SEATTLE – The King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee received its first briefing Tuesday on a proposed $500 million NBA/NHL arena for the SODO neighborhood of Seattle. Terms of the agreements, timeline and what it will cost to taxpayers were discussed.
Committee Chair Joe McDermott also announced the formation of an independent panel that will report its analysis to the council. They include Justin Marlowe, a professor at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public affairs; urban developer Steve Orser; Bill Beyers, UW geography professor; local economist Dick Conway; Tracey Thompson, Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters local 117; Charlie Howard, Transportation Planning Director for the Puget Sound Regional Council, and; former WA Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald.
Council members expressed initial concern over the proposal, and getting their first public report on the plan.
“We have quite a credit card. Is it appropriate to use our credit card to build things like stadiums?” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “Unless I have a sense the public understands what we’re doing and that there tax revenues are protected I’m going to have a tough time with my vote. But I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
Councilmember Larry Phillips also expressed reservations over the plan, which calls for the County to back $80 million in bonds for the cost of the arena, repaid by arena generating revenue.
“I have not said no, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be forwarding and asking tough questions,” said Phillips. “While there may be relative to other stadium proposals fewer public dollars involved, the fact of the matter is general funds are still at risk.”
The County Council says it may be July before it is prepared to take a vote on the issue.
Also Tuesday, the Seattle City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee released a tentative review schedule for the arena. It’s calling for Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff to present a proposal overview on Thursday. Next week will focus on financial and transportation aspects of the arena. Investor and chief arena backer Chris Hansen would meet with the council on June 20. A vote is not likely until July or August.
Hansen also launched sonicsarena.com Tuesday to spread the word and drum up community support, along with a Facebook page and Twitter feed. He said he’ll throw a rally in Occidental Park prior to his appearance before the council on June 14.
He said on Tuesday the site and social media push are a way for him to get the word out about the rally and plan.
“That’s the way most people interact nowadays. It’s easy to share thought with friends in a community aspect and there is a certain viral nature to it,” he said.
As far as a timeline for his proposal, Hansen added, “Clearly I would prefer it sooner than that, but I’m not going to stand in the way of political process.”
KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.