Hedge Funder's Seattle Arena Plans Set For Unveiling

Feb 16 2012 | 2:42am ET

Seattle's mayor is expected to hold a press conference today to unveil plans for a new arena in the city to be financed by a hedge fund manager.

Details of the presser remained unclear, with final arrangements still being worked on last night. But Mayor Mike McGinn will likely detail the offer to build a new home for a professional basketball team—and possibly hockey team—from Valiant Capital Management founder Chris Hansen.

Hansen, a Seattle native who now lives in San Francisco, wouldn't spill the beans ahead of McGinn's press conference, which he does not plan to attend. But he told the Seattle Times that "we're very close to announcing our offer to the city."

"I think we are very close to reaching an agreement with the city and county."

Seattle has been without a National Basketball Association franchise since 2008, when the SuperSonics, Hansen's favorite team as a child, decamped for Oklahoma City after the city and Washington State refused to pay for a new arena.

"This isn't about Chris Hansen," he told the Times. "This is about an NBA team and a new arena."

Which team would occupy the new building is unclear, although speculation has centered on the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento officials have until March 1 to present a plan for a new arena for the Kings.

The possibility of the Kings heading up the Pacific coast doesn't make Sacramentans very happy. One local group, Think Big Sacramento, chastised Hansen for trying to do to their city what was done to Seattle four years ago.

"We are especially troubled that you would be actively pursuing an initiative that you know will short-change our community of badly-needed jobs given that your native city of Seattle knows the economic pain and suffering that comes when one city raids another city," the group wrote in an open letter to Hansen. "One would think that Seattle of all places would be sensitive to engaging in such predatory behavior."

Think Big's Jeremiah Jackson has, in true Old West style, challenged Hansen to a showdown in the California capital on Feb. 23, at high noon. Words, rather than sidearms, would be the weapons at the debate.


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