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Port of Seattle, Unions Voice Opposition to New NBA Arena

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SEATTLE (AP) — The Port of Seattle, a business association and the longshoremen union characterized a proposed new events arena in Seattle’s industrial district as a “land grab” that threatens jobs because it could increase traffic and land value.

“This is just not about a basketball arena. This is about a land grab in the Sodo area and changing it,” Herald Ugles of the longshoremen union told the Seattle City Council on Thursday. “You can build a basketball arena anywhere. But you cannot build a world class deep water port anywhere. And that’s what we have in Seattle right now.”

The group’s comments came as the city traffic study funded by the private investor concluded that additional traffic brought by events at the arena would not have a major impact on port and freight operations.

Hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen has proposed building a nearly $500 million arena just south of Safeco and CenturyLink fields. The plan calls for nearly $300 million in private investment from Hansen’s group. The amount of public support would be $200 if an NBA and NHL franchise are moved here.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine are backing the plan, saying that bringing the sports franchises would create jobs and as well as the private investment Hansen’s group promises.

The traffic study found that events at the arena would not coincide with regular port container terminal operations because most would be in the evening, while one of the main gates at the port wraps up operation around 4:30 p.m.

The study also found that event traffic would be on 1st Avenue and roads to the east while the “majority of Port of Seattle operations are west of 1st Avenue S — Port of Seattle operations are effectively separated from event traffic.”

But detractors of the arena proposal say the study overlooks some key factors, including that traffic on event days currently housed at Safeco and CenturyLink begins around 3 p.m. and that trucks leaving the port terminals don’t hit the road until about 5 p.m.

Also troubling for Dave Gering — executive director of Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle — is the thought of developing an industrial district into a more retail and entertainment focused area.

“The arena developer has been amazingly candid…This is not just about an arena. This is about changing Sodo,” Gering said. “A new land use pattern in Sodo not only is posing a threat to the cargo sector, it will have enormous public costs for the sidewalks that aren’t there, the drainage that isn’t there.”

Developing the area, they argued, would increase speculative value of the land, which may force business owners reliant on cheaper land to leave.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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