It has been four years since Seattle watched its NBA franchise pack up and move to Oklahoma City, leaving The Emerald City with two major sports teams – the Mariners and Seahawks. But within the last week, the city of Seattle has been a-buzz at the idea of getting back its NBA team and perhaps even a NHL team.
Plans to build an arena in downtown Seattle had been kept quiet for months but with the proposal now in place, the excitement level has skyrocketed. The site has been purchased, the investors are in place and all that is left is the issue of taxes. A new arena would cost approximately $500 million and investors are willing to put up $290 million. Taxpayers wouldn’t be expected to pay for one cent of the facility, which would be located just south of a Safeco Field – the home of the Mariners – parking lot. It is unclear where the funds would come from.
The proposal still has a long way to go before any ground can be broken but it would certainly help a city that was devastated when its beloved Supersonics moved south in 2008, which left behind 40 years of memories and an arena that was left unused. Seattle has never had a NHL team, which could be due to its close proximity to Vancouver, the home to a storied NHL franchise. The proposed arena will not have ground broken until either the NBA or the NHL agrees to give the city a franchise that would be tenants for three decades.
The proposal was put in place by San Francisco businessman and Seattle native Christopher Hansen and has the backing of the most cities’ sports fans, who are pining to get their beloved Sonics back. But it’s not easy to get a franchise in any of the four major sports. The NBA has made it clear that it has no plans for expansion, meaning a team would have to relocate to Seattle. According to public documents, Hansen has been watching the situation in Sacramento. The Kings’ future is up-in-the-air and if the team cannot get approved for a new arena, it could be the most likely target if not Seattle then perhaps a different city in California.
New Orleans is the other frontrunner for Seattle. The Hornets are currently operated by commissioner David Stern and the NBA, but the league seems to be determined to find an owner from the Louisiana area who will keep the Hornets in New Orleans. There are other NBA teams struggling to keep their head above water but those two franchises seem to be the only viable candidates at this time.
Meanwhile NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seems to be on board for the potential of putting a team in Seattle – as he stated during All-Star festivities a few weeks back – however, with the recent news of the Phoenix Coyotes having a potential deal in place to be sold those talks might end before ever really getting off the ground. There might also be plenty of competition as there are several other cities that constantly have NHL expansion talks surrounding them.
These proposals move very slowly and can change day-to-day, as there are a lot of politics and business tactics involved. But it certainly seems like a legit possibility that the NBA might be heading back to Seattle, which is perfect since Gary Payton is due to have his number retired for the Sonics.
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