Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Posts Tagged ‘Seattle

Seattle To Get a New Privately-Funded Retractable-Roof Waterfront Arena and Concert venue?

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(Originally published in Bleacher Report on 10/3/2011)

Don’t look now kids, but remember that wild retractable roof basketball arena that Fred Brown proposed?  The one we all forgot about?

Well rumors are flowing that the concept might not be dead after all, and in-fact is very much alive.  There’s a big group of high-powered suited architects with designer haircuts frantically working on conceptual plans to present to the city.  Names known to many but will not be mentioned here.

Back in 2008 during the failed negotiations to save the professional basketball for Seattle, out of the blue came a rather radical vision led by former Sonic Fred Brown and public-relations executive Dave Bean, to build a new privately funded project known as the Emerald City Center.

It would be a $1 billion sports and exposition complex that would include a a retractable roof arena capable of housing both an NBA and NHL franchise.

Once fans across Seattle stopped laughing and listened to the proposal, it wasn’t as crazy as it sounded.  In fact, it was sorta cool.

Especially since Seattle had a popular “Summer Nights on the Pier” concert series located at Pier 62/63 along Alaskan Way, that was sucking in tourists from across the planet.  That was until, the pier deteriorated so badly that the series had to be relocated.

But it was a big hit all summer long when it was going on, with 18-22 concerts played by well-known artists on warm summer nights with private small craft swaying to soft waves midst the setting sun.  Glistening waters of the Puget Sound, seagulls in the night, the Olympics beyond.  The works!

A huge tourist draw, but the venue was too small for the really big acts.

Seven years ago all the sports stations in Seattle were summoned for a new radical idea for a retractable roof basketball arena on the Seattle waterfront.  Fred Brown’s group didn’t have the funding, nor a secure site, nor even a plan, other than a conceptual plastic model on cardboard.  Hardly the kind of fiscal structure necessary to get the project rolling.

Enter Seattle developer and high-end residential consultant Nitze-Stagen & Co, who has been trying to wrest control of the 89 acre Pier 46 site from the Port of Seattle since before 2003, which back then leased it to the agency’s largest shipping customer, Hanjin, for 10 years with an option to extend it another five.

The Port, with their tight lease deals already signed,  has long scoffed at this group of developers, according to Frank Stagen, who claimed back in 2004 that one port official mocked “You don’t own one spoonful of the dirt” when Stagen’s group were probing for planning details and irritating DCLU officials for info.

Things have moved along ever since.

In fact Nitze-Stagen, the same group that just cut dirt on the new North Lot apartment project by Centurylink Field, and is involved with massively redeveloping parts of the Pioneer Square area, has a glitzy website with snazzy schematic drawings bragging about this Pier 46 project.

Entitled “Vision 46,” the debate for the site was between Containers vs Condos.  Nitze-Stagen argues the entire cargo area, which was created from backfill during the 1970s, should today be redeveloped with a mix of high-density urban village activities, such as a major hotel, thousands of housing units and offices, a cruise ship terminal, retail, education and even a trolley line.

Included in residential buildings and commercial space, is…ahem…an anchor arena building right on the water, that looks very similar to what Fred Brown’s group proposed in 2008.  A new basketball/hockey arena, just perfect for concerts and whatever else might want to retract a roof.

It’s the perfect location too.  Located at the south entrance of the new waterfront tunnel project, there’s already existing freeway connections to nearby Safeco Field, the convention center and the football/soccer stadium.

With all the connections already built, it’s a cinch.  Plus it’s close enough to the ferry’s for walkers, and light rail already connects the area too.  What’s not to love?

And with construction gearing up as the viaduct is about to be razed, the timing appears perfect too. Which is why architects are working frantically behind-the-scenes, on drawings and budgets, and why this group just managed to get the Longshoreman union to agree to let someone else use this site.

A big huge deal and reportedly THE major hurdle that was holding everything up.

Rumored to be key in this project is a retractable roof arena design.  And why not? 

On the water, large crowds of 20-25,000 could swoon to summer tunes with a removed roof in the summer.  Shows wouldn’t have to worry about the weather, because any formerly rained-out events could still carry on.

Especially if the venue was open on the water side, with a “U” shaped arena bowl facing fans towards the Olympic Mountain Range.

Imagine a new Sonics team playing Game 7 of the finals under partly cloudy skies with the water in background.  Imagine an NHL team doing the same.  Or a national political convention with sunsets and flying fish.

Not so crazy an idea after all, now is it?  But enough to get city nimrods on board who still look stupid for their comments about how the Sonics offered no cultural value?

This project has something for everyone, and with private developers leading the charge, we might actually be looking at a viable candidate,  in terms of proposed arenas in the Seattle area that have a chance to be built!

Seattle Seahawk Fan Criticism of Tim Ruskel Over 2009 NFL Aaron Curry Pick Unfair

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Fans in Seattle are aghast at the sudden demotion and trade of a player pre-destined as the next Dick Butkus, before he was drafted with the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

Seahawk management felt this “safe pick” was one where they could not miss, to fill a position they sorely needed filled.  At 6 feet 2 inches and 255 points with 4.52 speed, he seemed like a sure thing.  An expected Pro-Bowler with great personal character, to anchor the fledgling Seahawk defense for years to come.

He was the highest drafted linebacker in franchise history, and the highest linebacker picked in the NFL draft since Lavar Arrington in 2000.   But when he agreed to renegotiate and shorten contract with unguaranteed money, the handwriting was on the wall.  Especially when fourth-round pick KF Wright ultimately won the battle for the starting strong-side spot.

Curry was promptly shipped off to the Oakland Raiders this week, for a paltry seventh-round pick in 2012, a conditional draft pick in 2013, and a case of Cheese Cheetos to be delivered Seahawk headquarters by noon on Friday.

It would be easy to criticize Seahawk management for blowing the pick, but criticism today is merely the worst form of Monday morning quarterbacking done by folks who have no idea what they are talking about.   Who among us has ever drafted a player using the vast complexity it takes to evaluate talent?

In this case, studying old Wake Forest tape does not categorically decipher whether Aaron Curry was truly great because of his own talent, or  because of the talent that surrounded him.  Especially on a team like the feared and loathed Demon Deacons, in the ACC, which is not a football conference that tends to knock the knees of potential opponents.

The third smallest school in FBS in terms of enrollment behind Rice and Tulsa, it is by far, the smallest school playing in a BCS conference.  Therefore it’s not prone to attract national attention unless they upset a more storied football program, which in their case could be anyone they played.

On teams like this, where underrated players are the norm, and these guys surround the favored media-declared superstar, the favored guy might get the accolades when the others actually deserve it.

How difficult it must be, for talent scouts to sort that out.  And even then it’s a gamble.

You can’t tell, for instance, that in the much quicker NFL that he would be slow to decision-make during a play, or that he would tend to overrun plays where he should have stayed home.  How could you know this?

Especially when he showed such promise during his first five games, and had every pundit in the land pointing to his can’t miss credentials as a great guy off the field as well as on.  He is smart, caring, and does everything a professional organization expects of their stars.

It’s not like the Seahawks could have brought in Aaron Curry to play a few games with the professional team before drafting him.  Thus it’s a bit of a cheap shot for fans to rip on then general-manager Tim Ruskell and other Seahawk talent scouts after-the-fact.

Two Seahawk coaches, Jim Mora and Pete Carroll, both targeted Curry as a strong side linebacker, where you have to be strong and athletic and crazed enough to react with instinct instead of head smarts.   And yet in the ACC, where players are certainly not as quick and determined as they are in the NFL, how could you possibly know how Aaron Curry or anyone else for that matter, would react on a professional football field?

You can’t know, all you can do is play the odds.  You can evaluate to your heart’s delight, but it comes down to game day players who have that extra gear that kicks in when games that count start play. 

As a coach and talent scout you can’t measure that in collegiate athletes, all you can do is put stop watches on their speed, and evaluate how they play during a scant handful of post-season games where other college stars are brought together.  Games in which sure-thing picks tend to avoid.

None of this is precise, nor is it guaranteed.  And thus players like Aaron Curry, and Steve Niehaus, and Brian Bosworth, and Rick Mier, all high can’t-miss Seahawk draft picks, went bust.  They didn’t pan out in the long run.

That’s not to say that Aaron Curry will be ensconced with this group for the remainder of his career.  But is to say that the critics need to stuff socks in their pie holes and back off.  It’s very easy to launch missiles from the safety of the unpaid sidelines of fandom.

It’s not so easy when you’re the guy in the hot seat evaluating Aaron Curry and a whole host of other “can’t miss” college football prospects following what could have been a freak high-performance season they may never repeat.  And thus even professional talent scouts miss the sure things while others get lucky finding untapped free agents who eventually become better.

Welcome to the NFL.  Welcome to professional sports.  If it was easy, we’d all be doing it.

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As published at the FanVsFan website:

http://fanvsfan.com/articles/seattle-seahawk-fan-criticism-of-tim-ruskel-over-2009-nfl-aaron-curry-pick-unfair

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Read more from the same author: 

Auburn vs Oregon: Cockroaches and Flying Insects Killed from ESPN’s pregame

or

Bosie State vs Utah in Las Vegas: Broncos Defeat Utes for Absolutely No Reason


Written by PhilCaldwell

October 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

New York’s NFL Giants Surprised by Seattle’s Hapless Seahawks

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Each year, week five of the NFL season exposes which team is a legitimate contender vs which will be wallowing in self pity for the next ten  months.  Yesterday at the Meadowlands was no exception, as the New York Giants were exposed as pretenders in spite of three victories against a single loss going into the game.

Squeakers over a bad Arizona Cardinal team a week following an equally unimpressive win over an unimpressive Eagles team, the Giants needed to make a statement against their third crappy team in a row.  This time it was the Seattle Seahawks, who two weeks prior had been mutilated 24-0 by the Pittsburg Steelers before losing to a decent Atlanta Falcon team off a missed last-second field goal last week in Seattle.

A perfect time to excel, especially when the Seahawk’s starting quarterback Tavaris Jackson, a Vikings cast-off and bad one at that, went down in the third quarter with a shoulder injury while trying to stretch an 11 yard run into 12.  A move that had head coach Pete Carroll still muttering and complaining in the post-game.

But when backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (who?) came in and looked like a metamorphosis of Peyton Manning, mid-way through the third quarter, the vaunted Giant defense looked more like something you might find at an average high school.  Whitehurst absolutely tore apart the Giants, giving the sluggish Seahawk offense exactly what they needed as they blew away New York’s squad of soon-to-be waivered has-beens.

Seattle started the game with an Oregon Duck lookalike effort featuring no huddles and a confused New York contingent, that ultimately yielded seven points in under three minutes.   Not-to-worry, as the Giants answered with their own quick seven play drive as Eli Manning nailed Jake Ballard in the end zone to tie things up.

And after the Seahawks floundered and punted, New York decided to bequeath the Seahawks the ball and the game, with a generous gift on their own 17 when Manning was sacked and fumbled.  But two plays later Seattle returned the favor and fumbled back to the Giants, who put together a pathetic three and out before a two play Seattle scoring drive which landed the visitors a quick 14-7 lead with three minutes left in the first.

It could have easily been a four touchdown lead had things broken differently.  As was, the Giants floundered again, Seattle put together their best drive of the day, a 12 play beauty that consumed almost six minutes off the clock and could have all but ended the game right there, had they not coughed up the ball again at the Giant’s two yard line.

Really ugly football followed for the rest of the half, until Manning finally woke up the crowd with a bomb to Hakeem Nicks down the right side, followed by a quick TD strike to tie things up at 14 with only seconds remaining in the half.

With FOX announcers Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman carrying on about how surprising it was for Seattle to be tied at halftime with the mighty New York Giants, things were about to get a bit nutty.  It started when Seattle’s starting quarterback got nailed trying to stretch a run and left the game.

Following a pretty punt to end the same drive that was downed at the five yard line, Seattle’s Anthony Hargrove nailed New York’s DJ Ware in the end zone on the right side on a first and 10.  Hargrove had slipped around the line unnoticed and Ware had no chance at going anywhere other than to the end zone carpet, and Seattle had a 16-14 lead from a improbable safety.

Several punts later Seattle kicked a 51 yard field goal seconds into the final period to take a 9-14 lead, but it was short-lived when the Giants got their first real break of the game.  Manning dropped back and threw a sideling bomb to Victor Cruz, which was batted straight up in the air by Seattle’s cornerback Richard Sherman.

But sometimes luck dictates the day, and on this play Cruz won the lottery when the ball fell right into this hands with nothing but an open field in front of him.  What should have been a routine incomplete pass turned out to be a 68 yard TD strike and the first New York Giant lead of the day, 22-19 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.

Cruz, and unrecruited out of high school and undrafted into the NFL, demonstrated why with a cheesy shuffle dance following the score that deserved a clothesline cheap shot from anyone nearby (including his own teammates)

But Seattle came right back after the kickoff sailed into the end zone thanks to that dopey rule change moving kickoffs up five yards.   Whitehurst hit Doug Baldwin on a perfectly executed screen play for a quick 20 yards, but followed it with a no-huddle mess that resulted in another punt.

Three plays later Seattle’s Walter Thurmund, demonstrating skills learned while pummeling Pac10 opponents at Oregon, stripped Manning of the ball when Manning was distracted while fighting for additional yardage.

Seattle had the ball on the New York 25, which they did nothing with, but it was close enough to salvage a 43 yard field goal to tie the game at 22 with ten minutes left.  Whitehurst looked terrible, missing receivers by dozens of yards for no particular reason, while newly acquired wide receiver Sidney Rice didn’t bother looking back and missed a sure catch on the following play to force a punt.

At which the Giants answered with their own seven play 80 yard drive, with Manning absolutely picking apart the Seattle defense.  In fact the Giants singed the Seattle defense with three big gainers in a row, and had the ball with a first and goal.  But when Tight End Jake Ballard got whistled for a knuckeheaded false start, the Giants never recovered.

Manning threw the next short pass into a huddle for no apparent reason, and the Giants would end up settling for a field goal to take a disappointing 25-22 lead.  But the drive only consumed a couple minutes off the clock.

Still with seven minutes left and a three point lead, things appeared to be going the Giant’s way with a revved up home crowd and all the momentum.  Seattle, back in their no huddle scheme, struck quick when Whitehurst hit Doug Baldwin for a quick 22 yard gain to the Seattle 42.

But the Giants looked like they had the drive stopped until managed to throw a miracle to Doug Baldwin on a 3rd & 7 for another first down to the Giant’s 47.  Followed by what turned out to be the game-ender.  Whitehurst found a wide open Doug Baldwin on blown coverage for touchdown and a 29-25 lead that would prove fatal.

The Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora gambled and came rushing in as Seattle faked a screen pass, which also got every single Giant defensive back to bite on the play, thereby leaving Baldwin all my his lonesome with nothing but open field in front of him.

Two-and-a-half minutes left, and the Giants needed to make something happen.  Manning hit Ware for a quick 22 yards, then drilled Manningham to get to their own 44 yard line.  But when Manning threw to Victor Cruz in the red zone, Cruz almost made a spectacular one-handed catch at the five yard line, only to have Seattle’s Brandon Browner grab what looked like a Cruz handoff, and raced 95 yards for Seahawk touchdown with just over a minute left.

The second freak play of the day involving Mr Cruz, only this time it turned out catastrophic to the Giant effort.  What should have been a 32-29 lead with no time left, ended up being a 36-25 Seahawk lead with no chance for a comeback.   And when Kam Chancellor intercepted Manning’s pass for the 8th turnover of the day in this slopfest, it was lights out for the Giants.

The Seattle Seahawks,  who looked so lethargic and uninspired against the Steelers two weeks prior, had just managed to march into the New York palace and snatch a win that few believed possible.  The Giants hence left looking like a pretender, while the Seahawks head into a bye week with new-found reason for optimism.

The youngest team in the league, lead by the greatest cheerleading coach since perhaps the great Vince Lombardi of the Packers a century ago.

Who woulda thought?

OKC Thunder: Oklahoma Fans Enjoy Fruits of Dirty Deeds Done While in Seattle

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Remodelofkeyarena_crop_340x234As the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder were motoring through the playoffs before finally losing to Dallasin the Western Conference finals last night, rumblings in Seattle suggest fans are still cranky about all of this.

At halftime of Game 5, Sonicgate folks were rolling out another videodesigned to remind the nation that Oklahoma’s success was at the expense of what went down in Seattle five years prior.

Meanwhile, fan forums in Oklahoma City and many other NBA cities suggest David Stern’s media campaign of lying and distorting the truth, done prior to the move, was effective in deceiving the national public about Seattle’s commitment to it’s team.

But the  war of words continues, as Seattle’s basketball fans will not drop the issue.

On a newspaper forum in Oklahoma City, “Danny,” a hallucinogenic fan writing as if he represented the average person in Seattle, claimed that folks in the Pacific Northwest did not care about any of this, and were  apathetic about their Sonics basketball team.

This, he claimed, was the true reason that the team  left after 41 years.  A message seen frequently in fan comments in Oklahoma City, as if the Thunder faithful wrestle with guilt at their new-found fortune.

Yet in Seattle, outspoken but powerless fan groups seem to be gaining momentum. Just last week the Washington State legislature assembled a task force to explore building a new NBA/NHL arena in the Seattle area.

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Seattle fans have always been the most  passionate and loyal in the country. During the early 1980s following the team’s 1978-79 NBA championship season, 35,000-45,000 Seattle fans routinely jammed the rafters of the Kingdome for regular season games.

While the NBA was packing their bags, a rival professional sports league, soccer’s MLS, discovered that its most successful and best-supported franchise in league history, was surprisingly located in the very same market the NBA abandoned. Teams have since been added in  Vancouver and Portland, creating crazed rivalries between the three Northwest communities.

Five years earlier, basketball fans in Seattle were put in the awkward situation of how to respond to new out-of-town owner Clay Bennett’s devious deeds. Bennett, whose emails have since confirmed, was attempting to make the Sonics as terrible as possible to justify moving the team to his hometown.

Players were kept far away from local media interviews, fan favorites like  Ray Allenwere dealt for draft picks that wouldn’t be productive until years in the future and the team rolled out its worst record in franchise history during its last in Seattle.

Seattle fans had to choose between boycotting games to punish the person trying to move their team or attending games and thereby enabling him to get away with it. Either way, the fans would lose in the end.

Following their appearance in the NBA  Finals 1995-96, Seattle had endured what it considered an inept general manager, Wally Walker, making terrible basketball decisions. These included the firing of popular coach George Karl, who had led Seattle to seven straight years of 60-win seasons, plus puzzling free agent signings of mediocre centers, none of whom worked out.

Newkeyarena_crop_340x234New Key Arena with, entire interior rebuilt and luxury suites added, opening for the 1995-96 season

All this was tolerated by an inept owner, Howard Schultz, who eventually traded all-NBA defensive star Gary Payton in a power dispute. The team continued a downward trend, highlighted by the stunning announcement in 2006, that Oklahoman Clay Bennett had purchased the team for $75 million more than it was worth.

But the situation started a decade prior, when then-owner Barry Ackerley demanded a new arena to replace the dilapidated Seattle Coliseum, which was built for the World’s Fair in 1962.

Plans for a new NBA/NHL stadium were rolled out that would be located where today’s Safeco Field now stands, but those plans were discarded when Ackerley picked the option designed specifically to keep the NHL out of Seattle.

Key Arena was built large enough for the best sight lines in the league but small enough to keep it ever from being attractive to professional hockey. The existing hockey floor can only be viewed by half the patrons, running under the west end of the seating area.

Still, the arena was brand-new in 1995, not the remodeled retread that commissioner David Stern claimed in his now infamous New York press conference in April of 2008.

If you remember, during the tug-of-war with Oklahoma City, the NBA Commissioner claimed that Seattle hadn’t built the NBA an  arena since 1962 and scolded reporters when they tried to correct him. The truth was the paint hadn’t dried on Key Arena before the Sonics and the NBA were back demanding another new arena.

Originalcoliseum_crop_340x234Original Seattle arena prior to complete rebuild in 1995, including floor being lowered 35ft and luxury suites added

Contrary to what Stern claimed, Seattle had actually built the Sonics the first new professional sports stadium, prioritizing the team over the NFL and MLB. The city didn’t ignore the demands of the Sonics like Stern claimed, and David Stern and the NBA not only approved the plans for the new 1995 arena, but also enthusiastically endorsed it after it was built—on  video too.

Five years later the same David Stern was infuriated when, facing the Washington State legislature while begging for more public funds, representatives like Frank Chopp reminded Mr. Stern in very terse and direct language that they had just built the Sonics a new arena.

Still, that didn’t stop new owner Clay Bennett from demanding a new $500 million arena in 2007—funded entirely by taxpayers, of course—to justify moving the team when the community refused.

This while  stripping the team of talent and accumulating draft picks for the future.

Consequently, today’s Thunder team is winning as a direct result of all the deliberate losing in Seattle. The team includes a handful of top-five lottery picks, all attained from losing seasons in Seattle and trading off Sonic veterans.

Most infuriating to fans of Seattle today is that the team has been in Oklahoma for a mere three years but has already enjoyed two years of playoffs, with the latest deep into the Western Conference finals. Clearly Bennett’s plans have worked well, but at the expense of Seattle.

Fanstryingtosaveteam_crop_340x234Desperate Seattle Fans attempt to save team in 2008

Meanwhile, in other cities, players are teaming up in major markets like typical playground bullies, leaving smaller markets like Cleveland in disarray.

But what the NBA wasn’t counting on were the same abandoned fans in Seattle taking matters into their own hands while educating the masses.

Grassroots organizations likesonicsgate.org continue to show up at games and on national TV, embarrassing the efforts of David Stern and Clay Bennett to sweep all of this under the carpet.

Locating Sonicsgate founders behind the players bench in Denver certainly didn’t help and reminded the powers that be that today’s media options make the Seattle situation impossible to ignore.

As the league moves towards an impending lockout, the last thing David Stern needs are cranky Seattle fans embarrassing the NBA while reminding the country of the corruption that removed a storied pillar team from the Pacific Northwest for what most consider a buddy payback!

Read “Seattle’s Lost Supersonics and The Ironic Message Sent By The NBA” by the same author at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483219-seattle-and-the-message-sent-by-the-nba-by-banning-key-arena

Seattle Sonics vs Rep Tina Orwall’s Bill – Childlike Approach to Adult Problem!

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Howardandclay_crop_340x234Representative Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Des Moines,Washington, introduced legislation in Olympia that would extend the “Sports Tax” that paid for Seattle sports stadiums, to become a permanent tax for “Arts and Culture.”

This is the same tax that lawmakers promised voters would only be temporary until all the sports facilities were paid off, thus Orwall’s bill makes many of us cranky on several fronts.

The below is from the article in the Seattle Times, written by Molly Rosbach on the arts and culture bill:,

“The taxes outlined in the House bill are currently going toward paying off the Kingdome, Safeco Field and Qwest Field. The Safeco Field debt is expected to be paid within the year. The House bill extends the 0.5 percent restaurant tax until 2015, even if the Safeco debt is paid off.

“Under the measure, the 3 percent car rental tax and 2 percent hotel tax are extended indefinitely to raise revenue for an expansion of the Washington State Convention Center, affordable housing and Pioneer Square-International District revitalization projects in Seattle.”

Being your basic politician that could fill up several hot air balloons with used car sales rhetoric, Representative Ross Hunter, a Democrat from Medina, claimed:

“It is important to point out that this bill will result in 4,500 new construction jobs and 3,000 long-term jobs in hospitality, and that it is important to have that growth in King County.”  

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If jobs are the goal, then why were politicians with Hunter’s concerns so hostile to the Seattle Supersonics while they were in town, since they too created thousands of jobs for the poor suffering mass of unemployed?

Instead we had a legislature that was fairly hostile to the changing business climate of the Sonics, while this area was still in control of the team.

We all understand why. The city built what we all thought was a state-of-the-art arena, and then a decade later we were told the arena was dilapidated and inadequate before the paint had dried.  If the Mariners and Seahawks tried that same approach today, they’d probably receive a similar reaction.

But is it the NBA we should be blaming?

Aren’t the real villans those who sold the Key Arena project to the community in the first place?

Remember, Key Arena was a compromise project, due to fierce opposition to funding a new building for professional sports.  The same rhetoric we’re hearing today.

If our leaders ignored the needs of the NBA before approving Key Arena, how is it fair to now blame the NBA for the State of Washington building an inadequate facility for long-term use?  We don’t see this problem in Chicago, or other arenas that were built in the mid 1990’s!

The real question is how does it make sense to exclude what potentially could make a project profitable in the long run?

Isn’t there a way to make the convention center project dovetail into an arena project for the NBA and NHL, so that both the sports fan and arts enthusiast win?  Have there been any studies done?  Why not make the two buildings business compatible?

Why does it have to be one or the other?

Basically Tina Orwall, and especially Representative Hasegowa who introduced this silly amendment demanding that no funds could go to professional sports, propose emotional versions of what should be a rational solution. There really is no reason to exclude potential revenue streams, even if it is from the hated NBA!

For more on that angle, let’s take a look at the opinion from Michael Gastineau of KJR950am. Local and beloved radio sports show host, who on Monday 3/7-2011, argued the following during his afternoon gig:

  • “Back in 1995, voters did not reject measures to fund the building of Safeco and Qwest Fields, as so many claim.  They voted down, by a very narrow measure, a referendum to remodel the Kingdome.  Only after legislators realized how strong public support was for keeping the Mariners and Seahawks in town, did they agree to pass legislation to fund Safeco Field.

 

  • “Gas and his KRJ colleagues broadcast at all hours of the day, for the stadium tax that ultimately did build Safeco Field, plus help pay off the Kingdome.  But it was at great personal cost to himself and his colleagues.

 

  • “The people that opposed the measure then, are mostly from the same political camp that now proposes to hijack the tax for other issues that have nothing to do with sports, all while specifically writing into this new bill, that future funds can never go towards sports facilities for professional athletes.

What to do with Sports Tax?

Extend it for Arts and CultureExtend it for New NBA ArenaLet it retireSubmit Vote vote to see results

 

  • “The tax was sold as temporary and would go away.  Thus lawmakers today are making him look bad and his colleagues look bad.

 

  • “Since the tax has always been referred to as a Sports Tax, and since it has been wildly successful to the point of paying off several stadiums early, long before they were expected to be paid off, wouldn’t it make more sense to use future funds to help with a new facility for the NHL and NBA?

 

All excellent points that nobody in Olympia is addressing.

As a former Sonics multi-season ticket-holder and one of many jilted Seattle fans, I too am displeased with the commissioner of professional basketball.  In fact if it were up to me, David Stern would be adrift somewhere off the coast of Yemen.

Nor am I, like most of you, pleased with the self-serving actions of one former-Sonics owner Howard Schultz, who shortly after announcing his responsibility to protect the Sonics as a community asset, committed the ultimate act of treason for extra profit to himself.

But I also appreciate that these fine gentlemen, or others like them, are the guys we have to do business with.  So we can either spend the next four decades making ourselves feel good while flipping them all off, or we can get to work on a viable plan that kills many birds with few stones.

When they were built, corners were cut at both the Kingdome and Key Arena.  In both cases that came back to bite us.

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Seattle has made the same mistake twice, wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in the process, and in the end lost a professional basketball team.  Lost revenue streams directly linked to the absence of professional hockey and basketball in this city, with outdated facilities going mostly unused.

Rather than continuing on this path, perhaps the legislature in Olympia could come up with long term solutions to both host teams AND generate much-needed revenue?  Perhaps actual business people could work on a plan, instead of politicians who have never run an actual business?

To specifically declare that the “Arts and Culture” tax not be used for an arena, that could potentially host events for arts and culture, makes as much sense as banning automobiles from gas stations. It is not a solution, but rather is more “children throwing dirt clods at other children.”

I would suggest the politicians in this city and state, grow up and behave like adults.

That is not to say that what the NBA did to Seattle is acceptable.  It wasn’t. If we ever do business again with the NBA, the city needs to bring that issue up and beat David Stern over the head with it.  Leases should be for 50 years, not 15 years, with increased and more effective consequences in lease language.

But it’s time to get over what happened.  Learn from it, yes.  Hold grudges, no.  Stop introducing bills that ultimately hurt both sports lovers AND haters alike.  Start thinking realistically and long term.

Like them or not, professional sports are a fundamental ingredient to the culture in this country, and they earn communities millions from taxes and tourists when done correctly.  They are great publicity for cities with teams, and they are dovetailed into the arts of each city.

Effective planning requires co-operation from all involved, and it requires all parties working together to make it happen. When one camp accuses the other camp of bogus motives and goals, it hurts BOTH camps.

So the choice has never been “art & culture” vs sports. The choice is either behaving like adults vs  behaving like little kids.  Sadly Representative Orwall’s bill represents the later!

See the full series of six articles on this topic, beginning with part one at:http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483219-seattle-and-the-message-sent-by-the-nba-by-banning-key-arena

Pro Basketball: Time for a Competing Professional League in North America

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This past week the hated and detested commissioner of professional basketball, one pompous David Joel Stern, mentioned on ESDrjsicover_crop_340x234PN’s Bill Simmon’s radio show that he “had regrets” about how both the VancouverGrizzlies and Seattle Supersonics situation went down.

And yet before any tears wandered down the average fan’s chubby little cheeks, giddy with gratitude, folks in the northwest wondered how the one person who single-handedly ruined the markets of an entire region, could now expect those same people to take him seriously?

It was like listening to a used car salesman try to sell a recently-stiffed customer another dented heap with a bad muffler.

Not to be cruel, but Mr. Stern clearly still does not “get it.”

He still did not admit, for instance, his own blatant lies about Seattle’s support of its team while attempting to justify reasons for moving it. Nor did he mention how theNBA showed no loyalty back whatsoever, towards a fan base with four decades of demonstrated crazed passion.

What should Mr. Stern have said?

Well for starters, he could have apologized for his own inaccurate accusations, where he claimed a city that had just built a brand new NBA palace was somehow in the wrong for refusing to build another new palace less than a decade later!

Or perhaps he could have mentioned the NBA’s attempt to break the lease, that his league used to get the building built in the first place!

So David Stern now has regrets?  Why would any NW NBA fan care about this?

Vancouver’s glittering show last year for the Olympic Winter Games, probably didn’t help Stern’s happy meter either. Multiple packed arenas melted ear drums, by Vancouver fans for foreign teams they hardly knew, as they battled for hockey supremacy.

The same fans that the NBA claimed would not support a basketball franchise, were lining the sidelines of everything from snow skiing to ice curling.  Clearly the commissioner was either lying about this too, or had seriously misunderstood the problems in Vancouver like he did in Seattle.

And to make matters worse, another professional sports league seized the opportunity left wide open in the abandoned Northwest.  Major League Soccer not only recognized the potential rivalry games offered between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, but planted three new expansion franchises with plans to showcase these historical rivalries in nationally televised games.

Seattle has astounded the world soccer community with sold out stadiums, for a second tier sport,  demonstrating that Northwest fans are the best in the nation for supporting their teams!

And all this just months after David Stern and his band of nitwits, moved an established team to the sticks, claiming support issues.

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You would think the absurdity of all of this might render the beloved commissioner a bit less arrogant!  And yet here was Mr. Stern on ESPN, scolding the interviewer for asking obvious questions of the esteemed commissioner.

It was enough to make the most devoted NBA fan scowl with mockery. What on earth is wrong with this man!?

And now several years after all of this, with the same cities fighting painful budget cuts for essential services due to a depressed economy, Mr Stern is still arguing that new billion dollar arenas should be built in the very cities the NBA stiffed.

A league with severe fiscal issues due to paying mediocre players like former-Sonic Rashard Lewis over $20 million per season, expects tax payers to bail them out?  Why would liberated cities jump back in bed with an unstable league that did this to them?

Clearly David Stern does not understand how disgusted Northwest fans are with him or his league!

In fact Mr Stern probably aught to be more concerned with the huge opportunity his league left two dozen major markets across the nation. No other major sport has as many open sports facilities without teams, courtesy of a bumbling basketball league.

Arenas already-built, empty and draining city funds, are desperate for new tenants.

Rather than threatening cities that already are bitter about how they were treated by the NBA, perhaps a better course would be concern that these same abandoned cities don’t start their own basketball league that would compete with the NBA.

One that is better-behaved, better run, and more fiscally responsible!

FIFA, the world soccer moderator, claims that the best size for a professional sports leagues is from 18-24 teams. More than that is too large. Great news for a new potential basketball conference interested in balanced scheduling!

With all these open markets, a new league could look something like the below:

Western Conference

1)        Vancouver

2)        Seattle

3)        San Jose

4)        Anaheim

5)        Riverside

6)        Long Beach

7)        San Diego

8)        Las Vegas

Central Division

9)       St Louis

10)     Kansas City

11)     Pittsburgh

12)     Baltimore

13)     Lincoln

14)     Montreal

15)     Cincinnati

16)     Kentucky

17)     Chicago (south side)

18)     Chicago (north side)

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Eastern Division

19)     Louisville

20)     Tampa Bay

21)     Jacksonville

22)     Connecticut

23)     New Jersey

24)     Long Island, NY

25)     Buffalo

26)     Edmonton

27)     Birmingham

Obviously these are not the sum total of all the potential open markets, nor are they particularly the best markets. They are merely listed to show the potential of how many markets currently are without teams.

What does this mean?

Simply that the conditions are ripe for a new league. With angry fans vowing they are finished with the NBA, furious over how they have been treated, and cities with empty buildings in a fledgling economy, why not start a new professional league?  It would solve fiscal problems for cities fed up with the NBA.

Most of the potential open markets have long since demonstrated capacity for supporting professional sports. Furthermore, the NBA has proven that moderate markets could work, especially if the league was actally fiscally disciplined with player salaries.

Considering how poorly run the NBA has been over the past 20 years, and considering how out-of-control the NBA’s salary structure is, a new league might very well out-survive the NBA!  It could be the last man standing in a dozen years.

New ideas might make a new league cutting-edge, replacing older leagues with unsolvable problems.

Could cities, or fan bases, own the teams rather than millionaire owners? Could they be structured like the Green Bay Packers, with stock sold and team leaders voted in and out?

With lockouts looming and the NBA threatening contraction, if there was ever a time for a new league with a fresh approach to professional sports, the time is NOW!

For more information, be sure to watch the superb documentary at:  www.sonicgate.org

Read part one – Seattle and The Ironic Message Sent By The NBA by Phil Caldwell October 5, 2010, at:   http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483219-seattle-and-the-message-sent-by-the-nba-by-banning-key-arena

Read part three – NBA’s Financial Situation: David Stern‘s Conflicting Message About the Thunder   http://bleacherreport.com/articles/510189-david-sterns-conflicting-message-about-the-thunder-nbas-finanical-situation

Oklahoma City Thunder: New Forbes NBA Numbers Certainly Nothing To Celebrate!

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Bad news for Thunder fans, but apparently good news for those of you in Oklahoma who failed your high school math classes.

Recently our pals at Forbes released new profit and loss numbers for currentNBA teams, and immediately Oklahoma City fans sent me scathing rebukes and mockery over several articles penned last fall on this very subject.  I had the gall to doubt that any NBA team could last long-term in your barren community of dust storms and inbred cattle.

According to Forbes last month, the Thunder are the seventh most profitable franchise in the NBA with a $22.6 million “operating income” for this past year of 2009-10. Party hype and popping off from delirious Oakie fans soon followed, celebrating this fantastic Forbes news! This wonderful NBA experiment with itty-bitty villages is supposedly a huge success! How marvelous!

Well not so fast, my tumble-weeded cursed brethren.  Let’s take a look at the deeper meaning of these numbers, shall we?

The Thunder’s “Ford Center,” which opened in 2002 at a cost of $121 million (or one-eighth the cost of building Orlando‘s new arena), generated $45 million in revenue during the first full year of operations with the heisted Seattle NBA team in 2008-09.

Allegedly the Thunder had a “operating income” of $12.7 million, according to Forbes, with “Player Expenses” costing $73 million.

1731706_crop_340x234Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The following year, last year, the second season of operating with an NBA franchise, the profit doubled to nearly $22.6 million, with Oklahoma City fans jubilent over their new-found success.

Wonderful news indeed, if one doesn’t study the true meaning. However once one looks deeper and compares those numbers with future numbers, suddenly things don’t look so chipper.

First of all, the reason the “operating profit” of the team is up, is directly related to the player salary number being down.  Way down.

In 2009-10, revenue increased from $111 million to $118 million, but “player expenses” decreased from $73 million to $62 million, while the gate receipts too, decreased by a million.  And this after a playoff series with the Lakers, which makes it even more depressing.

Another little nugget from the Forbes report that Oklahoma City faithful like to ignore, is this paragraph:

“The Oklahoma City Arena is in the middle of a $92 million makeover funded by a one-cent sales tax that includes a new scoreboard, new restaurants and remodeled suites. It should be completed some time in 2011. A new $14 million practice facility funded by the same sales tax should also be completed this year. The original costs of the arena renovation and practice facility combined were planned at $121 million but cut back to $104 million because of less than expected tax revenue.”

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So in other words, in order to generate this wonderful “operating income” of $22.6 million for the team, all the city government had to do was fork over a paltry $104 million of tax payer money for stadium improvements.

Wow!!!  What a deal for tax payers!!!

But back to the numbers. This was from a team with the third lowest payroll in the league, loaded with new budding superstars on the verge of demanding both yours and your neighbor’s family farms.

According to salary claims by USA Today and the online Hoops-Hype, here are the 2009-10 player salaries of the top six Oklahoma City Thunder players:

Nick Collison $6,250,000

Nenad Kristic $5,256,000

Kevin Durant $4,796,880

James Harden $4,004,160

Russell Westbrook $3,755,640

Jeff Green $3,516,960

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All others $45,420,360

Total player salaries: $73,000,000

Keep in mind that all of these numbers are based on rookie contracts, which of course, are short-term bargains for the Thunder.

This past year, all of you were ecstatic over Kevin Durant’s new five-year extension worth $86 million. Meanwhile the other stars of this team, namely Harden, Green and Westbrook, are also playing under their rookie contracts.

What will these numbers look like in several years?  Using the same reports, here’s what the 2013-14 numbers might look like:

Nick Collison $2,243,003 (according to the Hoops-Hype report)

Nenad Kristic $5,800,000 (only if his salary doesn’t increase for the next four years, which is of course unlikely)

Kevin Durant $16,460,480 (according to the Hoops-Hype report)

James Harden $13,000,000 (speculating)

Russell Westbrook $16,000,000 (speculating)

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Jeff Green $15,000,000 (speculating)

All others $45,420,360 (the same amount that it is today, which again, is very unlikely it would remain this low)

Total player salaries: $113,923,842

Back to the 2009-10 Forbes report, which had the Thunder player salaries totaled at $62,000,000.  Taking the updated salaries from 2013-14, that’s an increase in player salary of nearly $52,000,000.

Now this where it gets fun for those of us in Seattle, still cranky about having our team ripped off by a bunch of dirt-bag oil geeks.

Take that wonderful cushy operating income of $22,600,000, and subtract the new player salaries of $52,000,000, and the Oklahoma City Thunder (run by that genius and flat-topped businessman named Clay Bennett) will be losing some $29,400,000 annually.

And that’s if you’re lucky and if the same core players are kept without your bench demanding more cash.

According to the Hoops-Hype report, Durant’s salary increases to $19,317,680 by 2014-15.  And we can assume all the other star salaries will increase too, since four of these five players are young with soon-to-be backloaded contracts.

The point being that all of this ….. the entire Oklahoma City story of how terrific the team is doing now that they split the Seattle scene ……. has been a one big snow job of epic proportions.  It’s not fair to boast of profits when your team has stripped all the player contracts down to the bare minimum, to entice a community to spend money on a business loser.

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If anything, OKC fans should be mourning the soon-to-be bankrupt Thunder. Or you could be celebrating how much additional money the community will be obliged to pony up, to help keep this team of multi-millionaires viable.

What should be especially annoying to Thunder fans and haters alike, is knowing that integrity-challengedDavid Stern and his buddies will soon be chastising your city for forcing poor suffering NBA athletes to play their games in your dilapidated and totally inadequate facility (add violins here).

In Seattle, Key Arena’s paint was barely dried before Stern and then-owner Howard Schultz started whining about how horrible playing conditions were.  And this was not even a decade after the place had been completely rebuilt, with everything but the original rafters replaced.

Later Stern and Bennett demanded a brand new $500 million arena be built with 100 percent taxpayer funds. It would be like the Mariners and Seahawks demanding new stadiums today.

Most alarming to alert fans is knowing the team will not be anywhere near as good three years from now, as it is today. Clay Bennett and his oil cronies are not about to lose money on this venture, in spite of the rhetoric promised to the community.

Bottom line is that the Thunder will have worse players, less money, higher ticket prices and an owner both laughing at you behind the scenes while whimpering about how he needs your money to keep the team from moving.

So what I’m saying here Oklahoma City fans, is that this recent financial news is anything but  cheerful.  Things are about to get ugly like they were in Seattle before this con job put on you by your billionaire heroes. Only this time, you all get to learn this the hard way like fans of Seattle did!

Read Phil’s latest article on this subject at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/610697-time-for-a-competing-professional-basketball-league-in-north-america

Or read part one of the six part series on NBA arenas, this article refers to, at:http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483219-seattle-and-the-message-sent-by-the-nba-by-banning-key-arena

 

 

Sources for the above article:

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/32/basketball-values-09_Oklahoma-City-Thunder_329710.html

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2011/32/basketball-valuations-11_land.html

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2010/32/basketball-valuations-11_Oklahoma-City-Thunder_329710.html

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/32/nba08_Oklahoma-City-Thunder_329710.html

http://hoopshype.com/salaries/oklahoma_city.htm