Three Predictions for the Coming Year on a New Arena, an Old Arena and the Mariners

Hey, it could happen!

By John Levesque January 4, 2017


This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

As every first-year business student knows, a citys economy is not considered world class until said city has erected at least four shrines to professional sports and these shrines remain empty and unused most days of the year. Seattle is knocking on the door of world classiness because it already has KeyArena, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field up and running. Occasionally. Just one more monument to appease the great mass of athletic supporters and were there. Hallelujah!
Its only a matter of time because Chris Hansen, the San Francisco rich guy who wants to build a new arena on First Avenue South and bring pro basketball and pro hockey to Seattle, is this close to getting his way. In October, Hansen revealed that he and his investors are now willing to pay the whole honkin bill for plopping a new arena into the SoDo neighborhood a block from Safeco Field. He still wants a piece of Occidental Way vacated and also expects some tax breaks from the city, but thats how rich guys are. (See: Trump, Donald.) Besides, the people who believe were not world class until the NBA returns to Seattle are salivating over this deal because its the best deal were ever going to get.
Of course, these same people said Hansens previous offer, which would have required that $200 million in public money be plowed into a new arena, was also the best deal we were ever going to get.
Hansens decision to pay more for his arena places the sports economy clearly in the local spotlight this year. Heaven knows we could use more opportunities to pay $9 for a beer and see millionaire athletes selling Jaguars and BMWs on TV. Its the kind of economic shot in the arm that only comes around whenever a sports league is in a coercive mood.

And so, in the spirit of this January issues looking ahead theme, we offer three predictions relating to the regional economy as the Hansen arena intrigue continues to unfold.
Prediction 1: Hansen, who has already spent more than $120 million buying up property in the area of his proposed arena, will persuade the Port of Seattle, his arch nemesis in this melodrama, to fold up its tent and send all cargo-handling operations to Tacoma. That decision will pave the way for so many trendy bars and restaurants with names like Kale & Kumquat or Cobblestone & Wingtip that Hansen will be persuaded to create a private streetcar system to connect Pioneer Square with the burgeoning Stadium District.
Prediction 2: The city-owned KeyArena, whose very future is clouded by the Hansen proposal, will announce plans to house up to 10,000 homeless persons every day. Even on days when the Seattle Storm and Seattle University basketball teams need the building, the city believes the Storm and the Redhawks could use the attendance boost, so it becomes a classic win-win.
Prediction 3: The Seattle Mariners, who still dont like the arena proposal, will channel their hostility onto the field of play and still not win the World Series. (This is called pattern-recognition analysis.) However, always mindful of improving the fan experience because its not whether your team wins or loses, but whether youre inclined not to press charges for being gouged by a vendor the Mariners will introduce several new fan-friendly food items, plus mani/pedi stations in the pricey seats and roving loan officers to assist anyone trying to finance the purchase of hot dogs and sodas for a family of four.
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at [email protected].

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