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With No NBA Team In Sight, Investor Hansen Lends Arena Space To Nonprofit For Kids

A PLUS Youth Program
A student in the A PLUS Youth Program gets ready to run a race. The organization offers after-school mentorship and academic tutoring in addition to youth sports programming.

The space where billionaire investor Chris Hansen hoped to house Seattle's next NBA team will go to the kids, for now. 

Hansen will temporarily hand over the Sodo warehouse space to the A PLUS Youth Program, a nonprofit organization that offers athletic programming and after-school mentorship. 

The move couldn't come at a better time for the nonprofit, says its founder and executive director Tavio Hobson.

"The space that we're currently in [in the Columbia City neighborhood] is actually being torn down, so our kids are going to be homeless, for lack of a better term," Hobson said.

Hobson says Hansen had been interested in helping the organization for more than a year, but they hadn't figured out exactly how until now.

The A PLUS program will move into the warehouse, located one block south of Safeco Field, in roughly one month. Hobson says the new space has enough room for a basketball court, two classrooms and a few offices for the organization's 14 full-time staff.

The A PLUS program uses organized sports as a "hook," Hobson says, to get students engaged with their education.

"We pick the kids up from school. We bring them on site. They get a healthy meal, because we want to make sure that they're fed. After they get that healthy meal, they get intense academic tutoring," Hobson said. "The saying in our program goes: 'No academics, no sports.'"

Hobson, who founded the organization in 2009, says he doesn't know how long the group will be able to stay in the space. He says he's not privy to details surrounding Hansen's efforts to bring an NBA team to Seattle.
"Chris has told us and made the commitment that so long as a team is not coming back, so long as an arena is not being built, he wants the space to be used," said Hobson.

Hansen said Wednesday his investment group is solely interested in purchasing a basketball team, even though the NHL has expressed a more immediate interest in bringing a team to Seattle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.