Seattle is a booming economic market yet the city doesn’t have an NBA or NHL franchise because the 1962 city owned facility does not meet 21st century state of the art NBA or NHL arena standards. Seattle has a long hockey history. A team playing out of Seattle was the first American based team to win a Stanley Cup in 1917. The city was in line for a 1976 expansion team but the NHL pulled expansion plans on ice. A number of team owners over the years have kicked the tires to see if they wanted to pick up and move to Seattle. The list includes Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Phoenix.
The NBA expanded in 1966 adding teams in Seattle and San Diego. The league wanted a strong west coast presence for national TV purposes and to get big TV dollars. The NBA team was Seattle’s first major league team. Seattle didn’t listen to NBA Commissioner David Stern in 2007 when he told city leaders to keep Clayton Bennettt happy and the SuperSonics in town, they would need to build a new facility. Seattle balked.
In the aftermath of the 2008 deal between Oklahoma City-NBA franchise holder Clayton Bennett and the city of Seattle, which allowed Bennett to break his lease with the city’s “financially inadequate” basketball arena, there was one question that needed to be answered but wasn’t: Why didn’t fans, the very people who support professional sports, have a seat at the table? Didn’t Bennett and Seattle officials consider the loyalty of the SuperSonics fans who have put their hard-earned dollars into the franchise? Aren’t fans important?
The answer was no.
Bennett didn’t even use the “fans matter” or a “team brings a lot of money into the community” argument in the lawsuit attempting to break the lease. He had an economic professor at the University of Alberta, Brad Humphreys, testify that he studied the relocation of every major professional sports team over the past 40 years, and discovered no discernible harm to the local economy of the cities that lost teams.
“When a team leaves, they don’t take that consumer spending with them … it simply gets spent on other entertainment activities,” Humphreys said.
The truth is owners want a new revenue-producing facility that comes with government financial support whenever they can find it. If Seattle builds an arena, an owner in the NBA or NHL or both will come.
There is money in Seattle.
Seattle has the TV market and the corporate community to be successful in the NBA or NHL.