I want to commend a couple local longtime sports writers for their columns on the “celebration” that took place at KeyArena on Wednesday. Art Thiel of SportsPress NW and Larry Stone of the Seattle Times provide a perspective our local leaders should keep in mind.
At this point, we know that all the pomp and circumstance – what Mayor Ed Murray and the city made look like a coronation of sorts – was just one step in a very long process. That Oak View’s renovation proposal for KeyArena now needs to be thoroughly negotiated, then vetted by the Seattle City Council before an official vote. It doesn’t include all the studies, from transportation to environmental impact – everything Chris Hansen’s plan in SODO has already completed. Streamlined, fast-tracked or not, we’ve still got a ways to go.
Everyone should read Art’s column, because his understanding of Seattle Center is better than most, from raising the point of having to appease hundreds of constituencies from renovating a building in a public park, to the history of conflicts involving past remodels of The Key.
But it’s how “chummy” the Mayor and city officials were with Leiweke that concerned him the most.
Writes Thiel: “City government and Seattle Center staff are too emotionally invested in one outcome, and Leiweke knows it. Seattle needs an independent agency to get it right the first time.”
I agree completely: Hire an independent outside agency – a special counsel of sorts – to vet the deal, and if necessary, negotiate on behalf of the city.
Meanwhile, Stone focuses on why NBA fans prefer the SODO location over KeyArena, correctly contrasting the priorities of Hansen and Leiweke – with Hansen’s main goal from Day One being bringing the Sonics back to Seattle. If an NHL team comes to Seattle, he asks, will the NBA will even be a priority for the stakeholders involved at a redeveloped Key, from Oak View to the city to the NHL tenant already there.
And while I wish Stone would have also focused on transportation, transit and the fact that many believe the SODO location to be a significantly better experience for consumers living outside the city, that’s a point we’ll continue hammering home here every single week.
But tonight I want to drive home one point both writers alluded to, but I'll be more specific: In Seattle, not only is there a unique regional pride, there are two traits I believe are the most important to sports fans in our area when it comes to stakeholders and ownership groups: Loyalty and humility.
Look at the hero we associate with saving the Seahawks – Paul Allen - and the hero we associate with saving the Mariners - Slade Gorton. Neither gave false promises, and both stepped up when this city needed them most. There was no overture, there was no hubris – only humility, followed by results. The same could be said of Sounders co-owner Adrian Hanauer, who was the perfect man to lead the MLS transition because of his loyalty to the fans, to the region, and frankly, his modesty.
Now look at those considered as villains: From Clay Bennett to Howard Schultz, to Ken Behring to Jeff Smulyan, and even former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels. There was no loyalty. There was no humility. There was everything from lip service to boastfulness to a total lack of contrition. There was no loyalty to the region – no feeling like any of them were doing a service to our community.
I don’t know Tim Leiweke, and his intentions might be true. But we’ve been burned so many times before, that many of us are hesitant to give him a chance when there’s another plan led by a man in Chris Hansen who’s already proven he has all the traits we value the most: Loyalty, humility, and an undoubted sense of regional pride.
I also have a hard time trusting a lame duck Mayor who makes a grand deal out of a selection we already knew was happening – almost like celebrating a bill a long time before it even becomes a law. A mayor, who in my opinion, is so worried about saving a city asset, he can’t see the forest through the trees – from the many conflicts surrounding KeyArena’s location to the value and positive effects of a private enterprise in SODO.
Again, Leiweke’s plan might be the best one, and his intentions might be pure. But if that’s the case, it’s up to him to prove it down the line. And until he does, because of our city’s past, there will always be doubt, there will always be uncertainty. And there will always be questions about whether he’s the next out-of-town salesman who doesn’t have our best interests in mind.