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Seattle city council no longer on board with Hansen's arena proposal

Kirby Lee / Reuters

If billionaire hedge fund manager Chris Hansen gets a new arena built in Seattle, it likely won't be financed by the public.

Earlier this week, Hansen's group got environmental clearance for their plan to build a multisport facility in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. However, that progress was met with skepticism from City Hall on Friday.

"This deal's just not doable, at least as it's constructed today," Seattle city council president Tim Burgess told Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times.

"I wouldn't say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those."

Hansen and his group of investors got the green light to continue pursuing construction permits, but the city now wants most - if not all - of the $125 million it pledged to be replaced by private funding.

City council agreed to contribute that amount when it originally struck a deal with Hansen, operating under the assumption that an NBA team would return to Seattle prior to the arrival of an NHL club.

"We specifically wrote the idea of a hockey-only or hockey-first arena out of the agreement three years ago," Burgess said. "We did that because it's very weak financially. It's just too risky for the city."

In Thursday's statement celebrating the environmental green light, Hansen said he and his group are "completely open" to the possibility of an NHL team in Seattle prior to the return of the NBA, and "100 percent supportive" of an NHL club playing in the proposed arena.

According to the city, that can't happen with significant public funding.

"If we're going to do hockey, there would have to be a substantial lowering, if not elimination, of the public investment," Burgess said.

There is also some concern at City Hall about Hansen's business practices. He was fined last fall for making an illegal campaign contribution.

"That caused a few of my colleagues to be very concerned about his methods and style," Burgess said.

For now, it appears Hansen needs a new injection of private funding if he hopes to continue making progress.

Seattle city council no longer on board with Hansen's arena proposal
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