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How Paul Allen saved the Seahawks when hope seemed lost

SEATTLE – Take a moment to step back and really think about the moments that wouldn’t have happened without Paul Allen.

Think about Beastquake.

Think about that miracle comeback against the Green Bay Packers in the 2015 NFC Championship.

Think about that Super Bowl XLVIII title.

Some of Seattle Seahawks’ fans’ most cherished memories never would’ve happened if Allen hadn’t stepped in to buy the Seattle Seahawks.

“Moving vans had actually packed up the Seahawks in Kirkland - they were actually turning into the Anaheim Seahawks,” Seahawks vice president Bert Kolde said.

The team’s owner at the time, Ken Behring, made an announcement that crushed Western Washington.

“It is with great regret that I am announcing today that the NFL franchise that we purchased in 1988 is leaving Seattle,” Behring infamously announced on Feb. 2, 1996.

Two days later, the movers arrived.

“It was one of the saddest days of my life,” Seahawks play-by-play announcer Steve Raible said.

Enter Allen. He was a Seattle native, and, for many fans, he was a knight in shining armor.

“He wanted to repay the people of Seattle for all of his success by keeping the team here," said Gary Locke, who was elected Governor of Washington later that year.

Allen would call himself “thrilled and honored” to own the team.

“Sports really brings a community together,” he said in recent years. “And given my long history with the city, I thought it would be a great thing to keep the team in Seattle.”

The road from deciding he’d be interested in buying the team to actually closing the deal was a long one. The Kingdome had fallen into disrepair, and Allen made his offer contingent on the state partnering with him to tear it down and build a new stadium.

So in 1997, the decision went to voters in the form of Referendum 48, which asked the public to shoulder $300 million of what was projected to be a $425 million bill for what would become CenturyLink Field. The state-wide ballot narrowly passed with 51 percent of the vote, authorizing surtaxes on parking and tickets at Seahawks games, an extension of King County’s hotel-motel tax, some new lottery games and a sales-tax credit in King County.

Down came the Kingdome.

In its place grew what was at first known as Seahawks Stadium, a state-of-the-art sports palace for football and soccer.

Under Allen, the Seahawks made 12 playoff appearances.

In 2005, they won the NFC Championship – which brought their first Super Bowl.

And eight years later, they finally won the whole thing.

“One of the best things about it was seeing how gratified Paul was,” said Peter McLoughlin, who until recently was the Seahawks’ president and the CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment. “How proud he was to holding that Lombardi Trophy. He had made it happen.”

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