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City solicits bids for Tacoma Dome NBA study, even as arena deal in Seattle takes form

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Feb. 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |
February 16, 2012 1:37 pm

The City of Tacoma this week issued a formal request for bids for a study of what it would take to bring a pro basketball or hockey team to the Tacoma Dome.

Among other things, the city’s solicitation seeks to find a consultant to study the “potential market reality for NBA and /or NHL franchise in the Tacoma
Dome,” as well as determine what corporate support may exist to draw a major professional sports franchise to town.

The study would also seek to determine the cost of upgrades needed to bring the aging Dome up to NBA or NHL standards in comparison to building a new arena.  Bids are due back by March 6  (A copy of the full solicitation specifications can be found here).

Tacoma’s solicitation comes just as an arena deal appears to be crystallizing in Seattle.  Word of San Fransisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen‘s  efforts to build a new arena just south of Safeco Field first emerged late last year and has since quickly gained momentum.  Hansen, who grew up in Seattle,  is expected to discuss his plan with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn today, according a story in today’s The Seattle Times.  McGinn is then expected to reveal details of the plan at a press conference this afternoon.

In September, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland first announced a plan to conduct the market study for drawing an NBA or NHL team to the Tacoma Dome.  The mayor and former Public Assembly Facilities Director Mike Combs had discussed the project for about a year, Strickland said at the time.

City officials have estimated the study’s cost would run about $100,000.  Tacoma has committed to pay at least $50,000, with Pierce County and the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board agreeing to chip in $25,000 and $5,000 respectively.

City funding is expected to come from a special Tacoma Dome fund that operates separately and outside of the city’s financially strapped General Fund, officials have said.  Under the city’s bid request, the city also “reserves the right to reject any and all submittals.”

The Tacoma Dome study has separately prompted an internal city ethics probe, based on Combs’ involvement in the project.  The city’s ethics code restricts former city employees from direct involvement in city activities for a year after leaving employment.  Combs, now a private consultant, retired at the end of April 2011, but actively worked on the Tacoma Dome project for several months afterward.  The city has yet to release the investigation’s findings.

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