Seattle NBA Dreams Take Step Backwards

seattle sonics On May 2, by a 5-4 vote, the Seattle City Council voted against vacating a stretch of land near the Port of Seattle so that billionaire Chris Hansen could build a basketball arena there, frustrating Seattle NBA dreams once again.

Since the Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, it has been increasingly difficult for the city of Seattle to secure another NBA team, despite over forty years of successful NBA ownership.  The NBA has made it clear that talk about a new Seattle NBA franchise begins, and ends with a new basketball arena being built.  Chris Hansen has offered to fun $300 million of the proposed $500 million for the new area, a seemingly great deal, and yet the Seattle City Council and the Port of Seattle are against the arena being built just south of Safeco Field, the home of the Mariners.

What gives in Seattle?

As always in these situations, the answer to that question is never simple.  Several factors were in play when the City Council vote was taken.

One, vacating that land meant eliminating existing businesses.  It also mean applying additional pressure upon the Port of Seattle and, probably most importantly, it meant the city taking on an additional $200 million in construction debt.

Seattle has learned from its checkered sports past.  With the money paid to Seattle from a lawsuit against the Sonics ownership, Seattle has now paid off the Key Arena.  In 2011 Seattle finally paid off the $384 million it spent building Safeco Field, and in 2020 the city will pay off the $422 million it gave Microsoft MSFT to pay for the current Seahawk home, CenturyLink Field.  With the loans paid up, all revenues are now going to the Arts and to pay for worker housing and services for homeless youth.

In other words, the City of Seattle has decided it likes having debt-free buildings where revenue can be funneled into meaningful activities and programs.

Are the Sonics dead in Seattle?  Certainly not, but the next construction deal that comes down the road will have to be considerably more attractive to the City politicians.

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