Seattle Arena Proposal Leaves Some Questions, but Mostly to be Answered by Private Investors

Today is a really good day in the history of Seattle sports. The proposal by Chris Hansen that has made so many headlines recently was finally revealed. The groundwork for the Sonics returning to Seattle was laid publicly today. Today is a day that shouldn’t have ever happened. The Sonics never should have left. But since they already have, today is a good day.

Between Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine, it’s pretty obvious that this regime places a higher priority on basketball. McGinn even took a few thinly-veiled shots at former Seattle Mayor and current Seattle Asshole Greg Nickels, against whom he will likely be competing in the next mayoral election.

Infrastructurally speaking, it really makes sense to me to put an arena like this is the present stadium district. A huge portion of the city’s public transportation is already geared there, and there are already dozens of parking options in place. Were there to be an arena built on the Eastside it would almost certainly come with a major overhaul to I-405 and SR-520. It’s not that Seattle has great public transportation, or that there won’t be any hurdles from the standpoint of increased traffic, but the city is presently better equipped, by my estimation, to improve both, as the framework for both exists already.

It also sounds like Key Arena will basically become what the Tacoma Dome has become for the City of Tacoma: A great venue for a lot of things, but generally overkill for the kinds of attractions that come to the fourth best venue in the area.

I think we all wanted the press conference to include an appearance by mystery man Chris Hansen, though his relative obscurity to this point makes his absence less unexpected. Hansen’s part of this partnership is a lot more interesting. He has to find the future Sonics and future Seattle (INSERT NHL TEAM NAME HERE). He has the mystery investors on his speed dial. McGinn and Constantine are two guys there to say “Hey this guy wants to build an arena that will boost the local economy, improve the depth of the sports culture, and that is basically guaranteed to pay for itself, isn’t that cool?”

And of course Lenny Wilkens is on the proposal review panel. He probably doesn’t have any functional business acumen or any points to make about the arena that another panel member couldn’t come to, but hey, he’s Lenny Wilkens.

I never thought that today was going to be the day that the Sonics returned. Somewhere deep inside of me I was hoping that the group was going to announce that they had bought an NBA or NHL franchise, and that the next home game of said franchise would be in Seattle. Or a shovel in the ground. Give me a shovel in the ground. Give me even a metaphorical shovel in the damn ground.

Today was bound to be anticlimactic. It was not unlike the day that the Sonics drafted Kevin Durant, though. Or any draft for that matter. What we were given today was a concept. Kevin Durant was once a concept. He was a skinny kid in basketball shorts who couldn’t bench press 185 pounds, but who was long enough, quick enough, and a good enough shooter  to create a mismatch problem no matter who guarded him. Kevin Durant was a concept. And we salivated over him from the end of June in 2007 until Halloween 2007, and in between we got only got to see Durant playing against a bunch of guys on his own team, and preseason rosters.

So Dow Constantine’s assessment holds true. This isn’t game seven; it is the tipoff of the first game of preseason. We’re very early in the process. The private investors must find teams, buy teams, and bring those teams to Seattle. Today we were introduced to a concept. It wasn’t some journalist that introduced us to the concept. These are heavy hitters. People who matter in this process. The Sonics aren’t back in Seattle today. We don’t know exactly when the Sonics will be back in Seattle. We know that the framework of their return is under construction.

Today a good day.

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Reaction of other North and South of Royal Brougham writers:

“I am worried about how the tax revenues the city will benefit from will work. I am not sure if that is the rent the tenants will pay, or if that is on top of a rent. Obviously via I-91 the city has to profit, but how much will the tenants profit? NHL and NBA need heavy public subsidies so their owners can profit, usually. So while this is a no brainer for the City of Seattle, it’s a little unorthodox for these leagues. Hansen has his work cut out to present this to David Stern and Gary Bettman.”

­-Sean Kramer

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