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Sonics Propose Suburban Renton for $500M Arena

Mon April 02, 2007 - West Edition

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) The Seattle SuperSonics have chosen suburban Renton as the site for a proposed new $500 million multipurpose arena. Now, they still face the hurdle of getting funding for the plan approved by the state Legislature.

Sonics Owner Clay Bennett and King County Executive Ron Sims announced the choice Feb. 13, to state lawmakers.

“At this time the city of Renton is the most viable location for this new facility,” Bennett said at a state senate committee hearing on proposed bills that would authorize the use of county taxes.

The 21-acre site is currently owned by The Boeing Co. and is across from a new residential and entertainment development known as “The Landing.” It is off Interstate 405 near the south end of Lake Washington.

Bennett said the team made the final site selection Feb. 12 night.

“It is going to be the most expensive [sports] building ever built — or close to it,” he said of the would-be home of the Sonics and the WNBA’s Storm. He also envisions it hosting conventions and potentially even an NHL team.

“This is not about building a building for the Sonics and [WNBA] Storm,” Bennett said. “It’s about building an asset for the region.”

Bennett has told Gov. Chris Gregoire in a letter that the team needs at least $300 million in public tax money for the project.

Led by Bennett, the Sonics’ new ownership is seeking to replace KeyArena in Seattle. If he doesn’t get an agreement for a new arena in the Seattle area by Oct. 31, Bennett’s $350 million purchase agreement allows him to move the team to Oklahoma, where he is a prominent businessman.

Asked what he needs to see by Oct. 31 to keep him from moving, Bennett said: “Substantial completion of the funding and the development plans.”

The taxes and tax credits the Sonics want to use are currently paying for new Seattle stadiums for baseball’s Mariners and the NFL’s Seahawks, as well as for remaining debt on the now-demolished Kingdome.

The Mariners used a miraculous playoff drive in 1995 to secure legislative approval for a one-half of 1 percent restaurant and rental car tax inside King County to pay for what is now Safeco Field — after voters rejected the idea.

The restaurant tax, which generates $20 million annually, was scheduled to run through 2015. But the Safeco Field construction bonds it is paying off are now expected to expire in 2012. The Sonics want to use the remaining three years of revenue for their project.

The same early expiration is expected for the 2 percent hotel-motel tax that is scheduled to pay off the old Kingdome debts by the end of 2015. That tax is then scheduled to fund Qwest Field, the Seahawks’ new home, until 2020. After that, the Sonics want to use it.

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