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ArenaSolution

(warning: Long personal therapy session below)

People tend to forget that I had no background in any of this when it all started. ZERO, NADA, ZIP.

As the webmaster for Sonicscentral I had written only a single article when I first bluffed my way into Sonics media day. 2 years later I had been to every single practice under a media credential I probably didn't deserve. I was terrified that if I missed a day they would somehow realize that I had never belonged there in the first place. I got to live every fans dream meeting all the players and trying my best to relay that experience on this blog.

When the team was sold Steve Pyeatt approached me about joining him to form Save Our Sonics and I must admit in hindsight I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no understanding of the complicated nuances of both sports and politics. I really didn't get the size and scope of money and power involved.

It was all the best time of my life. through the process I learned more than I ever expected to learn, I met the best friends i could ever ask for, and frankly I have gotten to do some really cool stuff. I sometimes say that Jason Reid and I are the only people in Seattle who truly benefited from having the team leave and feel some guilt that I would not trade the friendships I have made to get the team back.

I like to think that my sincere appreciation of the experience is why people have been so supportive of me. I have tried hard to repay that support with a persistence that some people just simply don't get. I have pretty much just kept going and going on this issue past the point where any sane person would have quit despite getting my ass kicked really good in a public forum by the powers that be.

Despite the fun of it all I decided to quit last January. SOS had run its course and I really felt that my team had lost its credibility after trying and failing repeatedly. It was time for some new people to step forward and give it a new try and those new people could not step forward easily until I stepped aside.

I sent a somewhat satirical "retirement" announcement to all of the great people I've met in this process and began to visit them one by one to wrap things up and introduce the new guy who wanted to pick up the torch. I got pretty excited to spend some time with the wife and kids.

It was about my third visit when someone of pretty good influence just looked at me and said "You can't quit! There's too much background information that nobody new will be able to pick up quickly."

I explained that I had really burnt out and that I would consider further involvement but that me and the core group of SOS hardcore participants needed help. We'd been at it a long time and were perpetually frustrated at the lack of assistance that came our way.

"Thats funny." Said the person I was talking to. "The one thing I consistently hear about you is that you don't ask people for help."

I thought about that for a while and realize that he had been right. I had always been told that I needed to measure my “asks” and had accepted that as fact. Nowhere are “asks” treated as tradable currency more than poliics and sports.

I decided to go out there and spend them. Use them all, not leaving any left and see what came of it. I made asks. Not small nuanced asks, but serious asks. What can you do and when will you do it? I went out to all the people I had met and I found almost to a person that not only were they willing to help but that they had been really frustrated for a long time that they were not invited to do so. People felt powerless to make a difference on this issue.

From that point we started taking meetings. Lots of meetings. Probably 200 meetings in the last 6 months. I started getting introductions to new people, asking them for referrals, and explaining that we wanted help.

The feedback was consistent.

The people with the ability to influence this issue all perceived too many obstacles to doing so and we had unintentionally excluded too many people for too many reasons. 58 of the most influential people in the community had cared enough to band together and form the Basketball Club of Seattle. All of them worried that there was no way to get involved without drawing attention and derision to their families and companies. NOT A SINGLE ONE IS HAPPY WITH THE OUTCOME. Others own Starbucks stock. Many participated in the campaigns of Christine Gregoire or Greg Nickels. Some serve on charitable boards with Howard Schultz. Many, many others just felt that the baggage and the history of this issue made it a non-winnable cause. Good people who want to make a difference use their energy in the community to do positive things. They don't use waste that energy beating a dead horse or calling people names on sports radio.

I have since realized that this same toxic environment was a big part of my problem. So many people tell me they want to help but so few of the helpers were really productive. What they really needed was a personal therapy session. I would meet people and we would take 2 hours of my day to complain about the Thunder, announce their hatred for David Stern, and try to figure out what went wrong. Without thinking it through I had just stopped taking the meetings because they weren't productive uses of my time.

Digesting all this feedback I started to ask the question of people "Would you be involved if all this negativity didn't exist?"

The answer was usually a resounding yes. People want to help.

So I started going into the meetings with some new material.

1) This is going to be fun and rewarding for the participants in the same way it has been fun and rewarding for me.

2) I am going to be direct in my asks for help. It's a hard problem and we need lots of people working hard.

3) I will not waste anyone’s time or energy complaining about the past or assigning blame.

4) I will instead use that time and energy productively to try to figure out how to bring the team back.

5) Nobody is excluded based on past actions, involvement, controversy, or any other reason. We need people willing to help and EVERYBODY is welcome.

From the moment we made those changes it seemed like some momentum started to build. People with substantial resume's began to offer their name in support as well as their time and advice. In addition it felt good. I became really aware of just how inefficient our previous efforts had been.

ArenaSolution.org is going to make a difference and I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of it all. After 5 years of "winging it" I now have a really substantial group of people whom I can go to for advice and strategy. Those people are working independently and in sub-groups to help advance the cause and I get to watch it all unfold without having to be the driver on every concept and idea.

We are working very hard to get others to adopt some of these same principles. The days of litigation cloak and dagger meetings need to end. While there are legitimate business reasons for discretion in any transaction there is also a need for the business and political leaders to normalize the conversation. This is not some conspiracy that we have to trick the public into. This is not something that people should be scared to discuss or advocate for. They should talk about its pros and cons like they do any other public/private partnership.

We’re going to talk openly and honestly about the concept of franchise relocation. If successful we are going to break some hearts in another city somewhere. We’ll be helping those who commit to doing so with honesty and respect. It will suck but it won't be unethical.

We are site and ownership group agnostic. We’ve gone to the trouble to define what we think a viable arena plan entails and we will lend our support to any and all groups that have one. There is no favoritism. We wish everybody the best. Many people have complained about that and some have refused to participate because they only support Seattle or they think Bellevue is the answer. I wish them the best and tell them I think they are too early for this distinction. Without broad support neither city (nor any of the dark horse smaller municipalities) will get close enough to closing the deal for our support to matter. In all likelihood there will be a point where we have to choose one over the others. When it gets there I am going to be clear and unambiguous about it. No games.

We will not tolerate any municipality or group undermining another’s efforts. This is a sprint to the finish line and if a city is worried about losing out to their neighbor then they need to work harder on their own efforts rather than derailing the competition. We can and will make it known if any individual sacrifices the public good for their own efforts. We have a lot of influential people who are going to hear about it firsthand and everybody is committed to the concept.

More information about ArenaSolution.org including our arena criteria, mission, and list of values are available at our website. Please visit the site, follow us on twitter @ArenaSolution and like us on facebook.

If you own a company, have connections of value, or valuable name recognition within the community please e-mail us at join@arenasolution.org to consider joining our advisory committee. PLEASE REFER YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES TO DO THE SAME.

If you would like to help in any way please e-mail volunteer@arenasolution.org. Your e-mail should indicate any skills, experience, or qualifications you believe will be helpful, whether you live in the area, and a rough description of the time and work commitment you are willing to make. We have need for everything from internet research to event staff to legal and accounting help.
Merry Christmas to all of you.