Former Sonic proposes building a new arena
Fred Brown, captain of the Sonics when they won the 1979 NBA championship, wants to build a new, privately financed $1 billion arena for basketball and hockey in downtown Seattle. Mayor Nickels remains committed to KeyArena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Former Sonic Fred Brown announced plans this morning to develop a privately funded downtown arena for professional basketball and hockey in Seattle.
At a news conference long on vision but short on specifics, Brown and a business partner, public-relations executive Dave Bean, said they're looking for financing and a location for a $1 billion sports and exposition facility to be called the Emerald City Center.
Bean and Brown's partnership, B2 Inc., is looking at five possible locations but singled out the Port of Seattle's Pier 46 as the ideal spot for the facility — which Bean said would be 100 percent privately financed.
"I think we all agree that public funding of sports arenas are over, at least in this city. The model is broken. We believe we have a new model," said Bean, senior director of marketing for WongDoody, a Seattle public-relations and advertising firm that hosted the news conference.
Bean said the new facility could become Seattle's "grand center of commerce and culture," combining sports with major corporate-sponsored exhibition halls similar to the Epcot Center in Florida.
The proposal — which envisions an arena with a retractable roof — assumes the Sonics will leave Seattle and the city will be looking for an expansion team down the road.
Sonics owner Clay Bennett has asked the NBA to move the team to his hometown of Oklahoma City. He hopes to break the team's KeyArena lease, which expires in 2010.
The idea of a Pier 46 arena drew quick skepticism from some local officials.
Port of Seattle spokeswoman Charla Skaggs noted the pier is leased to a South Korean container-shipping company until 2015, and the Port "believes it should continue to be used as a container terminal."
In a statement, Mayor Greg Nickels — who has been seeking to keep the Sonics at KeyArena — said he welcomed "everyone who wants to try and help solve our problem."
But Nickels added, Brown's proposal is "a very long-range vision" and "for the foreseeable future, Pier 46 will remain one of our most active container facilities."
Developer Frank Stagen pitched a Sonics arena plan on Pier 46 in 2003, but the proposal didn't get any traction.
Brown and Bean, who were joined at the news conference by NBA legend Bill Russell, stressed they were not fixated on Pier 46 and mentioned other locations for their project, including Seattle Center and properties near Safeco and Qwest fields.
Brown, nicknamed "Downtown" for his long-range shooting prowess, was the captain of the 1979 NBA champion Sonics team and later worked as an executive for Seafirst and Bank of America.
"There needed to be a new plan, a new plan that people could talk about, people could kind of let resonate and take us to the next level," Brown said.
While declining to offer specifics, Bean and Brown both said they were confident they could raise private money for the $1 billion project.
Bean said the announcement was related to this month's NBA Board of Governors meeting, at which NBA owners will vote whether the Sonics can move to Oklahoma City.
Material from The Associated Press and Seattle Times reporter Bob Young is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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