobbs,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the proposal to build a new professional sports arena in SoDo. This is an important issue with high stakes for our community, so I especially appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.
My family and I have been long time fans of our local sports teams, and especially the Seattle Supersonics. I appreciate the economic and cultural benefits of having professional sports teams—including basketball and hockey — play here and represent tour region to the nation at–large, and have closely followed proposals in recent years from private, local investors to bring a basketball team and accompanying stadium improvements back to Seattle.
Most importantly, as an elected official responsible for fiscal stewardship of county taxpayer resources, I am keenly aware of the need to safeguard our public funds from financial risk. These funds must pay for basic public services including public health and safety, roads and transit, and our justice system as local government’s top priorities. This is the lens through which I am viewing the new arena proposal.
As you may know, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Christopher Hansen, a private investor who proposes to bring NBA basketball and NHL hockey franchises to Seattle, have reached agreement on a financing proposal for the new arena. This agreement will now be reviewed by the Seattle City Council and King County Council, respectively, for possible approval in upcoming months. Because this issue is now under active consideration by the King County Council, I appreciate knowing your views on this matter.
Knowing the potential for future King County Council involvement, earlier this year I submitted a several rounds of rigorous questions to the Arena Review Panel and Mayor McGinn, respectively, for review and response. I continue to have concerns about existing obligations for other stadium debt, overall existing debt load for City and County government, the viability of this arena proposal given other established stadiums and professional sports teams in our region, the financial soundness of the facility proposal and its private investors, neighborhood transportation infrastructure, and public involvement in this decision. I will continue to ask tough questions about this proposal as this process moves forward, with a focus on protecting our taxpayers and limited taxpayer funds.
Thank you again for contacting me with your input on this exciting proposal for our community. I will have your input in mind as we move forward.
Larry Phillips, Councilmember
Metropolitan King County Council, District Four
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue, Room 1200
Seattle, WA 98104-3272