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Seattle arena proposal passes key hurdle but many more to go

One vote down and plenty more to go in the quest to build a new arena that could bring the NBA back to Seattle.

One vote down and plenty more to go in the quest to build a new arena that could bring the NBA back to Seattle.

The Metropolitan King County Council took the initial step on Monday afternoon, approving the amended proposal from investor Chris Hansen by a 6-3 vote. After four hours of public testimony and statements from council members, Hansen's proposal - with a few tweaks - got the required number of votes to move forward.

Now the plan goes to the Seattle City Council, but if its actions earlier Monday are any indication, Hansen's $490 million arena plan that includes nearly $300 million in private funds and $200 million in public contribution has plenty of adjustments and changes yet to come.

"I want to personally thank the King County Council for all of their hard work and for taking a big step today to move forward on our proposal," Hansen said in a statement.

"There is still much more to be done, but I am looking forward to sitting down with city council members to figure out how we can make this deal work for everyone."

Before the county had its chance to vote, the city took the first steps in indicating just what concessions they are seeking from Hansen.

Eight of nine Seattle council-members unveiled a letter to Hansen saying changes must be made to the proposal before they could support it. The city council wants to ensure that a portion of tax revenues generated by a new arena would help pay for local transportation improvements. Currently, the proposal calls for those taxes to be used to pay off the $200 million in city and county bonds for the $490 million arena.

Traffic concerns in the SoDo neighbourhood - where Safeco Field, Century Link Field and the Port of Seattle all share limited space - have been at the core of arguments against Hansen's plan.

Bruce Harrell, who has been a strong proponent of Hansen's proposal, was the only member of the city council not to sign the letter. At a news conference early Monday afternoon, city council president Sally Clark said the changes requested in the council's letter were not designed to kill the deal.

"This is about figuring out how do we get to 'yes,' " Clark said.

Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, said of the city council's letter, "we are open to changes, but we think it would be a big mistake to let this investment go by."

The county also inserted an amendment that called for at least 500 tickets to each game available at $10 or less and another 1,000 at $20 or less. Hansen agreed to that stipulation.