SEATTLE – The city of Seattle has been working behind the scenes the past eight months with a hedge-fund manager to bring an NBA team back to town – possibly as early as next fall if the Sacramento Kings fail to get a satisfactory deal for a new arena, newly released documents show.
The city turned over the documents to The Seattle Times on Friday under a public records request (http://is.gd/PyQ06N ). The documents included the agenda for a meeting between the parties on Dec. 13, with topics including “Review of Basic Deal Structure,” “City Debt Capacity” and “Financing Issues.”
A Seattle native who now lives in San Francisco, 44-year-old hedge-fund manager Christopher Hansen, approached the city about his desire to buy an NBA team and build an arena south of Safeco Field, the documents show. Hansen told city officials an arena could be built with minimal impact on taxpayers.
“I really appreciate it and look forward to making this happen in Seattle. I genuinely mean that and am confident that with a little effort and creativity we can find a solution that meets our needs and the City’s/State’s desire to get a team back to Seattle without a large public outlay,” Hansen wrote in a June 16 email to Julie McCoy, chief of staff to Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, and Ethan Raup, the mayor’s director of policy and operations.
Seattle hasn’t had an NBA team since 2008, when owner Clay Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City and renamed them the Thunder.
Hansen, who heads Valiant Capital Management LLC, offered to provide information on recent arena deals that have been put together.
The Dec. 13 meeting was attended by McCoy and Raup and set up by Carl Hirsh, a New Jersey arena consultant hired by the city in July. The agenda also included discussion of KeyArena, where the Sonics played, and which could be used as a temporary home for a new team with the permission of the NBA. The league considered it an unsuitable venue even before the Sonics departed.
The documents don’t mention how Seattle would obtain a team, but the Times reported that they show the city has been following developments in Sacramento, which is under a March 1 deadline to come up with a proposal to build an arena for the Kings.
In addition, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed interest in placing a team in Seattle, leading to speculation the financially struggling Phoenix Coyotes could move to the city and possibly share an arena with a basketball team.
McGinn said Saturday that he is taking the proposal seriously, but doesn’t want the city left “holding the bag.”
“It’s a pretty substantial commitment that would have to be made by the investors,” McGinn said, emphasizing that the city budget can’t be tapped to fund an arena.
He added that any offer also must honor the will of Seattle voters, who in 2006 overwhelmingly approved an initiative that says the city must make a profit on any investment it makes in a sports arena.