With the news a few weeks ago that the city of Seattle and King County have agreed to the Memorandum of Understanding with investor Chris Hansen, news has been flying around non-stop on the prospects of making Seattle a true sports destination. Commissioners are asked weekly about how they feel about this new building ready to be erected just south of Safeco Field, and investors are taking tours of the existing facilities, seeing just how ready we are.
Four years ago, all of this excitement seemed impossible. Seattle had been relegated by relocation, and it seemed that no one was willing or able to step up. That has now changed. And in this new time of excitement and hope, I write this open letter to you, in an attempt to share my thoughts and feelings.
1. Thank you. Thank you so much
Mr. Hansen, nothing can be said or done to properly thank you for what you have done for our city. Thank you for stepping up when no one else would. Thank you for allowing yourself to enter the limelight, becoming a rallying point for everyone who wants your project to succeed. Thank you for putting up with those who were so against this project that they found it acceptable to attack you personally. Thank you for handling the organizations who fought tooth and nail to prevent their new neighbors with class, staying above the fray. Most of all, thank you for sticking with it, despite the ugliness that came out and the politicians that always wanted just a little more from you. You are a great example of the best people Seattle can create.
2. Obtaining Teams
I may be in the minority, but if from your contacts you feel expansion is an option, please pursue that option over all others. We've already been far more involved in the culture of relocation than anyone would be comfortable with, and the last thing anyone here wants is to subject another fanbase to that same pain. For a team to be successful in Seattle, there is going to need to be some sort of connection. Some feeling of ownership on the fans part. That has been the key to success with the Sonics, Seahawks, Sounders, Storm, and even the 1990's Mariners. They were our teams, and our players. Not Sacramento's team. Not Phoenix's players.
I want Seattle to be a five sport city desperately. Dearly. And yet I am unwilling to sacrifice another fan for my joy. Even if it takes five years, or ten, or twenty, if expansion seems feasible, please make that the first priority.
3. Consider the NHL First
The Sonics will draw in numbers no matter when they come, or what competition there is. That legacy will make the desire only stronger the longer it takes to return. The same cannot be said for the NHL. While Seattle does have a history in professional hockey, the top flight memories are long gone. Few are left on this earth who would possibly remember the 1917 Stanley Cup victory at the skates of the Seattle Metropolitans. If they enter the league at the same time as a new NBA squad, they could easily get lost in the shuffle.
In the interest of all teams finding a fair share of the Seattle pie, letting the NHL get a foothold before the additional competition arrives would continue a legacy of attendance success for Seattle clubs. And if they can drop a puck on the 100 year anniversary of that Stanley Cup win, it would just be icing on the cake. Clearly the MOU wasn't designed for finding a hockey team first, but there is talk right now of NHL expansion. Expansion would allow for the arena to be built before the team begins playing, avoiding a situation where hockey is forced to play at the Key or delaying a move from another city for two years, and making bringing the sport to Seattle far easier. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Oh, and Totems is the name to go with, for the new team.
4. The Arena
If Seattle has one sporting tradition, one aspect it is known for, it would have to be the noise. Every fanbase in this town has created a reputation for engaged fans and a crippling home field advantage (Though the Mariners may have lost theirs). To that end, be mindful of the design of the building itself. Centurylink Field is shaped almost like a dome, and it keeps the noise inside. It would be a travesty if some side effect of the new home somehow mitigated the decibel level at ice/court level.
Additionally, there have been some musings/rumors that the roof of this building may be retractable. If that is something that can be done, I am all for it. Outdoor hockey is a wondrous thing. But just as importantly, keep the look of the two neighboring buildings in mind when mapping out the roof of the new arena. The supports for Centurylink and Safeco Fields are nigh iconic members of the Seattle skyline. A similar look would be much appreciated spanning the roof of your building.
5. The Key
Key Arena has been good to Seattle for a long time. From hosting the Sonics for 40 years to bringing us many events and shows, and drawing people to Seattle Center, it is an important building in our heritage. And it is still a great location for certain performances. But the building itself is in dire need of upgrade to even host lower level sports and entertainment.
Thankfully, you have pledged to spend money modernizing the Key. And my hope would be that that money would make Key Arena a permanent home for the Seattle Storm, Rat City Rollergirls, and perhaps even Washington Stealth Lacrosse. Because not every event needs a 500 million dollar arena, and the old Coliseum, with a reduced seating capacity, is the perfect home for teams that would otherwise play in a building too big for them, or out in Kent or Everett. These teams will be more successful in a building that fits them.
6. Again, thank you