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Bellevue Still A Player in Potential Professional Basketball Arena Discussion

Several viable options in Bellevue, though none are ready to be made public, City Manager Steve Sarkozy told the Bellevue Downtown Association breakfast forum crowd.

Bellevue is still in the possible basketball arena game, city and regional leaders told the Bellevue Downtown Association at its breakfast forum on Tuesday.

Bellevue city manager Steve Sarkozy told the breakfast that he has been working for four or five years with possible investors and partnerships toward a possible professional sports arena in Bellevue, which could bring professional men's basketball back to the region.

“It’s one of the worst kept secrets in Bellevue,” he said.

Several locations on the Eastside remain viable options with serious private investors, though he declined to say what those were and when a group might be ready to make a proposal.

Seattle lost its NBA team of 41 years in 2008 when owner Clay Bennett moved the Seattle Sonics to his hometown of Oklahoma City, changing its name to the Thunder. 

Discussions of the a new basketball stadium also includes talks of sharing the arena with a professional National Hockey League team in order to make the arena financially viable. The arena also could be used for concerts and other events.

The breakfast forum, which had been booked for several months, came as hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and the city of Seattle announced a stadium proposal for the SoDo neighborhood, with $500 million in private investment, near the existing Century Link and Safeco sports fields.

However, the Seattle proposal is not a done deal. Furthermore, the Sacramento Kings, which had seemed the most likely NBA team to move from its current location, announced a tentative arena deal in its current city Tuesday morning, according to CBS News.

Speakers at the Bellevue Downtown Association's forum stressed that the discussion of an alternate stadium proposal was not meant to compete with Seattle's proposal.

"I know that options do nothing but increase the odds of something happening," said Craig Kinzer principal of Kinzer Real Estate Services and partner at Denny Hill Capital.

Kinzer worked with former Sonics owner Howard Schultz and Thunder owner Clay Bennett to find a stadium in the Puget Sound region, he said.

Kinzer said that Bellevue's demographics, including income level and number of families, and the fact that many of the Sonics season ticket holders were from the Eastside make Bellevue an attractive place to put a stadium. However, questions in the region include whether Interstate 405 could handle the traffic generated by a stadium, he said. 

Brian Robinson, president of Arena Solution, a basketball booster group, said that he would support an arena whether it ends up in Bellevue or in Seattle.

“We know this proposal in SoDo still faces obstacles. It’s by no means a done deal,” Robinson said.

Interest is high in the Puget Sound area on an arena that would host professional basketball and hockey teams, said Robinson.

Robinson said that seven other cities in the region are exploring the possibility of an arena, though none have been as ready to talk about it as candidly as Bellevue or Seattle, he said.

He said it's to the region's benefit to support the most viable option, wherever it is in the Puget Sound.

"I have no allegiance or ties to Bellevue. I have none to Seattle. I want to help support it wherever it goes," he said.

Brent Champaco February 28, 2012 at 07:41 PM
While securing the Kings would have been great for a basketball fan like me, I think most thought it was pretty unrealistic to see them here next year. Heck, it took a few years for Clay Bennett and the NBA to move the Sonics, so you know it will take much longer and be more difficult to get a team back. In any case, I guess it doesn't really matter what Puget Sound city hosts an NBA team, although it could be harmful moving the venue from a centralized location to an Eastside-oriented one. Although there's lots of new money in Bellevue area, you run the risk of losing fans who can't easily make the trip from Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Kitsap, Olympia and other areas, especially on a weekday. Oh well, if owners can make up the money, I guess it's all good. I'd still go.

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