In what will be a decade-long absence, March Madness will finally return to Seattle in 2015 as it was announced Key Arena will host the second- and third-round games of the tournament.
Seattle hasn't hosted any of the tournament games since 2004, while Portland and Spokane have hosted multiple times since then. Spokane, in fact, also announced games for the 2014 tournament -- the city's fourth time hosting since 2003.
The Seattle Times reports that organizers in Seattle believe they have had a hard time getting an NCAA bid because Key Arena has an image problem nationally. Key Arena used to be the home of the Sonics until Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City. In the process, he lambasted Key Arena as a suitable space to hold professional basketball events.
"Everybody in this country wants these events, so when you have 50 cities bidding on these slots you can't just put in a good bid, you can't just show you can do a good job, you have to show you can do a great job," said Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission. "You have to be able to show the community is really going to rally behind it."
Seattle hosted the Final Four in 1989 and in 1995 but, after the demolition of the Kingdome, no arena had the capacity to host the event. Key Arena seats 17,072 people. Since the Sonics left, Key Arena is primarily used to host the Seattle Storm and the Seattle University men's basketball team.
The University of Washington will serve as the host school for the games in Seattle. If the Huskies make the tournament they will not be able to play their games in Seattle per NCAA tournament rules. Both Gonzaga and Washington State would be able to be seeded in Seattle. However, if it comes to that, the Huskies might not even have to travel very far. Portland has also been selected to host second- and third-round games in 2015.
Morton esitmates the tournament could generate anywhere from $8 million to $15 million depending on which teams get seeded in Seattle.