As the Legislature approaches the midnight hour, a group of investors are coming forward to A.
put $150 million toward improvements at KeyArena and B. ask the
state and the city to match funds.
Would like to own the
Once ran out of
Among the group of investors is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The
group is asking the state for $75 million and the city of Seattle
for another $75 million. That doesn’t include the cost of buying
the team, which current owner Clayton Bennett says is not for sale and will be
moving to Oklahoma City.
A year ago Seattle residents passed Initiative 91, which is described by its author Chris
Van Dyk as requiring that any money the city invests include a
positive return on investment.
He was also one of the vocal opponents of the speedway deal
Nonetheless, there he is in Thursday’s Seattle Times, speaking positively
about the most recent KeyArena deal.
Van Dyk, the anti-stadium activist, said he thinks the latest
proposal could be a good deal for taxpayers.
Van Dyk said he’s been briefed on the plan and thinks it would
meet the requirements of Initiative 91, approved by Seattle voters
two years ago. The measure requires any arena subsidies for pro
sports teams to turn a profit for the public.
Van Dyk suggested the arena plan may not even require a public
“If it meets the terms of I-91, as far as I’m concerned, the
public has already had its say-so,” Van Dyk said.
Van Dyk is a Bainbridge Island resident. I called him today and
asked him to specify some of the differences he sees between this
deal and the one for NASCAR.
The Seattle Sonics
An Oklahoma City
A “key difference,” he said, is that there is a better direct
cash return to the city. He then went on to discuss some of the
other weaknesses he saw in the NASCAR deal. He talked about the
infrastructure he thought ISC officials didn’t understand, saying
it was the physical location that “ultimately killed NASCAR.”
During the debate last year, though, Van Dyk also discussed how
ISC’s proposal called for taxes generated by race fans as something
that would be impossible to measure. In this case, the city would
get its money returned, because it would bond for the $75 million
it’s putting up, would get lease payments and then in 20 years
would own the arena. He’s basing that on initial conversations. “If
ultimately what comes out is wrong, then we’ll say so,” he
The state will not get its money back, he conceded, but said
that shouldn’t kill the deal. “I think there’s an element of
heartburn, but there comes a point where you say, ‘Reasonable is
reasonable,’” he said. “You’ve got to live in the real world.”
He compared the current KeyArena proposal to the public’s
investment of $300 million for the football stadium and the $18
million that former Sonics owner Howard Schultz initially offered as a contribution to
fixing the Sonics’ home court.
“By being creative we were able to stop a deal for $18 million
and we got another $132 million. I call that a win,” Van Dyk
I asked him if he thought Clay Bennett was ever serious about
keeping the team in Seattle. “No,” he said. Van Dyk said he met
with Bennett’s group twice, the last time about a month after
Bennett bought the Sonics. He said his group was willing to work
with Bennett to get them a deal that would meet the restrictions of
Initiative 91. After that second visit, though, he said he couldn’t
get anyone from the new Sonics’ ownership to return his calls.
What could have been. The
Boeing European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company
(EADS) Entertainment Center in Renton
Bennett then went to the Legislature with a proposal for a
$500 million arena in Renton, for which the
state was asked $300 million. “The Renton proposal was as big an
apple pie as you could ever stuff in your gullet,” Van Dyk said
The Legislature said, “no,” which prompted Bennett
to say he was “out of ideas,” which prompted Horsesass blogger
Goldstein to suggest:
I mean, if Bennett really wanted to keep the team in Seattle, he
wouldn’t be so uncreative or intractable. And he wouldn’t be such a
whiney little quitter. You know, qualities one doesn’t usually
associate with successful businessmen.
Or CEOs who have to answer to Bill Gates, which from what I hear
is no picnic.
On Tuesday more than 60 percent of Oklahoma City voters approved a 15-month
one-cent sales tax increase to improve the arena there to make it
more attractive to the National Basketball Association.