Seattle, WA– Hedge Fund Manager Christopher Hansen, 44, of Valiant Capital Mgt. in San Francisco is getting ready to make one of the biggest investments of his life with a group of investors.
Last December Mr. Hansen purchased 3 acres of land in the Sodo District of Seattle, just south of Seattle’s two large sports stadiums, Century Link Stadium, home to the Seattle Seahawks and Safeco Stadium, home to the Seattle Mariners.
Before his purchase of the land two months ago, Mr. Hansen was quietly talking with Seattle city counsel officials over the past eight months about building a new 18,000 seat sports arena and re-locating an NBA franchise along with a possible NHL franchise to Seattle. Mr. Hansen expressed no desire to become an NHL owner and is believed to be actively seeking an investor for re-locating an NHL team to Seattle. Both leagues are interested in establishing teams in Seattle, the twelfth largest U.S. local T.V. market.
Those re-location plans moved one step closer yesterday when Seattle’s Mayor Michael McGinn and King Co Executive Dow Constantine held a joint press conference in Seattle and announced new plans about the construction of a new arena in the Sodo district of Seattle.
Mr. Hansen and his group will spend $290 million in private capital and rely on $200 million in self-funded taxes earned from the arena with admissions, parking, and rising property values around the arena site. In 2006 Seattle voters approved a new initiative known as Initiative 91 which states the city must make a profit on any investment with a sports arena.
Mr. Hansen is Seattle native who grew up cheering on the Seattle Sonics. As a child he watched as the Sonics beat the Washington Bullets in the 1979 NBA Finals. The Sonics made it to the NBA Finals again when they lost to the Chicago Bulls in 1996.
The Seattle Sonics were established in December 1966 and began playing in the Seattle Colisuem which was built in 1961 for $202 million and later renovated in 1994 for $74.5 million, financed by city bonds; bonds that were backed by Seattle and paid with facility revenue.
Key Bank paid $15.1 million for 15-year naming rights in 1995. In 2006 Clay Bennett and a group of Oklahoma investors purchased the Seattle Sonics from Sonics owner Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. After some legal wrangling with the City of Seattle over the arena lease, Mr. Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08′ season and renamed the team the Oklahoma Thunder. Key Arena, which seats 17,072, is a smaller than the majority of NBA arenas. It is also not designed to accomodate hockey and is located in a congested area of Seattle.
Mr. Hansen has said that the site for the proposed arena is an ideal location because it is zoned for stadiums with low impact on the community because it is conveniently accessible to the freeways, unlike Key Arena. It is also conveniently located close to the Seattle Train Station and light rail terminal which allows commuters to commute by rail to sports events.
Construction won’t begin with the new arena until a new team is officially re-locating to Seattle. Two NBA teams that keep receiving mention for possible re-location are the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets. NBA Commissioner David Stern gave Sacramento until March 1st to secure financing for a new downtown arena. Sacramento may sell off their future parking revenues to help pay for an arena. The city seeks a contribution of about $85 million from the Maloof family, owners of the Kings, multiple sources reported, according to the Sacramento Bee. Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle has expressed interest in re-locating the Kings to Anaheim.
The New Orleans Hornets are currently without an owner. The NBA owns the team. Speculation has grown that the Hornets could eventually be relocated.
Yesterday on the Seattle airwaves, some local sports radio commentators were commenting that Seattle had terrible attendance when the Sonics were in town before their re-location to Oklahoma City. Although it is true that the Seattle Sonics were not at the top of the league for attendance, Seattle only reached the bottom five for attendance during one season 2007- when the public already had learned that the Sonics were leaving town and public support was waning. ESPN has an attendance tracker that goes back several years to confirm this claim.
The Phoenix Coyotes is an NHL team that is rumored to be up for sale. The NHL league currently owns the Coyotes. If the Coyotes are not re-located to Seattle, there are rumored to be other NHL teams waiting to be sold and re-located. Seattle is close to Vancouver, B.C. and could be a good hockey market to develop a cross border rivalry. Stay tuned for more developments. Schweitzfinance is based in North Seattle.