The City of Seattle is known for a lot of things - coffee, Microsoft (Redmond, WA but whatever), Amazon, the Space Needle, fish-mongers hurling fish at each other. What a lof of people don't know is that the city is also U.S. champions on dragging their feet on any and every issue to come across the table.
With that in mind, Thursday night the skeptical Seattle City Council held another public hearing on the proposed arena deal hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen has presented to the city in an effort to lure a basketball team back to the Emerald City.
In a nutshell, Hansen's proposal calls for a $490 million sports and entertainment value to be built in the city's SoDo District - home to both Safeco Field and Century Link Stadium already. Approximately $200 million would be raised in public financing.
Over 500 people showed up for the hearing, a heavy majority of them pro-arena. Of those, 132 participants wished to voice an opinion and Councilmember Tim Burgess in a good faith move (not good if he wanted any sleep) promised all who wanted to get a chance to speak would.
Hansen did not attend, saying through a representative that his views have already been expressed repeatedly. But if anything, tonight had to be good for Hansen's final goal, as a skeptical City Council didn't have much vocal opposition outside of an environmental lawyer worried about impact in the largely industrial area and the Port of Seattle reiterating its worries about hotels, restaurants, and bars jeopardizing freight mobility.
The issue of the "Sonics Arena" as the residents of Seattle call it has been exposing the problems of when major infrastructure decisions involve sports teams. It is no question that many Seattle sports fans look back on the day Clay Bennett skipped off to Oklahoma City as the day that their mother, father, grandparents, and entire being died. After Hansen emerged with a somewhat viable plan to bring a team back here, some Seattle sports fans were ready right then and there to give him a key to the city.
But building an arena is a big deal, regardless of how you cut that cake. The City of Seattle is either doing its due diligence, or just dragging their feet and trying to figure out a way to strong arm a team into a Key Arena that goes largely unused throughout the year.
If anything, tonight's public hearing proved another eye-opening experience for the City Council - the public appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of it. Although the Port of Seattle is a constituent of the city, so are the many people who took time out of their day to sit through an eternally long hearing or took to twitter to voice support.
It is time for the council to do what elected officials do. Make some progress, whether that progress be forward progress or backwards progress, just make some progress. Hansen didn't even feel the need to show up because his opinion has been said. The 500 people? That opinion has been said. The port? That opinion has been said. That environmental lawyer worried about SoDo? Don't really get that one - but it has also already been said. Worries about the economics of it all? That opinion has been said.
Everything has been said. Lets just see something actually get done please.