So this morning the Governor gets involved. Interesting
Let me place my bet that her "people who are serious about addressing the arena situation" will include David Sabey with a proposal on his Associated Grocers site. From what I'm hearing Sabey has been aggressive in lobbying directly to the governor and has had the attention of her office for some time. My understanding was that news regarding this site would start to surface in September or October but everyones actions may have been pushed up due to the latest media barrage as well as the Muckleshoots comments this week.
There may be a showdown brewing between Sabey and the Muckleshoots and it probably bodes well for Sonics fans. Both would like to be primary option for a new arena site and both have, to some extent worked to poison the well for the other. I had actually heard that due to the recent referee scandal and the resulting "gambling" stigma" the Muckleshoots were going to quietly bow out of their pursuit but that seems proven to be untrue. Did the Sabey camp plant that rumor? Not sure but there is a lot of intrigue swirling. We want these two groups scraping and fighting for our teams. That competition will bring higher offers to the table while we put pressure on Bennet. That is a scenario that could result in a new building and potentially a sale of the teams to local ownership.
Here is my expectation: The Governor will at some point introduce a massive plan for development on the 58 acre associated grocer site. That will include an arena, a LINK light rail transit stop, a hotel, etc. It would effectively create a convention center that is connected by mass transit to the airport and a good chunk of Seattle. Incorporating the mass transit allows the possibility for more state and possibly federal dollars. This will be a huge development concievably with some other private investment made.
My further expectation is that, at some point, Bennett will balk at the discussions and a cry will have to be made to the league to force him to sell. I just can no longer buy that he is making productive efforts to stay. I hope I'm wrong on that and will apologize to him if so.
Early on in this process the Muckleshoots let it be known that if a move was attempted they intended to be very vocal in promoting local ownership and a privately financed arena. They have put a really good offer on the table and are willing essentially to step up and say "There is a local solution here that Bennett has ignored. If he won't take it you have to block a move and we, or another local ownership group, will step up and preserve the heritage of this team." It has created a contentious relationship with Clay from day one. I believe that Sabey, after initially thinking he could cooperate with Clay has reached the same point.
Nickels meanwhile has done a great job in taking the buyout off the table. Don't think that we were not a part of this process, nor that our actions didn't have a lot to do with all the conversations this week. Sources throughout the mayors office indicate that Clay very much intended to discuss a buyout and that our public stance made it "impossible" for the mayor to do so. My understanding is that the Mayor called Bennett to inform him of this and that is when things started to shake loose.
Suddenly all the players are starting to rally themselves towards a solution. Mayor Nickels needs to get into the game and address the Seattle Center. I expect him to do so. There is way too much sentiment citywide that revitalizing the center is the only politically palatable solution for this problem. Even Nick LIcata and Frank Chopp have made some movement on this issue and if a proposal fixes the center and addresses educational needs they could back off their opposition. Memorial Stadium is the property of Seattle School district and some immediate funding could be pumped into the schools if that parcel was purchased for a new arena.
Nickels, the Muckleshoots and Sabey/Gregoire are in a race to get their proposals out of the gate, and Clay Bennett is going to have to evaluate all options. It is the type of scenario that could result in a deal with the biggest question being whether it is possible for Bennett to be part of that deal, or whether he will need to sell to make it happen.
From our end we need to keep the pressure up and support every solution. If we can pass I-93 with an overwhelming margin during this coming legislative session it will give the politicians the ammo they need to step out and say "See, people do support these teams and do want us to find a solution." That will be the tipping point.