Chris Hansen should never have to buy a beer again in his hometown.
It wouldn't just be a gesture of appreciation for the investor with a heart of Sonics green and gold. It could be a necessity. Considering the dough he's about to put down to build a new Seattle arena and lure an NBA team, he might have to reduce his going-out money.
Then again, looking at all the concessions he made to consummate a deal in Sodo, he probably is now part-owner of all the local suds, anyway.
Whatever the case, will every Sonics-missing fan raise a glass?
The hardest part of this comeback quest is all but over now. The Seattle City Council has reached an agreement with Hansen on his $490 million arena plan. And for once, the city's annoying affinity for process, debate and universal pacification appears to have resulted in a digestible situation for Hansen, the Port of Seattle and all businesses concerned with how even more Sodo congestion will affect their bottom line.
Capitalizing on a clever idea, the City Council negotiated with Hansen to get him to redirect some of the tax revenue generated by the arena — which he's planning to use to repay up to $200 million in bonds he's asking the city and county to float him — to help make road improvements in Sodo. Hansen is now pledging to put $40 million into Sodo traffic mitigation. He's also putting another $7 million into a different fund to improve KeyArena. And the Hansen group, which also includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Peter and Erik Nordstrom, still will put $290 million toward building the arena, which is almost 60 percent of the cost.
The original deal was an intriguing and fair one that Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine took seriously and polished before it became public. Now that the City Council has revised it and Hansen has stretched himself even further, this is one of the most favorable and innovative arena deals reached during this modern wave of sports palaces.
It gives Seattle an opportunity to get the NBA back on its own terms, which is only proper given the way the league uprooted the team and moved it to Oklahoma City four years ago after 41 years in the Emerald City.
Hansen is making an even larger investment than he planned, but for the 44-year-old who was raised in Rainier Valley and idolized the Sonics legends of his childhood, this isn't one of the hedge funds he manages from his office in San Francisco. This is personal. Over the past seven months, he has gone from mystery man to magic man, inspiring 6,000 fans to join him at a rally in Occidental Park in June and handling a sometimes-contentious process with great class and pragmatism.
He has taken Seattle from feeling bitter and robbed and devoid of a solution to believing that the NBA will return someday — and bring the NHL along with it.