Commentary: Mayor Murray’s NBA legacy in Seattle could ultimately rival Greg Nickels and David Stern’s

Imagine getting an A+ on a thesis paper. Your professor even recommends it for a national award. But the school won’t pay for the entry fee.

So you offer to pay the fee. But the professor surprisingly says, “Nah, I’ve got other priorities right now.”

Wait a minute. You loved my paper. The content’s the same. I’m paying the fee!

The same senselessness applies to the Seattle Department of Transportation putting an indefinite hold on Chris Hansen’s street vacation request for a SODO Arena – the same department that formally recommended the same street vacation less than two years ago.

To be clear, the new application is virtually the same as the old one. The street is the same barren, insignificant road it’s always been. And yet, SDOT says it’s assembling its resources toward a KeyArena option instead.

Resources?!? It needs a once-over by an unpaid intern to make sure everything’s the same as last time!

Instead, this is a baffling power play by SDOT and presumably Mayor Ed Murray to prevent competition, which in my opinion is the best path toward getting BOTH an NBA and NHL team. And frankly, the city council – and local NBA fans - should be furious for being played like this.

But look at the timeline of events this week, and it all becomes clear:

1. On Monday, the city council approves a resolution, defining its role in negotiating a potential KeyArena redevelopment.

2. The very same day, these ads (and here) appear in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, asking for Structural Engineering Consultant Services for the Seattle Monorail – a prime transportation option for a KeyArena renovation. The consulting services will pay more than a half million dollars related to upgrades, maintenance and repairs. Remember, Seattle Monorail Services is owned by Port of Seattle Commission President Tom Albro.

3. And then on Tuesday, the City and the Port of Seattle announce a funding deal for the Lander Street Overpass, a project that’s been stalled for more than a decade. The Port, a major opponent of the SODO Arena, votes to increase their contribution by $10 million, and the MOU between the Port and City just happens to include the line: “WHEREAS, the City and Port recognize KeyArena as an important civic asset, a historic anchor to the Seattle Center and the Uptown Neighborhood, and a valuable source of tourism and entertainment revenue for the City.”

It all just sounds SO convenient.

To be clear, Chris Hansen submitted a new request for a street vacation in February. The city’s design commission re-approved the urban design and public benefit of the arena in April. For months, we were told the new request was on track to reach city council sometime this summer to allow the council to reconsider the new privately-funded option.

Instead, the city has blatantly kicked Hansen’s plan to the curb, in turn, sabotaging its own negotiating power with Oak View Group on a KeyArena renovation.

The thing is: A street vacation shouldn’t be SDOT’s decision to make. It’s not Mayor Murray’s decision to make either. It’s the city council that should be making the final call.

Frankly, I think Seattle will get an NHL team at KeyArena. And that’s fantastic! But think about Oak View’s priorities and about Irving Azoff’s stake in that group, given his emphasis on music and live entertainment. Opening up 41 more dates for the NBA - a league asking for more scheduling flexibility - is certainly not in his best interest. Add the massive challenge of finding an ownership group willing to pay more than a billion dollars for an expansion team to be a 3rd party operator without revenue from parking, naming rights and signage, and the NBA prospects at The Key are bleak.

Any politician, including Mayor Murray, who’s been touting “Bring Back Our Sonics” while championing this KeyArena plan should be ashamed for displaying such naivety. Murray, a man who was once paid by the Port of Seattle as a consultant while he was the state’s House Transportation Chair, has sadly put all his eggs in one KeyArena basket, and local Sonics fans could ultimately pay the price.

In fact, it’s ironic Murray wants his legacy to be opening a future path to a Sonics return, yet he’s acted in a similar manner to former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Stern kicked Seattle to the curb, and then used this city as an example to threaten relocation in Sacramento, Milwaukee – even Indiana, Memphis and New Orleans - get new arenas built. Murray has now kicked the SODO plan to the curb, but also seemingly used it in his attempt to not only Make KeyArena Great Again, but as a tool to get the Port of Seattle to increase its contribution to the Lander Street Overpass in return for city support of The Key.

Sonics fans will ultimately be the victims of both Stern and Murray. This mayor also will go down in the same light as Greg Nickels, who turned his back on Sonics fans when they needed him most.

Once again, the backwards bureaucracy of this city wins the day. And the biggest losers are the ones who, as a result of those in charge, may never see an NBA team again.