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Investors, civic group reportedly in talks about potential NBA arenas in Seattle, Bellevue

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Dec. 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
December 12, 2011 3:24 pm

As we mentioned in a story last month, Tacoma city officials are moving ahead with a planned feasibility study to find out if the Tacoma Dome can support a professional sports team.

Meantime, it appears efforts to build an NBA-worthy arena in Seattle and on its Eastside are also ramping up.

Last week, KING-TV reported that “Arena Solution,” a group of civic and business leaders seeking to bring pro basketball back to the Seattle area, is in active talks with  King County Executive Dow Constantine and other local government officials.

The group, which includes former Seattle Supersonics’ executive Bob Whitsett and local developer and former Sonics’ minority owner Craig Kinzer, is also reportedly lining up potential investors to fund a new arena. The KING report noted Bellevue remains the front-runner to land an arena, though it also mentioned the City of Bothell is now making real estate  inquiries for an arena project.

And on Sunday, The Seattle Times reported that Seattle city officials have been approached by a group of investors interested in building a new basketball arena in Seattle’s SoDo District, near SafeCo Field. According to the Times’ story, based on unidentified sources:

The proposal involves an investor who has acquired property, apparently south of Safeco Field, although at least one business owner has declined to sell, according to the sources.

Mayor Mike McGinn has been working with the group for several months to explore how the city can aid the effort, including help with financing, the sources said.

So where’s that leave Tacoma?

As of late last month, city officials had said a formal request for proposals is in the works to accept bids from consultants seeking to lead the feasibility study. At least $80,000 of commitments are in place to fund the  study, which is estimated to cost $100,000.  (As of last month, the city had committed $50,000 for the project, with Pierce County and the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board pledging $25,000 and $5,000 respectively.)

The feasibility study will seek to determine what renovations are needed to make the T-Dome NBA- or NHL-ready. It will also conduct a comprehensive market analysis to determine if corporate sponsorship exists to help an endeavor to bring a pro sports team to Tacoma. (Early estimates from city officials say the Dome’s remodeling costs likely would be more than $200,000 million.)

Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who has spearheaded Tacoma’s efforts to conduct the study, has said she expected bid proposals will go out sometime in January.

City officials so far have not been able to definitively say whether any of the city money earmarked for the Dome study comes from the general fund, which faces a projected shortfall of $31 million. The city is now grappling with major budget cuts and layoffs due to the budget gap.

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