Could the Seattle Supersonics be on their way back to the Pacific Northwest? The question made for a popular talking point in late 2011, when a mysterious investor appeared out of thin air to purchase three acres of property in Seattle's Sodo District, just south of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.
At the time, it seemed like a reasonable assumption to make. An unknown presence starts buying high-priced property in what might as well be called the city's "Stadium District," so they must be building a stadium, right? But it was still pure conjecture; a hopeful leap collectively reached by a region still nursing the old wounds of the Sonics' infamous exodus to Oklahoma City.
Now we know for sure. Seattle will have a new stadium, assuming San Francisco hedge fund manager, Chris Hansen, can get his hands (and his money) on a team.
The proposal is this: $500 million dollars for a new venue, built to host NBA and NHL franchises. But only if Hansen can secure a team for the city of Seattle. Neither Hansen, nor the city of Seattle, will devote a penny to a new arena unless it is guaranteed that the venue will host a team. And no team will play in the arena, according to the proposal, unless it commits to a guaranteed 30-year stay in Western Washington.
So, a lot of stars still have to align before we start queueing up our complaints for whatever corporate sponsorship name they come up with for the building. But Hansen's aggressive approach and apparent passion for the concept all appear to be very good signs.
If it does work out, then the proposed location already has a number of positives in its favor that thoroughly outshine Key Arena (the former home of the Seattle Supersonics), which exists in a tricky location and is in dire need of renovations. For several years, the area surrounding Safeco Field and Century-Link Field has undergone a series of dramatic redesigns to help manage the flow of high traffic volumes to make travel a breeze. Parking, though it may be expensive, will be plentiful as well.
Fans who attend events at the other two major sports venues next door can attest to just how suited the neighborhood is for hosting droves of fans. The area already hosts 81 Mariners games, 8-10 Seahawks games, and 18 or more Sounders games each year, and has thoroughly developed a local economy that is very welcoming (and largely dependent) on the sports culture. Restaurants and bars are common, and the local favorites of the region's football and baseball fans (Pyramid Brewery and FX McRory's come to mind) are sure to become the new favorites of basketball and hockey fans as well.
Overall, it outwardly appears to be a solid proposal to potentially integrate two new teams into a neighborhood that already makes for a stellar game day experience. But, when all factors are considered, it's not the restaurants, or the parking, or the in-stadium dining options that make this concept an exciting prospect for Seattle-area residents. The true value of this proposal is the potential to give the city back something that it feels was stolen from under its feet in 2008.
NBA in Seattle? Yes, please. We're not sure we care where they play, just make it happen already.
*Photo attributed to Jeff Wilcox.