Ex-Sonic Fred Brown backs plan for new arena
Fred Brown never shied away from the long shot. You don't get the nickname "Downtown" for sinking a bunch of layups. So in many ways, it...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Fred Brown never shied away from the long shot. You don't get the nickname "Downtown" for sinking a bunch of layups.
So in many ways, it makes sense the former Sonics sharpshooter is behind a far-fetched plan that might save professional basketball in Seattle.
"I've taken big shots before and this, really, is not a long shot," said the captain of the 1979 NBA championship team. "But I would agree that it's certainly not a slam dunk, either."
Brown and public-relations executive Dave Bean proposed a plan to build Emerald City Center, a privately financed $1 billion sports and exposition complex that would include a retractable-roof arena capable of housing the Sonics and an NHL team.
Admittedly, the idea is undefined.
For starters, Brown declined to identify investors or provide a specific plan on how he's going to fund the project. He hasn't secured a site, though he's considering five options, including Pier 46. He has spoken with Gov. Christine Gregoire, Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims. However, Brown doesn't have the support of civic leaders who still are tied to a KeyArena renovation plan.
But none of that seems to matter to Brown, who talked candidly after Tuesday morning's news conference and said he's a little hesitant to re-enter the public arena after two decades in the private sector.
"I'm like anybody else in that we present a business plan and we try to see it through to its fullest fruition," he said. "If the plan does not come to fruition, then there's going to be hits. There's going to be hits right now, I can tell you."
Brown, who turns 60 in August, doesn't need this type of scrutiny.
He has spent the past 18 months in retirement after ending a 15-year career at Seafirst and Bank of America, where he was a senior vice president.
Every Saturday morning at 7:30, he plays tennis. He travels frequently and is an avid golfer. He dabbles in real estate and manages financial portfolios for NBA friends. He also holds a seat on the board at the Bank of Tacoma and is an ambassador for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Retirement is good, Brown said.
But when out-of-town investors bought the Sonics and it became apparent the team is moving to Oklahoma City, he began formulating a plan to keep the NBA in Seattle.
"I feel very, very strongly about this community, and I for one do not want the NBA to leave," Brown said. "I want the NBA to stay here. And if the NBA is saying it wants Seattle leaders to step up, then we have to step up."
Brown said he spoke with NBA commissioner David Stern, who told him "stop bringing me KeyArena and bring me something else."
Last June, Brown began having substantive talks with Bean, a senior director for WongDoody, a Seattle public-relations and advertising firm. They met 30 years ago, collaborated during the 1990 Goodwill Games and maintained a friendship that resulted in B2 Inc., their Seattle-based consulting company.
"This is a serious venture," Bean said. "We wouldn't be putting our names and our reputations behind this if we weren't serious."
Still, it's unclear if Brown wants to be a consultant, a developer or an NBA owner.
He said he was happy in the banking industry but admitted he's always fancied a chance to own and operate a basketball team much like his former teammate Wally Walker and good friend Bill Russell, who attended Tuesday's news conference.
"Everybody has a lot of questions, and right now I don't have all the answers," Brown said. "In fact, we don't have many answers right now, but in a few weeks or months I suspect we will. As we go forward, we'll get a better handle on everything.
"But as we've said all along, every great idea has to start somewhere. We've talked about big and vision and I believe that. I wouldn't be here if I didn't, but then I've never been afraid of taking chances."
• F Damien Wilkins is not with the team for tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers for personal reasons.
• Sonics guard Kevin Durant won the Western Conference rookie of the month honor for the fourth time. The Sonics have also began a media campaign promoting Durant for rookie of the year.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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