The 2019 NBA season is here, and this will mark the 11th season without our beloved Seattle SuperSonics basketball team. For those who may not know — or have forgotten — the team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. It has been a painful and heartbreaking 11 years as we see stars such as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead OKC to playoff runs and NBA Finals appearances. We can all agree it has been too long since we saw the Sonics take the court, but how much longer should we expect to suffer?
The main issue that has kept an NBA team from coming back home was the venue. The main reason the Sonics left was because of the aging Seattle Center Arena — formerly known as KeyArena — and the city’s refusal to approve any upgrades. However, on December 4, 2017, the Seattle City Council agreed to a deal with investment company Oak View Group to complete a full rebuild of the arena by 2020.
The new arena deal lead to the NHL to choose the city of Seattle and the location of their next expansion franchise starting in the year 2021. The city has already shown large support after the team sold out of season tickets in the first hour of being on sale. Seattle NBA advocates hope that this will show NBA executives what they are missing out on and what another team in the market can bring to the table.
Although the Seattle Center Arena deal is a step in the right direction, it may not be enough to draw the attention of NBA executives to bring a team back. Even with the upgrades it still may not match the standards of a new home for an NBA team and draw them to another city. Transportation issues to Seattle Center is one as well as capacity issues where the arena is only set to hold 18,600 fans, which places in the bottom half compared to other NBA venues.
These issues are the reason why there is still push from a local investment group to build a brand new state of the art arena from the ground up in the Sodo district next to T-Mobile and CenturyLink Fields. The investment group is led by Chris Hansen, who has been part of the efforts to relocate a team to Seattle since 2013. He is now head of the group attempting to convince Seattle government to approve their privately funded plan to build the arena in Sodo, while also making use of the newly built Seattle Center Arena as well. Hansen has also brought local Seattle celebrities such as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to help support the cause.
“Having both Seattle Center and SoDo as viable options for potential NBA owners would send a powerful message to the NBA, that not only is Seattle the best available market, but we also understand what an NBA team requires to be successful,” Hansen wrote in a letter to Seattle government officials.
With Seattle City Council elections right around the corner, many candidates have been endorsed by the Sodo arena investment group in hopes that it will sway Sonic fans to vote in their favor. Since the arena will be privately financed, and will also not be built until an NBA franchise is confirmed to come back to Seattle, there is zero risk to residents of the city. The Sodo arena is the best bet to bring a team back to the Emerald City, and should be supported by all basketball fans in the area. You can read more at www.sonicsarena.com and learn about the project.