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Thiel: "Momentum is Gone"

Art Thiel gets a bad rap by Sonics fans, but he seems to be pretty plugged in to the local arena opposition.

Edited by Tiffany Villigan

According to Art Thiel, Chris Hansen's momentum may have gone the way of Mike McGinn, and that is out the door. Indeed, Hansen has lost arguably his biggest political ally with McGinn being defeated by Ed Murray. And yes, Hansen has no NBA team in his crosshairs at the moment, and the NHL sounds like it's still scratching its beard on what to do with possibly the best market it's never had, with what Thiel calls "periodic cruel teases but no serious relocation ideas." (Expansion, Art?) Now, Thiel says, the arena opponents are banding together, combining their efforts, and "armoring up." The dragon also seemingly has a new head: the railroads.

This echoes a report from April done by King5, quoting a letter from BNSF Railway executive director Terry Finn to Seattle City Council President Sally Clark. The letter stated that previous promises of improving the freight capacity of the streets surrounding CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field had not been fulfilled, and that the Arena Review Panel did not address how more traffic caused by a new SoDo arena would worsen these areas of concern.

"BNSF believes a much more focused look at traffic and parking impacts as well as the job and economic benefits of our industrial maritime area must be carefully weighed before the city takes any action toward approval of the current arena proposal," the letter read.

Now is the time, according to Thiel, for Hansen to consider one thing he hasn't up to this point: a new location. While the Sonics Without Subsidies group is arguing against the financing system for the arena, the Port of Seattle, the Mariners and BNSF are all more concerned about the site. Many political figures would rather see a new arena at Seattle Center, either replacing KeyArena or at Memorial Stadium. The big problem here, says Thiel, is that Hansen would not be able to own the land for "his real money-maker: The entertainment district he wants to create on the SoDo site" (something Hansen has denied). I'm not sure why, if Hansen wanted to build said entertainment district, he couldn't still do so on the land he already owns, but I digress.

However, our own Brian Robinson seems to be of the mindset that Bellevue is still the end goal for the arena detractors. Robinson, co-founder of Save Our Sonics and former President of Arena Solution, agrees that Hansen's opponents have been energized by his recent lack of activity, at least publicly.

"Articles like this are part of the plan," Robinson says. "His opponents are working hard to spread their message and create the perception that Chris has stumbled. They want people to believe that making the move to a Bellevue site is simply a strategic adjustment for Hansen and that it is necessary to save the day.

"It's the same old group of guys, they have just had more time to think about how they package their efforts to undermine his plan," Robinson continues. "Maritime interests, the Port of Seattle and Hansen's Eastside competitors have always struggled to deal with his incredible popularity and hope that this narrative will allow them to attack him without angering his political allies and corporate supporters."

Robinson is not surprised to see arena opponents making another attempt to derail the SoDo arena project and acknowledges that they have gained some momentum over the last eight months. Regardless, he thinks they will have a tough time changing the outcome more than a year after the city and county both voted to approve a binding MOU with Hansen. "The vote happened," Robinson says. "These guys lost badly last time because the facts were not on their side. Until they change some of those facts it is just more of the same from them."

Do you agree with Thiel? Should Hansen back down to his opponents and pick a new location, or should he stand firm and say SoDo or no go? Vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments section.