There are no NBA or NHL sports teams coming to Seattle in the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean arena investor and Seattle native Chris Hansen still isn’t holding out for one. In fact, he’s keeping the entire city waiting for his next move as the clock ticks on with his five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the city.
Last week, Seattle learned that New Mexico-based investment firm M.T. Phoenix had submitted a proposal to Mayor Ed Murray in July to completely subsidize the renovation of KeyArena. This followed a three-year City Council-commissioned feasibility study that was completed a month before and only released in September, stating KeyArena could be made compatible for professional basketball and hockey to play there for $285 million.
It could be argued whether the NBA or NHL would agree with these new assessments since neither league is currently looking at Seattle for an expansion or relocated team. But the prospect of an improved and revitalized KeyArena is enticing — especially when it would involve only private funding sources.
Still, Murray declined to respond to the proposal, saying the city needs to honor the MOU, even if he didn’t broker it and doubts that a team would land here before the MOU expires in November 2017.
There’s been virtually no new developments on Hansen’s end of the deal — not even an acknowledgement of M.T. Phoenix’s offer, which he also received, or a financial agreement with a business partner who could possibly acquire a hockey team first. The only substantial move Hansen has made was to scare the NBA away, with his overaggressive tactics to buy the Sacramento team in August 2013 — hence, not even a prospect of any real interest from the NBA.
Yet, the city is still pushing along, with the Department of Planning and Development also releasing a favorable 1,600-page Environmental Impact Statement in May. The City Council will decide early next year whether to vacate Occidental Avenue South near Hansen’s proposed SODO arena site. In effect, the city has made more advances on the arena project than Hansen has the last two years.
If the players aren’t playing, can the city just call the game and declare a forfeit already? We need to move on to something more tangible, like existing offers to renovate an arena that’s already built, on someone else’s dime, no less. This wait-and-see game is losing momentum and its audience fast.
[Editor's note: This editorial was written before the recent stories scrutinizing the New Mexico-based investment firm M.T. Phoenix.]