February 23, 2013 in Sports

Judge rejects case challenging Seattle arena deal

Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE – A King County Superior Court judge rejected a lawsuit Friday aimed at undoing a deal to build a new professional basketball and hockey arena in Seattle – a key part of plans to bring the NBA back to town.

Judge Douglass North held that the agreement between the city of Seattle, King County and an investment group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen does not violate state environmental law.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is concerned that adding a third stadium to the area south of downtown would choke freight traffic and cost jobs. The union’s Local 19, representing workers at the Port of Seattle, sued, saying an environmental review should have preceded any agreement.

The judge disagreed. He said the agreement technically set out a framework for a future deal, but didn’t commit the city or King County to building an arena south of downtown.

“There isn’t a binding decision here,” North said.

The “memorandum of understanding” signed last year sets out the parameters of a deal to build the $490 million arena. Lawyers for the union said that created irreversible momentum toward construction, and therefore the environmental study was required ahead of time.

The NBA’s Supersonics played in Seattle from 1979 to 2008 before its new owners moved the team to Oklahoma City and renamed it the Thunder.

Hansen’s group has reached a deal to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the team to Seattle, but it still needs approval from the NBA. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been trying to put together a rival investment group to keep the team.

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