The push to build a new arena in Seattle with the hopes of seeing the NBA return now has another name to go along with that of hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer will be part of the investment group for both the arena and the acquisition of an NBA franchise, according to a letter sent Wednesday by Hansen to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
That Ballmer is part of the investment group is not a surprise. Ballmer is a longtime basketball fan who regularly sat courtside at SuperSonics games before their departure to Oklahoma City in 2008 and was part of a group that made a last-ditch effort to try to keep the team in Seattle.
At that time, Ballmer teamed with a handful of other Seattle businessmen to offer a renovation of KeyArena. Now Ballmer is throwing his support, and dollars, behind Hansen's proposal for a $490 million arena that would house an NBA franchise and possibly bring the NHL to Seattle.
Also part of the investment group will be Erik and Peter Nordstrom, members of a prominent Seattle family that is familiar with franchise ownership. Their family owned the Seattle Seahawks from 1976-1988. The Nordstrom duo will also invest in both the arena and a franchise.
A memorandum of understanding was reached between Hansen, Constantine and McGinn last month. That MOU is currently being debated and reviewed by the Seattle City Council and King County Council with the expectation of a vote coming later this summer. Both entities would need to approve the agreement for the project to move forward. No construction would begin until after a franchise has been acquired.
The project calls for about $290 million US private investment from Hansen's group, along with $200 million from the city and county through 30-year bonds. Any franchise that comes to Seattle and uses the arena would be required to sign a non-relocation agreement that would span the life of those bonds.
All construction costs, including overruns, would be paid for by Hansen's group, along with all environmental studies and permitting. Once that process is completed, most of the public investment is placed on the city. The public investment is capped at $200 million and would come from taxes and revenues collected through the new facility. So far, the loudest objections have come from the Port of Seattle over concerns for what a third sports facility in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood would do to a main route for industrial traffic in the same area.
Earlier this week, McGinn delivered a personal message to NBA Commissioner David Stern, saying the city is interested in having the league come back.