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Seattle arena: Why we need street vacation now

It is important to vacate Occidental Avenue, because it is the last major hurdle for Chris Hansen's project to become shovel ready.

Occidental Avenue needs a vacation.
Occidental Avenue needs a vacation.

What's the rush? Why do we need to vacate Occidental Avenue right now, when we don't have an NBA franchise lined up and there is no "NHL-first" option in the MOU?

Those are common talking points in the narrative of SoDo arena opposition in recent weeks. I don't completely blame maritime interests for making that argument. If I were completely opposed to a project, regardless of circumstance and with a lack of facts, I might do the same.

But here's my answer: The Philadelphia 76ers might be for sale.

Notice that I didn't say "the Philadelphia 76ers might be for sale and the league might let Chris Hansen move them to Seattle." I don't believe for one second that Adam Silver will allow that to happen.

Raise your hand, however, if you knew last week that the Philly team would likely be for sale. Raise your hand if you thought the Los Angeles Clippers would be for sale before the racism of Donald Sterling came to a head. There are still those who believe that the Clips will move north in 2016, though I'm not amongst them. Raise your hand if you knew the Atlanta Hawks would be for sale before that was announced.

Here's a painful one. Raise your hand if you knew that the Seattle SuperSonics were for sale before Howard Schultz sold them to Clay Bennett?

I suspect that none of my readers are raising their hands right now. Fists, maybe, but not hands.

My point is that NBA franchises are never for sale until they are, and that sports leagues never choose to expand until they do. One of these days, a team that can be moved will come up for sale. One of these days, the league will decide to expand.

While it's far from certain that one of those things will happen before the MOU expires in 2017, it's also far from certain that neither will happen.

The last thing we need is for one of those opportunities to materialize when we're not ready for it. We don't want to have to call a city council meeting at the last minute to move an alley a little bit to the left, because the Seattle City Council doesn't exactly turn on a dime.

We need to be shovel ready for our next chance. Vacating Occidental Avenue is the last major hurdle for that.