A pulsating mass of people is on its feet, thousands of eyes intent, focused. There's an investment reflected in each face, an anticipation betrayed internally only by the collective pit in every gut. That hole is a dank cave that can only be filled by victory. The nervous moments, the agony. The Jubilation. All for a group of men playing a game thousands of miles away.
This is the setting in cities across the country. Chicago has been filling up Grant Park like it's the 2008 election every time the US Men's soccer team takes the field in Brazil. New York has had huge crowds in Times Square, full of people just there to watch their team play, together with a horde of like-minded people. Even Kansas City has a large plaza packed shoulder-to-shoulder with the Red White and Blue. ESPN shows these crowds after every big moment, working both to demonstrate a culture and advertise for the cities who celebrate that sport the biggest.
Every indication is that Seattle should be one of those cities broadcast across the ESPN footprint. They get record crowds (40,000 avg) for the game domestically, doubling up the next-best team. Ratings for the USA-Germany game were fourth in the country. Only a few short months ago, Seattle showed how good it is at celebrating a winner. And yet, no national cameras were here to capture the joy. They instead showed places like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Things may be different Tuesday when the Sounders host a viewing party at the Centurylink Field Event Center, but the fact is that we don't have a good place around here to get a big crowd together and watch a game. Not like Chicago these days. Not like Vancouver for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The American Outlaws did their best, setting up a big screen at Fuel next to Occidental Park. But they couldn't pack the people in, not the way those other cities do.
One of the best aspects of Chris Hansen's proposed arena is the big outdoor screen displayed on the business operations section of the building. The feature would be one unique to the city. It remains to be seen how visible the screen would be when an afternoon sun settles on it from the west, but the projected image above a large public plaza seems tailor made for something like this.
It is easy to envision fans of every team with a local rooting interest coming out and just enjoying the pageantry and lively atmosphere that comes with a throng of cheering, chanting fanatics. One can get the sense of what it would be like by remembering back to the Sonics Rally two years ago. And for really big events, additional screens could be set up all the way down to Edgar Martinez Drive.
For a playoff series that goes both home and away, Hansen's Arena would be the place to be, a home away from home. An American League Championship series, an NBA Finals, a Stanley Cup. Rain or shine. It doesn't even have to be the playoffs either: Just going there to watch as the Sonics travel to Los Angeles or the Midwest could be fun, even in limited numbers (if ownership elects to show regular season games). Other big events could be shown as well, like presidential inaugurations or the passing of laws (Prop 502 anyone?)
Beyond just having our team back and adding one more, the arena can add to the culture of our city in a number of ways. Others have covered the events of the building, but this new place can be an everyday destination for the hardcore sports nut. Because there's nothing quite like being soaked in the beers of a thousand fellow fans.