In 1990, it had become clear to Barry Ackerley that the home of the Seattle Sonics -- the Seattle Center Coliseum -- was no longer able to keep up with the financial needs of the franchise. So he went to the Seattle City Council with an arena proposal that he felt would not only keep the Seattle Sonics in Seattle, but also help the city land an NHL expansion franchise.
Ackerley proposed that he would build a privately financed, $100 million, at the corner of Atlantic Street and 1st. Avenue. As part of the arena construction, Ackerly and his ownership group would also construct an 1,800-stall parking garage on the east side of the new arena. After the building was constructed, the Sonics would then sign a 30-year lease.
The proposal had the City of Seattle putting in $2 million worth of improvements to the streets around the Kingdome and the new arena -- primarily a pedestrian bridge over South Royal Brougham Way with a billboard on it that Ackerley would be allowed to place advertising. Seattle also would have forgone $31 million in admissions-tax revenues.
Ackerley also agreed to apply for an NHL expansion franchise if the City agreed to the arena proposal:
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the arena contract late today. Under terms of the agreement, negotiated over the past five months, the city would forgive about $31 million in admission-tax revenues and would pay for $2 million in street improvements south of the Kingdome. A good deal of the money for the improvements would go to construct a pedestrian walkway over South Royal Brougham Way on which Ackerley would be allowed to place advertising.
In return for the city's contribution, Ackerley would build a $100 million arena and sign a 30-year lease with the Sonics. He also would construct an 1,800-stall parking garage on the east side of the new arena and has promised to put together an application for a National Hockey League franchise by the league's Sept. 15 deadline.
The Mariners and Seahawks were both initially opposed to the deal, but Ackerley's promise to build a large parking garage seemed to placate the Seahawks; the Mariners continued to oppose the deal and even brought in an American League official to make their case to the Seattle City Council.
The Mariners (owned by Jeff Smulyan in 1990), Major League Baseball, and the American League all were against the proposed arena because of concerns about...traffic congestion.
For whatever reason, the City Council denied Ackerley's privately financed SODO Arena; and the rest is history.
Update at 8:38: Jared S provided a couple of awesome links in the comments. I recommend reading them: