Pro: A new Sodo arena will unite our community
Few entities still manage to unite a community in the same manner as professional sports franchises. That's why we should support Chris Hansen's proposal to build a new Sodo arena.
Special to The Times
SONICS fans are used to being kicked around. Since the team's sale in 2006, we have watched helplessly as Seattle's political leadership disregarded our passion and ignored our team's place in our city's history.
We let people tell us that our love of sports was somehow less culturally relevant than other civic interests and we felt powerless to change that perception.
The scene at Seattle City Hall last week told an entirely different story. The most important public hearing on the arena proposal put forward by Seattle native Chris Hansen was so packed that both the main Bertha Knight Landes Room and council chambers upstairs were filled to capacity.
As Sonics fans told their stories eloquently and respectfully to members of the councils, I was struck by the diversity of our supporters. During its 41 years in Seattle, the Sonics touched fans as young as the 19-year-old who lost out on the chance to grow up with the team and as old as the fan who recalled how painful it was to watch the Braves leave Milwaukee some 40-plus years ago. They touched fans of all races and from all backgrounds, both men and women, and those who drove from as far as Yakima and Thurston County to show their support.
Within an increasingly fragmented society, few entities still manage to unite a community in the same manner as professional sports franchises. Pulling for the same team creates lasting bonds that cut across cultural divisions like race, wealth or political views. Shared sports memories bridge cultural gaps and provide common ground between generations that help us to reach and engage with our youth.
To find examples of the power of the community created by professional sports, look no further than the way New Orleans rallied around the Saints' run to a Super Bowl win in 2010 as the city recovered from the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina three and a half years earlier. Sports arenas and stadiums were places for healing in New York in the wake of 9/11. And the arrival of our former team has helped Oklahoma City create a more positive national image than the memory of the tragic Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.
I challenge anyone to tell fans of the Saints or the Thunder that their teams provide no cultural value.
Critics of public investment in facilities may not know that the city funded more than a third of the construction of Benaroya Hall and more than 40 percent of the cost of building McCaw Hall. I believe that, like the arts, professional sports are a necessary part of a vibrant, world-class city. Each of these civic facilities caters primarily to the wealthier class while sports facilities allow for activities with a far greater communitywide appeal.
A strong coalition has come together to support the NBA's return to Seattle. From the music community to youth sports to business leaders, there is widespread interest in bringing back the Sonics that has translated into the large, diverse crowds at last week's hearing and the recent rally held at Occidental Park.
The passion and unrelenting presence of fans in support of this project are making a noticeable political difference. Just days after the strong showing of support, the Metropolitan King County Council elected to move the arena proposal out of committee and schedule it for a full vote.
The battle to bring back the SuperSonics has brought our community together in ways we never could have expected. Now, united, it is time for us to make one last push before the councils vote. Please visit SonicsArena.com or ArenaSolution.org to join these efforts and find out how you can help. In the final moments, we can all make a difference.
Brian Robinson leads Arena Solution, a group supporting efforts to bring a new arena for sports and concerts to the Puget Sound. He also started the group Save Our Sonics.