Last night, we told you about local attorney Art Harrigan, and his little-known but significant role in helping save the Mariners from leaving Seattle in 1991. Five years later, his phone rang again – this time when the Seahawks threatened to leave town.
When the Kingdome came down in March of 2000, former Seahawks owner Ken Behring was long gone. But the franchise he tried to move four years prior was still in town.
“Literally the trucks had rolled up to the offices in Kirkland," Harrigan said. "And they were getting ready to go.”
By now, the main players are well known: The hero – current owner Paul Allen – buying the Hawks from Behring for $194 million. Former King County Executive Gary Locke, who led the local effort to keep the team from moving to LA.
But rarely-discussed…was local attorney Art Harrigan.
“It really doesn’t matter to me how many people know, although I guess if you put this on TV, a lot more people will know than did before (laughs),” Harrigan said.
Similar to five years earlier when the Mariners tried to escape their lease from the Kingdome, Harrigan worked for King County to prevent Behring from doing the same.
“The pretext for moving the team was that – pardon me if I laugh – that they needed to go to Southern California in order to escape the risk of earthquakes in Seattle,” Harrigan said, before breaking into a laugh.
It was a pretext that was even mocked on local TV – since everyone knew Behring’s true motives had to do with money. Still, when the moving vans arrived, Harrigan, along with Locke and King County Chief Civil Deputy Dick Holmquist met with Behring and his lawyer, who, for more than an hour, discussed the Kingdome as a seismic hazard and the county’s lack of action to retrofit the building.
"That's the first time that Mr. Behring ended up speaking up," Holmquist said. "He leaned forward and in his low voice he said, 'Now if we'd been able to make money here, we might be able to put something together.' And that was so fundamentally inconsistent with the argument that his lawyer had been making for two hours!"
Added Harrigan: “I immediately picked up the phone, made the phone call, we filed a lawsuit 20 minutes later.”
Harrigan then went down to the King County courthouse for a temporary restraining order against the team moving, which stopped them in their tracks.
“Of course, that was critical because if they had simply gotten themselves to California, we would’ve been down there asking a California judge to send them back,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan and company prepared a motion for a summary judgment that ultimately went un-filed. That’s because on April 20th, Allen stepped in and bought the team – saving the county from more headaches and the fans from more heartbreak.
At least – until the Sonics left town in 2008. And given Harrigan’s role in keeping the M’s and Seahawks in town, it begged the question, why not hire him then?
“I don’t know. The phone didn’t ring!” Harrigan quipped.
(Remember, Harrigan worked on behalf of the county with the Mariners and Seahawks situations. It was the City of Seattle that tried to hold Clay Bennett to the Sonics lease at KeyArena, before making the cowardly move to back out at the last minute.)