By Brock Huard
According to a well-connected source with in-depth knowledge of the Seattle arena proposals, the process is not nearly as far along as reports have suggested.
A new arena in Seattle, and the ensuing return of the NBA and NHL, is an enormous undertaking. The process requires millions to billions of dollars and the willingness of numerous parties – municipalities, counties, league officials, neighborhoods, let alone ownership groups – to work together.
The news that landed on all of our doorsteps Sunday, or on our phones Saturday night, that a prospective buyer and his team have been working with the city for the last year to turn his real estate just south of Safeco Field into a new arena has started a frenzy and immense reaction. Most are obviously thrilled, columnists in town are giving it a 70 percent chance, and I am not one to rain on anyone’s parade; in fact, I am willing to jump right in the melee and scream as loud as any, “Bring our Sonics back!”
However, in talking to a very respected, source let’s be very clear about some of the issues at hand and why both Kevin Calabro (as connected as anyone in NBA circles) and Mayor Mike McGinn have been on the record stating the “planets need to align to make this happen.”
First and foremost, according to my source, the possibility of the NBA returning back to Seattle is connected completely to Sacramento. There should be no false aspirations about Milwaukee or Memphis or New Orleans; the relocation plot is centered completely around the Sacramento Kings and their deadline looming March 1 for a new arena proposal.
Unlike the Seattle market years ago, where ownership, the mayor and the city council were pulling in very different directions, Sacramento is not.
Mayor Kevin Johnson is deeply respected by the league, and whereas the momentum turned in such a negative way for our Sonics back in 2008, my source indicates that is not at all the movement in Sacramento.
As Sacramento Bee reporter Marcus Breton told “Bob and Groz” yesterday, “Sacramento’s piece of this is going to get done, as the whole community has woken up and said, ‘We don’t want to lose this and we want to hold onto what we can.’ Unlike in Seattle, the politicians in Sacramento have lined up to get this done.”
Furthermore, there are two problems with the SoDo site that have barely been discussed:
• Let’s remember one thing that frustrates us all in the Puget Sound: Traffic! 60 percent of former Sonic season ticket holders lived on the east side, and with the tolling of the 520 bridge, ask anyone who drives I-90 what their commuting experience has been like since tolling began. On top of that, Sound Transit will have their shovels in the ground with tunnel work and their own construction plans connecting the east side to Seattle via their Sounder.
• Lastly, there is a clear four-hour rule currently in place around the Sounders FC, Seahawks, and Mariners to try to limit disruption. That means that any event would have to begin at least four hours after another event ends. Are there possibly enough hours in the day if both the NBA and NHL are in place, especially if that overlaps with soccer and baseball all in SoDo? The problems seems solvable, but a logistical nightmare.
The issues are problematic and the solutions never as easy and simple as our emotions would like them to be. Let’s all keep a very close eye and ear to the ground in Sacramento, for Seattle’s NBA destiny lives there. We’ll know so much more after March 1.