Classic Dishes...

Sonics, Boom

As a sports fan, and as a resident of the city of Seattle, I guess I’m kinda obligated to write something about the situation with the Seattle Supersonics.

For the majority of The Four Of You who don’t follow such things: the Sonics, like almost every sports franchise that plays in an arena more than ten years old, want a new arena. And, again, like every other sports franchise in this situation, they don’t want to pay for it.

Mind you, in this case, they’re right: KeyArena is a pile of crap. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient to get to, has next to none of the modern amenities that people come to expect from an arena sports experience today, the food sucks, and it was built for one single purpose, basketball, and that intentionally. See, back in 1994 when Barry Ackerley owned the team and was remodeling Seattle Center Coliseum into what would eventually become KeyArena, he was petrified at the thought of having to share the arena’s profits with a second major tenant, like an NHL team. So he intentionally had the arena remodeled for basketball, and only basketball. Yeah, they play hockey in there, but the rink sticks into one end of the seating bowl, making the seating capacity for the building in a hockey configuration just a skosh under 11,000, as opposed to the 17,072 they can get in there for basketball, and also making it completely inviable as an NHL arena. Thanks for that, Barry. Jackass.

Anyhow, it’s an awful building. HP Pavilion at San Jose kicks its ass around the block, and it opened its doors more than two years prior.

I love going to watch arena sports. I hate going to KeyArena. That should tell you something.

(And here’s a kick: the link to the Key above touts the building as “award-winning”. I had no idea they gave out an award for Crappiest, Most Uncomfortable, Least Amenity-Laden Modern Arena. I wonder what the trophy looks like. A golden, shiny dog turd would be most appropriate.)

Naturally, the people of Seattle, having already been railroaded into building Safeco Field for the Mariners and Qwest Field for the Seahawks (well, not me personally; I was in favor of both projects, having had the misfortune on two occasions of sitting through events inside of the Kingdome), are not particularly interested in funding yet another arena for a sports team who is perfectly capable of paying for it themselves if they really want it. And, as a result, the Sonics had been threatening to sell the team and/or relocate if it doesn’t happen. And, with the exception of a few straggling basketball fans, the reaction has been pretty apathetic, and I think one of “Oh yeah? Let’s see you do it.”

Well, on Tuesday, they did it, and sold the team to an ownership group from Oklahoma City. The same Oklahoma City that has been looking for a major tenant for Ford Center for over a decade. The same Oklahoma City who has enjoyed a taste of the bigs for the last season when they shot their hands up like Arnold Horshack and said “Ooh! Ooh! You can play here!” when the New Orleans Hornets needed a temporary home following the devistation of Hurricane Katrina.

And, like all good new owners, the head of their group, Clayton Bennett, stood up and waxed eloquently about how they intended to keep the team in Seattle. Then, two days later, he went back to Oklahoma City and told the people there that he would move the team in a year if he couldn’t get an arena built for him here.

Which means they’re gone, because the reaction of the city, even following all of this news, has been “enh.” And I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, if the Sonics do leave, there is no way a decent arena is going to be built in this city. The NHL is never going to come here, since the NHL has been trying their damnedest to get a team in Portland for years now. No ownership group is going to move a preexisting team to or locate an NBA expansion team in a city where the people have proven to be unextortable. And that bums me out, because I would love to see Seattle get an Arena Football franchise, or even a National Lacrosse League franchise, but neither are sustainable by themselves; they need a major tenant in the building first.

On the other hand, good on the people for putting their foot down and not letting themselves be bullied into paying for something they shouldn’t be paying for in the first place.

The saddest aspect of this story is this: the team could be saved if New Orleans were to get decimated by another hurricane this season, because in all likelihood the Hornets’ temporary relocation to OKC would become permanent, and the Sonics would have nowhere to bolt to.

Do I wish ill on the people of New Orleans? For the most part, no. (The people who went looting, who shot at people trying to help them, who have done nothing since but relocate to other cities and stick out their hands out of some sense of entitlement; they can die in a fire.) But at the same time, I have to say I’d love to see Clayton Bennett get stuck with a basketball team and no new home to move it to.

3 comments to Sonics, Boom

  • The thing is…unlike a baseball or football stadium, an arena can make money if reasonably well-run. Concerts, Mice on Ice, trade shows, state tournaments, Jehova’s Witnesses conventions and so on … a arena in a good-sized city has no business being empty more than, say, 50 days a year (and that’s for setup/takedown as much as anything else). Shoot, the Resch Center here in GB seats less than 11,000, has only D-1 basketball, Junior A hockey and af2 arenaball as regular tenants, and it makes a profit. There’s no reason why there can’t be a privately-run arena making a profit there that can have all the amenities the pro sports greedheads want, and if the former Sonics owner is too stupid to realize that, you’re better off without him. It does not have to be publicly financed.

  • Oh, I wholly agree. My point is that I would _like_ to see KeyArena replaced, because it sucks, but without a major tenant to foot the bill, it won’t happen, because the people aren’t gonna do it. And if the Sonics go, there is no reason, incentive, or opportunity for another team to come to town and build a new arena.

    I agree that a new arena could be a HUGE moneymaker for an ownership group willing to pony up. I would even support a publically-funded one, provided that the public was allowed to keep a share of the profits proportional to the money they kicked in. But the Sonics want what every team does: the fans to pay for it, but the team to receive the proceeds.

  • Dana

    Interesting thoughts. That aside- J says :”I want a rematch for trivial pursuit.”

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