My Thoughts On The Arena Vote
Let me see if I have this straight — Chris Hansen wants to build an arena in Seattle and has a plan in place that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.
He wants to build it in an area that is zoned for stadiums and arenas. He promises to pay for cost overruns and has an ownership group featuring Steve Ballmer and Pete Nordstrom.
Hansen is simply motivated by his passion for the Sonics, wanting to bring the NBA back to his hometown.
Yet there are all of these questions and concerns and worries to the point that if I’m him, I’m thinking about taking my toys and going home.
Fortunately I’m not him because I would have lost it at some point in the process and blurted out: “People, if you’re so dense that you can’t see what I’m offering, I don’t want to do business with you.”
But at every King County and Seattle City Council hearing, even when he’s asked stupid questions, Hansen remains calm and does not turn confrontational or condescending.
Two weeks ago before one of those hearings, he advised fans to keep their cool, saying: “Nothing good can come from rudeness, heckling or booing. … Speak in a polite and courteous manner. Never underestimate the power of being kind, genuine and respectful.”
On Monday, the County Council is expected to vote on Hansen’s proposal to build the arena south of Safeco Field.
Then sometime in August, the city council will make its vote. If both councils approve the proposal, Hansen will have the go-ahead he needs to pursue an NBA team for Seattle.
Once he secures a team, construction of the new arena can begin. KeyArena would be used for one or two years as a temporary home for the Sonics.
The county council seems to have a more favorable opinion of Hansen’s proposal than the city council. So there should be good news coming today based on comments from County Council chairman Larry Gossett in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Sunday Seattle Times:
“Four democrats and two Republicans have already looked me in the eye and said: ‘I’m for it. We wouldn’t put all of this forward if we didn’t think it could pass.”
That would make it a 6-3 vote when 5-4 is all that’s necessary.
The city council is more dubious, voicing concerns about traffic and financing and impact on the port. For me, the biggest legitimate concern is how events and games at the arena will affect port operations.
But still …
Even if Seattle has NBA and NHL teams playing at the new arena, most of those games will be held at night. April and May are the only months in which there will be potential overlap with Mariner games at Safeco Field.
Just when you didn’t think anything else could be micro-analyzed or thrown on the table to further aggravate arena proponents, Don Levin announced his intentions last Friday for an arena in Bellevue. The Chicago businessman hopes to attract an NHL team and believes the Bellevue location is better than the one in Seattle.
His timing seemed strange, coming three days before the county council vote. But Levin said he’s been working on the project for 25 months. As for Bellevue being a better location, apparently he’s never driven on I-405 through the downtown area between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. It’s a cluster that I always try to avoid.
If this were a 100-yard race, I feel like Hansen is 90 yards into it and Levin’s just out of the starting blocks. I also think that Hansen is more trustworthy and has a lot more money at his disposal with Ballmer and Nordstrom.
Forget about Levin — let’s put the champagne on ice after we get the results from the county council today. And let’s pull out the glasses after tweaks to the proposal are made that will satisfy the city council and ensure another positive vote in a few weeks.
I’m usually a skeptic and a cynic, but I’m optimistic that Hansen will get the two thumbs up he needs to make the project happen.
Then the fun part starts. We can at least realistically daydream about the Phoenix Coyotes becoming the Seattle Totems and the Sacramento Kings becoming the Seattle SuperSonics.
Ready to pop the cork?
This is reprint of the article appearing in the Kitsap Sun.