By Bob Santos
FOR NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Chris Hansen, a wealthy guy who earns his living moving other people’s money around, seems extra rich right now. He wants to build a multi-purpose arena that would house NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and concerts. Hansen has acquired several hundred acres of land in the Sodo area, southwest of the International District.
The Port of Seattle, the businesses and industries along the waterfront, and the Sodo neighborhood are concerned about the impacts on their businesses — especially vehicular traffic during business hours. The Port of Seattle has concerns because their business partners load and unload freight all hours of the day and night.
Forty years ago, Inter*Im and the Committee for Corrective Action voiced these same concerns about the impacts the planned Kingdome would have on the International District. Inter*Im, the Committee for Corrective Action, and many other Asian American activists and their supporters staged demonstrations, marches, and rallies to voice opposition to the construction of the Kingdome.
A representative group from these activists met with King County Executive John Spellman, Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman, Seattle City Council members, and King County Council members to present a list of demands that included mitigation from traffic and noise during construction, jobs at the construction site, free passes for the elderly neighborhood residents to sporting events, public funds for a community health center, and a commitment from local government to support the construction of decent affordable housing for the elderly living in the impacted areas.
The Kingdome was built and the International District survived with a partial list of the demands met. Hundreds of units of housing for seniors and working families were constructed, including the multilingual and multicultural International Community Health Center (ICHS). Other social services for the limited speaking residents were established, like the Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS), the Chinese Information Services Center (CISC), the Denise Louie Early Childhood Education Center, the Danny Woo Community Garden, and the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Association (SCIDPDA).
Should the new multi-purpose arena be built?
I’m skeptical that a new NBA basketball team, if moved to Seattle, would draw the anticipated 15,000 to 18,000 fans the area would need to attract for each game. We must remember that any team we attract to Seattle will sit among teams with the lowest attendance records and have historically losing seasons.
I worked on a solution to keep the Sonics from moving several years ago. I believed Clay Bennett, the new owner of the Sonics, when he announced publicly that he would not move the team to another city if he found another site besides Key Arena for a new arena.
A meeting was held at the home of former NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Russell, who invited Clay Bennett to meet with a group of Tribal leaders I brought from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, who were then interested in donating the use of tribal land they owned adjacent to the Emerald Downs Horse Racing Tract, to build a new sports arena. The Sonics could then expand their Seattle fan base to include South King County, Tacoma, Auburn, Kent, Renton, and Bellevue. This innovative approach did not happen and you know the rest. Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City, changed the name of the team to the Thunder, and lost in the NBA finals to the Miami Heat.
Do I support another NBA basketball team in Seattle? I’ve lived the past four years without an NBA basketball team and my life didn’t change. (end)