If you have been a Seattle sports fan since before 2008, you will know the heartbreak that is the NBA in Seattle. I work daily in Seattle so I get to walk around and see people doing their day-to-day business and it is crazy just how much Sonics gear I see (including myself). The fact that it is coming up on a decade without them, and this city is still so passionate about them shows the type of sports city that Seattle truly is. The arena deal has been “in the works” for God knows how long, yet there is still nothing to show for it. This past month however, has been extremely active and for many hoping for a Sonics return it has all looked positive.
If you have not been following it very closely the Mayor and city council have been listening to bids and plans for the remodel of Key Arena along with an offer from a group for a SODO arena. The group that ended up with the winning bid is known as “AEG Worldwide” and have done numerous stadiums and arenas including the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the AT&T Center in San Antonio. They are a very well-known group and have a lot of big names within the NBA and NHL behind them. Their bid is to completely renovate the Key Arena in every aspect except for the roof. They are leaving the roof because it goes down as a historic landmark and thus they will receive a major tax break while keeping it fully intact. I won’t break down their entire plan but the quick breakdown is they are planning do dig 15-20 feet underground and completely redo the entire arena from the bottom up. The idea is awesome and in theory makes sense but it does not address one of the major factors that everyone has been bringing up about Key Arena for years: traffic and parking. Anyone that has been down around Key Arena knows exactly why this is an issue. There is absolutely no parking and all of the avenues in and out of the arena are just not fit to support the amount of traffic a major NBA team will bring in. One of the craziest things I heard for an idea that AEG had to try to fix the traffic issue was to fly people in by drones? I mean, drones haven’t even proven they can deliver a pizza let alone a living human being. Not sure I would trust Uber by drone to go and see a Sonics game, but that’s just me.
The other arena proposal is the SODO arena which is headed by Chris Hansen. This idea is the favorite by the majority of Seattle fans just for the fact that you avoid the entire traffic situation right off the get go. This SODO arena has been in the works for quite some time, and in my personal opinion I think we can thank the SODO group for pushing so hard that it got the city council to bring in bids for the Key Arena rebuild. I was really hoping that the SODO arena would get the go ahead because a brand new arena, down right next to Centurylink Field and SafeCo Field would have just been awesome. Oh, and with this SODO arena I am fairly certain we would avoid the Uber by drone idea which is another plus. I have heard that Chris Hansen still isn’t throwing in the towel and is going to continue the fight to try to get this SODO arena done, and for that I say thank you sir.
The deal still isn’t fully done with the AEG group. They are saying negotiations will be ongoing for the next 6-8 months. Lets say they somehow come up with a deal in a quick 6 month negotiation, that puts us right up to January 2018. The plans state the arena would take 12+ months to build, so the arena could possibly be up by the middle of 2019. Phew, now that we got that out-of-the-way, Seattle in theory now has an arena suitable for the NBA half way through 2019. That being said, the massive TV deal that the NBA signed in 2014 will not end until 2022. The NBA has already stated they will not be expanding the league until at the earliest when that TV deal is done. (They have also stated they may even be in talks with owners about downsizing the league to 28 teams, which would give Seattle even worse odds on getting a team). We are now in 2022 and Seattle still does not have a team. Unless Seattle’s group feels as though they are going to go out and steal a team I do not seeing the city of Seattle getting one for the next 5-10 years. Trying to stay positive about the NBA coming back to Seattle but thinking like a realist we are going to be waiting a long, long time.
Unless we go out and take a team from a city (which I know most Seattle fans do not want because we know the heartbreak) we are looking at what could be two decades between NBA teams in the city of Seattle. And that my friends, is just outright ridiculous.