Returning the NBA to the Puget Sound region should continue to be a priority. Now Seattle has a chance to do it right.
DISAPPOINTED sports fans may view Monday’s City Council vote against a street vacation as dooming chances of the NBA returning to Seattle.
Actually the council vote might have the opposite effect.
In a 5-4 vote, the council declined to convert a street into an ill-conceived arena with dim prospects for an NBA team. The majority, led by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, showed that Seattle expects a better deal with real prospects for a team and also supports its bread-and-butter maritime industrial sector.
By pressing pause, the council gave the region a chance to explore better options for an NBA venue than the Sodo arena proposed by San Francisco investment manager Chris Hansen.
That location pitted pro-sports against family-wage jobs and threatened a rail and Port of Seattle corridor that supports business across the state. Proceeding with the proposal was guaranteed to bring years of lawsuits. How could we cheer a team that put breadwinners out of work?
The City Council vote also sent a message to other potential team investors that Hansen’s lock on the Seattle market is less certain. They have an opportunity to propose less divisive alternatives.
Hansen, meanwhile, is still in the game. If he miraculously secures a team before his agreement with Seattle and King County expires in late 2017, the council might be convinced to reconsider vacating part of Occidental Avenue South.
Returning the NBA to the region should continue to be a priority. We miss the Sonics. The situation is painful to fans who got their hopes up after Hansen’s deal was made in 2012.
Really, the turning point came last month, when both the NBA and the NHL made it clear they don’t expect to provide teams in time for Hansen’s deadline. Having an arena “shovel ready” was no longer as important; they effectively said they don’t support Hansen’s current proposal.
From then on, the vacation of Occidental became a hollow gesture. The question of vacating the street was largely an opportunity for politicians to curry favor with sports fans and provide cover for reneging on the 2017 deadline.
Bagshaw showed great leadership standing up and agitating for this common-sense position long before it was known that a majority shared her view.
Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, M. Lorena González and Debora Juarezare commended for making a tough but correct decision and asserting their independence from Mayor Ed Murray and the City Hall establishment that were steamrolling the Hansen proposal.
The region now has a chance to do this right.