Today's news of a suddenly emerging, 100% privately funded arena plan in Sacramento brought back a pretty amazing memory that I had actually forgotten.
On April 2nd, 2008, just a few months before the Sonics relocated to OKC a press conference was called to unveil "The Emerald City Center" a futuristic open air, 100% privately funded building concept that would be built on Pier 46. The project was backed by Sonics Legend Fred Brown and David Bean.
Now I had known about (and actively tried to scuttle) the press conference for several days. I met with Dave Bean and Fred Brown for about 45 minutes prior to it starting, working hard to work on messaging that would be "least damaging" to the existing proposal to renovate KeyArena. Dave and Fred were adamant that they had a good plan that would gain momentum and that the NBA was supportive. I held an equally strong opinion that we needed 1 plan with unified support behind it. The distraction of debating which one was superior or dividing a support coalition that was already stretched remarkably thin was potentially costly at that juncture. I remember being terrified that our opposition would seize the opportunity to mount campaign highlighting that "There are options to complete this without public money." campaign that would resonate with the public and overwhelm our more more fully developed and realistic plans. I urged them to hold off on their rollout until after they had seen whether the KeyArena plan was successful.
My dad and I had a morning meeting downtown that day so I remember clearly that he accompanied me to the press conference. It was his first time to see me be interviewed, to interact with all those big shots and be offering my opinion like it mattered. I was really excited that he came with.
After things died down a little bit my dad and I went outside to the front sidewalk. We were facing the street and talking over the outcome of the day when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
There behind us was Bill Russell. Bill had an arm on each of our shoulders and said "I just want you to know how much I love to see a father and a son being together, working together and obviously so supportive of each other. Good for you guys!"
That was a really special moment that I had almost forgotten. We thanked Bill, stood in a little circle and chitchatted for a few minutes and of course never got a picture. It was one of three times I got to speak to the legendary Bill Russell and a turning point in my fathers support and understanding of my mission with the Sonics.
At the end of it all both Dave and I were wrong. His plan never gained any steam and it never really resonated with the media as credible enough for our opposition to latch on to.
I had almost forgotten about Bill Russell but I remember really clearly having to force myself to smile and tell the cameras that "more options are always welcome and we are glad so many people want to bring the Sonics back." but knowing damn well that this was a distraction at a time we could not afford one.
I never actually wrote a full article on the Emerald City Center but here are our comments from that day.