Seattle City Council backs deal to build NBA arena

Gene Johnson, Associated Press
Associated Press
Seattle City Council backs deal to build NBA arena

In this aerial photo taken Aug. 21, 2012, Safeco Field is shown near downtown Seattle and the Port of Seattle. A new arena in Seattle that would be built just south of Safeco Field and that could bring NBA basketball back to the city appeared a step closer to reality as Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement late Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, saying he welcomes the news that the Seattle City Council has decided to support bringing basketball back to Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle City Council has agreed to a deal that would build a $490 million arena that could host NBA and NHL teams.

The King County Council previously approved the plan that calls for $200 million in public money.

The City Council wanted investor Chris Hansen to address concerns about traffic congestion raised by the Port of Seattle and businesses in the area south of downtown. The agreement announced by council members Tuesday creates a $40 million transportation infrastructure fund.

Hansen has already acquired land for an arena near the stadiums for the NFL's Seahawks and MLB's Mariners.

Seattle has been without an NBA team since new owners moved the Sonics to Oklahoma in 2008, where the franchise was renamed the Thunder.

The deal announced by three City Council members makes changes in a memorandum of understanding to increase financial protections for taxpayers, improve freight mobility in the area and to invest in Key Arena at the Seattle Center.

The amendments will go to a committee on Thursday and a full council vote on Monday.

The changes require Hansen to personally cover bond payments if arena revenue falls short. And audits will confirm he has a net worth of at least $300 million, City Councilman Mike O'Brien said. Hansen also could be forced to buy the arena after 30 years for $200 million.

"It's not risk free but it certainly is worth the benefit to make this a good deal going forward," O'Brien said. "It's one of the best arena deals we've seen in the country."

The deal also includes an investment in the Key Arena, which could be the temporary home of any new NBA franchise, said Sally Clark, council president.