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Bellevue Update

Expect things to be busy. PLEASE stay on your game. Spread our message across the internet and social media. Attend these last few public hearings and events and very soon we will be asking you to attend games. We just need to close the deal!

Yesterday, as expected rumors began to swirl regarding a potential Bellevue site. The site is reportedly privately financed and to be anchored by an NHL team with hopes that the NBA will follow.

One our core values at ArenaSolution.org is to consider diverse locations and to support any viable opportunity to build an arena and bring these teams to the region. Less than six months ago I was working closely with Bellevue and felt without any shred of a doubt that their proposal would be the one to ultimately succeed. On Feb. 28th I made a presentation regarding the arena to the Bellevue Downtown Association. On June 7 I presented to the Eastside Business Roundtable. I am familiar with the site, arena drawings, and the project pro-forma. The biggest single issue has been the lack of investors(especially local investors) who would be willing to lead this project.

Throughout this process there were a lot of people who said “I would only support it if it were in Seattle” and I told them we had to look out for the regional best interest. I said the same thing to many Bellevue supporters as this Sodo project has emerged.

I take this regional commitment seriously and have reached out to people in Bellevue to learn more about the current project status. If it is fully viable I believe I have an organizational mandate to support it in the same manner that I have supported Chris Hansen’s proposal.

We need to evaluation this situation and determine which of these scenarios is accurate:

Scenario 1:

Bellevue has a fully fleshed out and viable arena option with acceptable investors capable of delivering this asset to our community.

Scenario 2:

Certain interests associated with Bellevue know that this is their last chance to get in the game. They do not have the project fully fleshed out but due to the timing they have no choice but to leak this information with the hopes that their claims of “no public money” disrupt the Sodo conversations. When those conversations fall apart they would attempt to pick up the pieces to finish up their proposal.

If scenario 1 is accurate then I and ArenaSolution will likely have an organizational imperative to offer equal support to any Bellevue proposal. Our primary concerns will be confirming that the project is REALLY viable and that the investors really are acceptable. All indications are that this proposal is anchored and driven by Chicago native Don Levine who was reportedly interested a year ago. Levine later angered a number of people when most people believe that he was not particularly honorable negotiations with Bellevue, trying at the last minute to insert himself into conversations with both Seattle and Renton facilities in a way that seemed to justify concerns about his character.

Levin failed to attract local ownership interest at that time and it should be noted that despite his strong interest in bringing the NHL to Seattle he does not appear to have been invited to join Hansens group with local participants like Steve Ballmer and Pete and Erik Nordstrom.

To consider the ownership group viable I would expect to see local support come out in addition to out of state investors with questionable agendas.

I do respect people’s right to “get in the game” if they have a fully fleshed out project. However I believe that it would be very disingenuous for ANY group to come out 2 weeks before a potential vote and disrupt a project that is 1 step away in order to advance a proposal that is still not a certainty. The level of risk is too high. Are these out of state guys being manipulated by groups like the Port and the Mariners who want to kill the deal for their own interests? What if they disrupt the Sodo arena and later fail to deliver their arena? Will we miss out on a potential NBA franchise opportunity?

If this is a real, viable deal then the city of Seattle had better be very careful or they will blow it. The result will be the loss of the new arena opportunity and franchises in the city. In addition a large nightlife and entertainment district would spring up in Bellevue sucking lots of tax revenues to the East Side. In all likelihood the Seattle Storm would either relocate to the new building in 2018 or require substantial improvements to the failing key with no plan as to how to pay for them. In all likelihood KeyArena would have to be maintained and improved with our general fund money.

I believe that it would be disingenuous for these groups in Bellevue to move their project forward to not lay their cards on the table. If they are not willing to do so then they should wait patiently to see the outcome of our Sodo vote and be ready to make their move if and only if it fails.

Check back later for an update on city and county council.