SEATTLE -- Bringing an NBA team back to Seattle moved a step closer to reality on Thursday.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine presented a proposal for a $500 million arena planned for south of the Safeco Field parking garage by San Francisco hedge-fund manager and Seattle native Christopher Hansen.
Groundbreaking would hinge on Hansen and his investment group securing both NBA and NHL teams as tenants.
Seattle has been without the NBA since Clay Bennett bought out his team's lease at KeyArena and moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.
"This is an exciting proposal, and it could mean big things for our community," McGinn said. "If we succeed, the project means hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment."
Hansen met with McGinn and members of the council this week in Seattle. But he was not on hand or made available to take questions at the press conference at Seattle's City Hall.
McGinn presented an overview of the plan in front of a packed house, including several SuperSonics fans clad in green and gold.
Details include Hansen and his investment group raising $290 million to go toward building a new arena on land already purchased by the group.
McGinn said the city's investment would be capped at $200 million, and would include no new taxes.
Once completed, the investment group would sell both the land and the building to the city, with both teams' owners becoming tenants. The two teams would be required to pay a yearly lease up to 30 years until the building is paid off.
McGinn said the debt would be paid off by two main revenue streams: property, sales, tickets, B&O and admission taxes generated by the new facility and the annual lease payments.
The investment group also will be responsible for setting up a security fund to cover three years of debt payments, and a capital fund for facility upgrades, further protecting the City of Seattle and King County.
The lease agreement would bind both teams to fulfill the full term of 30 years to avoid a situation like the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City.
McGinn said the proposal fulfills the city's requirements for building a new arena, which includes a majority private investment, public investment with little or no risk and compliance with I-91 -- a voter-approved initiative prohibiting the use of public money to support sports teams unless they turn a profit.
There's still much to do, and McGinn and Constantine emphasized this is just the beginning.
"No, it's not Game 7," Constantine said. "This is the tip-off of the first game of the preseason. This is a set of principles -- it's a start. But after so long without any real good options, it's just great to have a chance to get back on the court."
Like Constantine, Adam Brown, producer of the film "Sonicsgate," a documentary on the team's move, was excited about the possibility of the NBA returning.
"We've been fighting for this day to keep the memory of the Sonics alive for a long time," Brown said. "And it's just so overwhelmingly positive to see the city and business leaders coming together to recognize pro sports, specifically pro basketball, as a positive economic and cultural factor for this region."
King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer is taking more of a wait-and-see approach. He has concerns about the project's financing and traffic issues because of the proximity of Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and Port of Seattle commuters.
"It's critically important that any plan that comes out of this press conference or evolves in the coming weeks and months be built not just on good intentions," he said. "It's got to be built on good financial structure."
Bennett, head of the league's relocation committee, and NBA commissioner David Stern, would be advocates in helping return a team to Seattle, von Reichbauer said, because they understand people here still hold them partly accountable for the Sonics no longer being in Seattle.
Stern said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune that he met briefly with Hansen about the potential for an arena project in Seattle a year ago. However, NBA spokesperson Tim Frank declined to comment when contacted via email.
Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban -- the only two owners to vote against moving the Sonics out of Seattle -- were encouraged with Thursday's news.
"It was a sad day when the Sonics left Seattle, a move I opposed," Allen said in a prepared statement. "It's exciting to think about the NBA coming back to Seattle and renewing the rivalry with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, it is too early for me to comment any further without a specific plan or proposal to review."
Added Cuban via email: "I think Seattle would be a great market, but it's going to take a team moving there. It doesn't make sense to add an expansion franchise."
Conspicuously absent as part of Hansen's investment team are Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and wireless phone executive John Stanton -- leaders of a group that pledged $150 million to remodel KeyArena, along with purchasing the Sonics in order to keep them in Seattle.
That duo reportedly is not involved with Hansen's group, which means he'll have to seek other partnerships to raise almost $300 million to build an arena, along with another estimated $400 million to $500 million to purchase an NBA team.
Potential teams up for relocation include the Sacramento Kings, who have to meet a March 1 deadline imposed by the NBA for an arena financing plan to prove to the league that the city should keep its basketball team.
The New Orleans Hornets, owned by the NBA, are up for sale. Reportedly, a half-dozen prospective owners have been whittled down to a group that includes former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest, Saints owner Tom Benson and a group of West Coast investors led by former NBA coach and executive Mike Dunleavy.