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May 16, 2013 at 7:27 AM

NBA in Seattle: Our day will come… at Seattle Center

The morning after hearing that the NBA has rejected Chris Hansen’s offer to buy the Sacramento Kings, I’m listening to the song “Our Day Will Come.” You can listen along on SoundCloud below.

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Like I said before in my column last week, “Sonics fans, it’s time to give your heart a break,” I believe that the Sonics are coming back to Seattle, eventually. I want an NBA team back in the city.

But I’m relieved this specific bid didn’t work out because Sodo is the wrong place to put an arena. The rightful home of the Sonics isn’t just Seattle, it’s Seattle Center. To take a future NBA franchise away from the Center is removing the Center’s anchor tenant.

A deal could be worked out for a future NBA team to play at an arena built on the site of the Center’s Memorial Stadium, which Seattle Schools wants to sell to the city. That would allow a team to play at KeyArena while a new stadium is built.

But it’s on the city to come up with a deal that would make it more attractive for Hansen’s investment group to build an arena at the Center instead of Sodo, where Hansen says construction costs are higher. I also said in the column that I would support public financing of an arena at Memorial Stadium because it would benefit Seattle Center, a public asset. (Note: I speak only for myself here, and not the editorial board.)

What I didn’t mention in my earlier column is that I cannot stomach the gentrification of Sodo. I don’t believe that Chris Hansen wants to gentrify Sodo, which he said in an Opinion Northwest Q&A last week, “Chris Hansen on Sonics arena: ‘Our vision would not look or feel anything like L.A. Live.’ “ But there are other real estate interests who do want to turn Sodo into Belltown.

Efficient traffic flow is simply too important to this trade-dependent state, and the Port of Seattle depends on the traffic routes in Sodo. When shipping times go up, shipping companies direct their containers to other ports.

Many manufacturing businesses thrive in Sodo, as Danny Westneat reported in his news side column. These businesses would be pushed out by higher rents if Sodo gentrifies. These are businesses making goods in America, not outsourcing it to Bangladesh factories made of hay. (Metaphoric hay.)

My father was a serial entrepreneur in L.A. He started a trucking company, a freight consolidator for trans-Pacific trade and a garment factory. He made clothes in America.

All of his businesses were based in industrial areas where he could afford the rent as a business startup. These industrial areas were all a 90-minute drive from our house. If Sodo gets turned into restaurants, condos and shops, those businesses will probably move to South King County, and the diversity of the city’s economy will shrink. Good-bye Rosie the Riveter. Hope you like Auburn.

An arena in Sodo would be like the random seed that landed in a 10-inch planting strip next to our old house. It was a little weed, then it was a sapling we kept kicking as we walked by. Then it was a 10-foot tree with a three-inch trunk growing across our driveway like a parking gate. We had to chop down and dig out the tree.

We can’t chop down and dig out once a neighborhood gentrifies.

It’s the job of the new mayor after November’s election to go back to the drawing board with Hansen, Steve Ballmer, the Nordstroms and the rest of their investors. Make preserving both Seattle Center, and Sodo, the priority in bringing the Sonics back. Their day will come.

Comments | More in Audio | Topics: sacramento kings, sonics arena


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