Sonics Arena Group Buys Showbox SoDo: Truths and Misinformation

Yesterday I ran into Kris Brannon, aka Sonics Guy at the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival. In full regalia Kris was there spreading the SoDo arena gospel. What I noticed was that when you’re 6’5” and covered in the gear of a now-defunct team, waiving said team’s flag (literally) you tend to get a lot of attention.

Almost all of the attention that Kris got yesterday was good, from what I could tell. But one person stuck in my craw, and I felt brought up an issue that should be addressed.

A guy wearing an Oregon hat (strike one) approached Kris and basically said “Why do the Sonics hate art, why are they destroying the Showbox?” Kris eloquently sidestepped the angry haymaker, which can be tough to do at an event geared around drinking, and started spewing facts that his aggressor clearly didn’t have. The aggressor claimed that he’d seen a show there three months ago, and that it was the Brian Setzer orchestra. He claimed that it was a historic building with a ton of music tradition. He claimed that there was no adequate music venue in that capacity range, and that the Showbox SoDo held 300 people. I explained that the new arena is a music venue also, and that with their extra capital the owners of the Showbox SoDo can find another building to turn into a good music venue. Here’s the truth, as I see it, about all of those things.

1. Brian Setzer played at Showbox Market in December, a venue that will come out of the arena project unscathed. For those of you that frequent this kind of place, that’s the one by the now-defunct Lusty Lady and Deja Vu.

2. The Showbox Sodo holds 1500 people (not 300) and there are a few other venues that hold around that amount of people. The Moore Theater holds about 1400 people. Showbox Market holds 1100. Nuemos holds just under 1000.

3. I can’t speak to what Showbox SoDo was before 2004, because that was the first time I went there, but my understanding at the time was that it had just opened up as a night club called Premier. It has since changed hands twice, finally ending up in the hands of the Showbox group.

4. The Showbox Market was founded in 1939. It’s one of Seattle’s most storied music venues, and remains one of the best places to see a live show.

5. Showbox SoDo has two-and-a-half stars on Yelp. It has 12 points of 30 on Google. It’s not a great venue. That’s not to say it isn’t important to some, but the Kingdome and Key Arena were important to me, but I’m willing to sacrifice sentimentality for progress.

6. The city spent more than $100 million in tax payer money in the late 90s to build Benaroya Hall. That was to help preserve art. I don’t want to marginalize art, but sports shouldn’t be marginalized either.