The City Hall public hearing on the proposed Sodo sports arena could have been a pre-2006 Sonics game. Hundreds of people showed up at the July 19 meeting to share their thoughts on hedge fund manager Chris Hansen’s proposed sports and entertainment complex.
For most in attendance, the proposed Sodo arena, which could require a public investment of $200 million, means the return of the much-loved Seattle SuperSonics, and possibly an nhl team. It was a sea of green and gold, including signs imploring city leaders to “Bring Back Our Sonics.”
Many pro-arena speakers also voiced concern over what the King County and Seattle City councils public do not know about the ArenaCo proposal. They asked for more research to be done on the Memorandum of Understanding (mou) and for that information to be relayed back to the public before any decision is made.
The biggest concerns were the port, traffic, taxes, privatization of Key Arena and gentrification of the Sodo area.
Tay Yoshitani, ceo of the Port of Seattle, said the arena could seriously affect cargo operations at the port and, consequently, risk thousands of port and longshoremen jobs.
Beth Sullivan, president of the Union of State Technicians, cited concern over the privatization of Key Arena as part of the mou. When she spoke, a throng of union workers in blue
T-shirts stood up in support. The biggest concern: A new arena could negatively impact those who currently depend on Key Arena events for part of their income.
Few spoke out against the arena, but some supported it under the condition that the council ensure the mou would result in more local jobs and no loss of health care benefits for workers, for both those who could be hired to work developing the arena and those who currently work at the Key.
The greatest turnout seemed to be among Sonics fans. Two people showed up with cards signed by more than 2,000 people and a petition signed by more than 12,600 supporting the proposal. Speakers talked about memories of Sonics games past, the civic and cultural value of having an nba team and the benefit it could have on local businesses in the Sodo and downtown areas.
One fan, a Seattle high school student named Ryan, remembered how attending Sonics’s games as a kid brought him closer to his dad. He said signing the mou was about more than just a new stadium, it was about creating memories, it was about a sense of community, but mostly, it was about love.
“I loved the Sonics, and the Sonics loved me back,” he said as the crowd broke out in applause. “A lot of people in this room feel that way.”
Public comments on the mou are still being accepted. The city council will continue deliberations; they may vote as early as August 1.