Somehow I’ve stationed myself in the “North Face Only” section of a bus headed from New York to Washington, DC. Outside it’s about 39 degrees, the low Frebruary sky is an unflinching grey. Ahh, reminds me of sweet home Seattle.
Seattle, where the Seattle Times has reported that business casual Bay Area investor Chris Hansen has a big, fat proposal on the table to build a shiny new arena right next to SafeCo Field and whatever they call where the Seahawks play these days.
Allow me to join the bi-coastal chorus of “WAHOOOO!!!”
Hansen grew up in the working class Ranier Valley neighborhood before becoming an uber-investor in Silicon Valley (his company, Valiant Capital, has an almost $800 billion portfolio). He’s a lifelong Sonics fan who called seeing them win their ’79 title a defining moment of his life. OF HIS LIFE!
The details aren’t all out yet on the plan, but here’s what we know:
- The arena is estimated to cost about $400 million. The land on which Hansen has proposed it be built is zoned for stadiums and would create a real stadium district in Seattle where teams could share parking and other facilities.
- Hansen is obscenely wealthy, can figure out how to get a large portion of the stadium build done privately and is willing to build in a tax on stadium proceeds to fit a 2006 measure by the Seattle voters that demands all publically funded stadiums turn a profit for the city.
- Seattle is a top 15 TV market and has a huge population of tech-savvy people with disposable income. In the days where profitability comes from leveraging the value of live TV with a local sports station and packaging content online, the league would be adding a team that would likely be a revenue sharing payer (this is good for other owners thinking about voting a team to Seattle.)
- David Stern has said the NBA will not want expand, so any team that would play in Seattle is playing somewhere else right now.
- Stern greased the wheels for the Sonics to move. A decision that makes no business sense for the league (as great as the fans in OKC are, there just aren’t many of them) and sent the message that if your city won’t pony up the dough, I’ll move the whole stinkin’ franchise (and that it’s smart to send him sycophantic emails).
- Now he’s doing the same thing with the Kings, who have a March 1 deadline to figure out their own stadium issues.
- 98% of North Carolina residents think their professional team is still called the Tar Heels.
- Seattle sustained the Sonics for 40 years before moving and the city is STILL growing. That means it’s a better market for basketball now than at any time in it’s illustrious, championship havin’ history.
- I’m not proud to say I would take another city’s team, but I would, no questions asked.
- The Thunder franchise retained all rights to Sonics history (though not all the intellectual property rights). Gary Payton will one day be surpassed by Durant as the Thunder’s all-time leading scorer (excuse me while I puke up the rest of my childhood memories).
- Any new team might need a new name. I vote the Seattle Pilots. It links to the Sonics’ Boeing-based name and was the name of a failed Seattle baseball team.***
I recently sent a full video of the Sonics’ victory over the Jazz in Game 7 the 1996 Western Conference Finals to a friend of mine (worth watching just to see the rally outside the stadium). He said it was “the first NBA game I’ve watched start to finish in years.” This game happened more than 15 years ago. There is a tremendous appetite for a team in Seattle, and I hope against hope that Hansen’s proposal isn’t just the most lifelike mirage that’s held the attention of deserted Seattle hoops fans.
***Note: ACH! It turns out the Pilots are taken… that team became the Milwaukee Brewers, of all things. Back to the drawing board. What about the Steelheads?? Like the Salmon!…ok, maybe more thinking necessary.