Thiel: Warriors arena deal in SF all private cash


by Art Thiel


Posted on May 23, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 23 at 10:31 AM

On the same day that developer Chris Hansen identified a business advisory panel for his proposed SoDo arena, the Golden State Warriors announced plans to move from Oakland to San Francisco by the 2017-18 season into a waterfront arena different from Hansen's Seattle's vision in two noteworthy respects -- the $500 million arena will be completely privately financed and has no plans to accommodate an NHL team.

Hansen's $490 million proposal includes up to $200 million in participation by the city and King County via general obligation bonds, essentially a loan to be paid for from taxes generated by the building's operations.

In San Francisco, Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, who paid an NBA-record $450 million to buy the team 18 months ago, said at a press conference attended by Commissioner David Stern that they "have the money in the bag," requiring no public contribution. "The financing is done," said Lacob.

Total private funding was how the owners of the San Francisco Giants built their baseball park, after four rejections at the ballot box on proposals that would have included public money. AT&T Park opened in 2000 at a cost of $357 milllion -- the first privately financed stadium in MLB since Dodger Stadium in 1962 -- although it received a $10 million tax abatement from the city and $80 million for infrastructure improvements.

Spokesman Peter McCollum said Hansen hadn't studied the San Francisco proposal, but noted that it is a "less ambitious" building in a bigger marketplace.

Lacob and Guber also have a big advantage: they already own a team. The lease at Oracle Arena in Oakland is up after the 2016-17 season and the franchise will be free to move across the bay. But the site they chose, two decrepit piers on the Embarcadero waterfront about a mile north of AT&T Park, will require an estimated $75 million to $100 million in improvements, not to mention negotiations with the city and various agencies that have a say in the project.

A formal plan has yet to be submitted, but the project has been under discussion with San Francisco officials for six months. The land is currently a parking lot in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. The Warriors' owners declined to build within a $1.6 billion development nearer the baseball park. Oakland officials were irate, but Stern said there are several precedents in the NBA for moving teams within markets, most recently the move of the Nets from Newark to Brooklyn.

The Bay Area already has an NHL team in San Jose, the Sharks. Like Hansen in Seattle, the Warriors owners envision an entertainment district around the arena.

McCollum said he doubted the San Francisco plan will have an impact on Hansen's project.

"He's worked long and hard with the city and county in putting forward this proposal," he said. "I don't think what happens in San Francisco will make a difference. This is the best deal for all parties that can be put together in Seattle."

Nevertheless, Hansen, a Seattle native but a San Francisco resident, described the public-private partnership as "one of the best" a city has been offered for an NBA/NHL arenas. At the moment, on paper, there is a new leader.

The advisory panel is loaded with top names from the Seattle business community, including Blake Nordstrom, director and president of the Nordstrom clothing store empire. Nordstrom was a minority owner in the ownership group that sold the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2006, but reportedly voted against the sale. None in the new group, however, appears to have significant ties to the maritime, industrial or freight enterprises that have complained about the location as potentially damaging to their interests in SoDo.

McCollum said Hansen would not comment on whether any members are or would be investors with him in the project. He said Hansen hoped to announce the identities of his arena partners within two weeks. Disclosure of the group is not tied to the review process soon to begin with the Seattle City Council and King County Council.

Other members: Dwayne Clark, chairman and CEO, Aegis Living (retirement living);  Andy Jassy, senior vice president, Amazon (publishing); T.J. McGill, co-founder and managing partner, Evergreen Pacific Partners (private equity); Nate Miles, vice president, Eli Lilly (pharmaceuticals); Jeff Wright, chairman of the board, Space Needle Corp. (developer); Eddie Poplawski, president, Barclay’s Realty and Management (property management; also owner of the Bellingham Bells baseball team in the West Coast League), John Meisenbach (founder, president of MCM financial services) and Stein Kruse, president and CEO, Holland America Line (cruise ship travel).

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