City of Seattle approves contract for basketball arena

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council Wednesday approved a deal with SuperSonics owner Barry Ackerley for a $100 million sports and entertainment complex to be built in downtown Seattle.

In contrast to the debate that has raged over the contract since its proposal, the council approved the deal 7-0 and with little discussion.


Under the agreement Ackerley Communications, Inc. will build the 16,000 to 20,000-seat arena just south of the Kingdome and a 1,800-car parking garage in exchange for up to $1 million in annual admission tax revenues for 30 years.

The city will also pay $2 million in street improvements in the area and Ackerley will help seek a National Hockey League franchise in the city.

'I think this new arena opens up tremendous opportunities for the city,' said Seattle Mayor Norm Rice who struck the deal with Ackerley.

As passed, the contract included a controversial 'most-favored nation' clause that will guarantee Ackerley the same financial considerations received by other franchise owners.

Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan had said the clause might prevent him from striking a deal with the city to build an outdoor baseball stadium.Officials with the Seahawks also have objected to that clause.


However, mayoral aide Mark Murray said both the Seahawks and the Mariners have a similar clause in their contract with King County to play in the Kingdome.

'This is not a unique phenomenon in the world of sports arena deals,' Murray said.

Smulyan had also expressed concern over traffic congestion near the Kingdome whenevents at the arena and domed stadium coincide.

A provision that would have required the downsizing of the Seattle Center Coliseum had been removed earlier in the discussions between Ackerley and the city council. In another concession, the Sonics owner agreed to pay the full cost of the $10 to $20 million parking garage.

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