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Hansen and his ownership group have remained relatively quite in the last eight months and the anti-arena groups have been dominating the headlines during that time period. These anti-arena groups were drowned out during the early portion of 2013 (thanks to the Sonics/Kings saga); now they are back claiming illegal kickbacks and subsidies are involved in the financing plan for the SODO Arena.
The first draft of the environmental impact statement was released on August 15th, 2013 — you can read that here — and it took a look at several sites outside of the one that was agreed upon in the MOU. Some of the sites that were examined in the EIS were the agreed upon SODO site, the land that the Key Arena is on, and the land that Memorial Stadium is on. Each site is examined in detail with the impact on several environmental factors (from potential water table impacts to the potential impacts on the sight lines in the area around the arena).
As a result of this process, which is expected to be finished sometime by the end of the first quarter of 2014, the news regarding the arena has been pretty limited…and that has created the perfect environment for the anti-arena groups in Seattle to try to grab media attention for their argument.
These headline grabbing stories were:
Of all these stories, the one that is of the most concern to Sonics fans is the story about BNSF sending a letter to Seattle City Council President Sally Clark voicing their concerns about how the arena would impact traffic flow around their railroads operations. The primary concern that they talk about is how traffic hinders the freight capacity of the streets in the stadium district — an area of concern that BNSF claims the City has promised to fix in the past, and ignored.
The railroads have the right of way in throughout the City of Seattle and this right of way creates massive traffic headaches in the SODO area. These traffic headaches result in the slow down of automobile traffic at the intersections of the streets and the railroad tracks.
The “Group says Seattle Arena getting $731 million in public subsidies” talks about how a new anti-arena group led by Cleveland Stockmeyer and Adrien Gamache — the same guys who were/are heavily involved in Citizens for more Important things — claims that the SODO arena is receiving special tax breaks that give Hansen and company around $731 million in subsidies. This claim infuriated Chris Hansen so much that he lashed out in his article “Illegal Kickbacks and Subsidies?”
Now all of this is pretty much a side-show for the real issues in the SODO area and that is who gets access to the land that can be developed. Hansen wants to put an entertainment district between the Arena and Safeco Field; the Port wants to slow the pace of development in the area so it can maintain its current position in the political specturm; and the new anti-arena group (Sonics without Subsidies) is just a pawn in this whole political mess.