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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Seattle Supersonics left town for Oklahoma City, but basketball did not leave the Emerald City. Amid the ashes of Seattle basketball, Force 10 Hoops, an all female ownership group, made a play for the Storm, and purchased the team, with the intent on continued play in Seattle and the KeyArena. This commitment has been rewarded by commitment from the fans who have steadfastly supported the team. As a result, the Storm have become one of the model franchises of the WNBA, winning the WNBA title in 2004 and 2010.
At the very least, the fans of Seattle are showing that they are serious fans, deserving of another shot at NBA basketball. At the most, the fans of Seattle are showing the world that the WNBA and the Storm are a decent product, well worth your time and money. Either way, there seems to be a Storm brewing in Seattle!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The KeyArena offers a fairly decent variety of cuisine. You will be able to find the expected including hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and soda. You will also find local chain Ivar's with Fish 'n Chips, Clams 'n Chips and Chowder available. Ceres Roasting Company specializes in local coffee and specialty roasted nuts. You can find Mexican food at La Choza, specifically featuring a variety of burritos. The prices at the concessions are okay, but a little on the high side if you consider the WNBA to be minor league sports. Either way, you will not find yourself going hungry at KeyArena.
KeyArena is shared by the Seattle Storm and the Seattle University Redhawks. For Storm games, the upper deck is effectively draped off, giving a more intimate feel to the arena, which is significant. What the drapes don't do, is take away from the signature peaked roof. Also, the upper deck being draped off leaves terrific sightlines for the rest of the seats. Above the seating bowl you will find hanging the 4 banners the Storm have earned, including 2 conference titles and 2 WNBA Championships. The Storm make effective use of their octagonal shaped, 4 sided video, 4 sided dot-matrix board. The arena also features a ribbon board around the upper deck.
The game being reviewed was the first game following the Olympics and the Storm honoured Olympian Sue Bird on her gold medal victory in London.
Around the outside of the seating bowl you will find a unique touch, which are hand made posters for each of the players. The most creative had to have been for Australian Lauren Jackson, which proclaimed her to be Vegi-mighty!
The in-game production for Storm games is strong. The music is upbeat, and not overdone. The crowd is encouraged to participate. The PA and sound-effects are at the perfect level, not overwhelming but effective. A highlight sound-effect would be when Sue Bird scores a basket, bellowing through the arena you get a sample of "Surfin' Bird" from the 60's (you remember ... bird is the word?). The mascot, Doppler is well-used and does some fun stuff for the kids.
For those of you who think that WNBA basketball is not worth your time, I saw something that was worth the price of admission alone. During a regular TV timeout, the loudspeaker blasts the Quad City DJs, "C'mon Ride It," and Doppler is in the middle of the court. The next thing you know, there are dozens of kids that are coming from the stands and running on the court to form a giant conga line, for a minute or two. It may not be Lebron James, but you will NEVER see anything like that at an NBA or NCAA basketball game!
The focus of the entertainment is family and women, but it is not over the top to the point of making the guys uncomfortable. The dance group is an actual dance group rather than being a group of underclad women. The dance group at the Storm game is a group of kids, which included two guys. The Storm also put together some nice vignettes examining the impact of Title IX, and they put together an impressive array of local and national women who were honoured for their contributions to women's sport, being rounded out by the trail-blazing ownership group for the Storm, the women of Force 10 Hoops.
The KeyArena is in the middle of the Seattle Center. There are a plethora of things to do if you are a tourist, or just looking for some extra fun. Headlined by the famous Space Needle, the Seattle Center also includes the Seattle Children's Museum, the Pacific Science Center, a couple of theaters, and the EMP Museum, which combines an odd pairing of science fiction, with Seattle rock and grunge music. You can see Christopher Reeve's Superman suit, and many of Jimi Hendrix' guitars all in the same place.
There are also many places to grab some food before or after the game. Some options include Skybox Sports Lounge, Dick's Drive-In, Floyd's Place and the Metropolitan Market. I would highly recommend stopping in at Red Mill Burgers before the game, and you'll have a great meal.
The Storm host some of the best fans in all of the WNBA. They average over 8,000 fans per game, which is top 5 in the league. What sets the fans apart is that they are typical Seattle fans. They pride themselves on being loud and proud, and for a group that is relatively small, they make one heck of a lot of noise. The fans stand at the beginning of the game and 2nd half, until the Storm scores their first basket. They are supportive of their team, and participate enthusiastically in the promotions.
Getting to the KeyArena is pretty easy. The Seattle Center is not too far from I-5. Some of the streets in this vicinity have a very significant incline/decline, so driving in the adjoining neighbourhoods should be done with caution. There is decent parking around the Seattle Center, so finding a spot should not be too much of a problem. If you are a public transit person, then the Seattle Center Monorail may be an option for you.
Once inside, the washrooms and corridors are more than ample to accommodate the number of fans in attendance.
Tickets for the Storm will run between $14 and $57, and keeping in mind that the sightlines are so good, and all seats are in the lower bowl, tickets for a Storm game are a great price. Parking and concessions are okay. The return that the Storm provides is excellent. You would be hard pressed to get to a Storm game and not have a good time.
An extra mark for Force 10 Hoops, leading the way as the only all-female ownership group in the WNBA.
An extra mark for the innovation and fearlessness the Storm have in allowing the fans from the stands to come down on the court during a game and participate in Doppler's conga line.
Two extra marks for the Storm players and organization being a great example for young girls who can have something to aspire to.
Let's face it ... the WNBA gets a bad rap at times, and ignored most other. Guys ... if you are a father, you OWE it to your daughter to get her to a WNBA game at least once in her life. If you brave the Storm, you will find out that you just might be interested after all.
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