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Brian Robinson - Moving Forward With Arena Options

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Long time Sonics advocate Brian Robinson shares his thoughts.

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Editor's note:  Brian wrote this up and tried to FanPost it but was having tech issues.  So I'm positing it for him without edit to keep in that spirit.  --Big Chris


Last night's public unveiling of potential alternative investment groups competing to bring the NBA and NHL to our region is yet another turning point in this long and convoluted saga.

I was a witness to the distraction that can occur when multiple sites and bidders are working against each other, undermining each others plans and creating a lack of clarity that makes it even harder to accomplish this already very difficult task. Between 2008 and 2010 intense competition between sites in Bellevue and Seattle split the loyalty of supporters and was a significant factor in neither city seeming to gain momentum in their separate efforts.

When we formed ArenaSolution.org in 2010 one of the core values we decided was essential for the organization was that we would be supportive of all locations and efforts equally. At the time I had many difficult conversations with key individuals informing them that they had to set aside their loyalty to a specific market and, for the good of the movement as a whole agree that they would support either location regardless of their personal preference. I vowed to serve as a referee, explaining to people that I would call out publicly any effort to undermine their competitor's efforts. I had to get very aggressive with that threat on several occasions.

"It is a race, not a wrestling match." I would say, "The competitors have to run as fast as they can and whoever gets to the finish line first gets the team. Nobody is allowed to, let alone encouraged, to trip or interfere in any way with the other runners."

At the time we established that value my personal opinion was that Bellevue was in firm command of the process. Bellevue city government had been aggressive and I was involved in and supportive of their plans. Our first ArenaSolution.org meeting occurred at the Expedia Tower in Bellevue with the city manager in attendance and an assumption that forces were gathering in support of his project.

Chris Hansen changed all that when he came out of nowhere to assume leadership over the Sonics movement. Chris was the first private investor to contribute substantial resources and provide a viable plan. He earned the trust of Sonics fans by consistently demonstrating that he is at his core a fan himself. He got something done at a time when most people weren't even trying and paid a big personal price fighting on our behalf in Sacramento.

Since that time I have expressed on multiple occasions my friendship and support of Chris. I've remembered how damaging it is to have competitive plans and even worse red herring distractions such as the ill-timed Emerald City Center proposal put forward by Fred Brown. That proposal was not viable enough to withstand even the most basic level of scrutiny but nonetheless the timing of its release and the distraction it caused was significantly damaging to the arena efforts at the time.

In an effort to avoid this type of conflict moving forward the post-ArenaSolution mentality has been to support Hansen unilaterally and dismiss alternative options that clearly were not as viable as his more advanced Sodo proposal. To take the metaphor further the race had been run, Chris had won and there was no sense allowing disgruntled losers to upset the post-event festivities.

The emergence of significant names such as Thomas Tull and Jac Sperling, combined with the acknowledgment of a potentially viable alternative site owned by David Sabey can and should force a re-evaluation of this approach. It is appropriate for Sonics supporters to consider whether supporting Hansen's efforts unilaterally or welcoming competing ownership groups will ultimately be more likely to result in the Sonics return.

I expect to hear more from Thomas Tull and am aware of other groups with equally credible names. It is my expectation that these groups may also choose to emerge now that Ray Bartozek has broken the ice. It is up to Hansen and his team to respond and present a credible case for why we should dismiss these alternative efforts or to seal the deal by completing their EIS and demonstrating a plan for franchise acquisition.

This whole situation puts me in an awkward personal position as I place great value on my relationship with Chris Hansen. Chris has worked in support of the fans in a way which I believe deserves personal loyalty. However with him, as with the city of Bellevue and others before them I can only do my best to be clear and candid in my position and act as professionally as possible.

Some associates and I have had limited contact with alternative ownership groups over the past several weeks and years. I am expressing to these competitive groups that I will keep any conversations confidential from Hansen and his people and I intend to honor that obligation as conversations emerge.

Several weeks ago I suggested to the operators of this site that they be prepared to shift their coverage in a way that challenges Hansen for answers more directly. I believe that in order to retain credibility this site must be a representative of the fans and the city and should avoid being viewed as cheerleaders or lackey's of any particular ownership group.

I will not withhold key assets such as mailing lists, historical documents and key contacts from any ownership group that requests them. In addition we will be inviting all potential ownership groups to utilized SonicsRising as an outlet to distribute their messages directly to the fans. Interested parties will be assigned to specific reporters so that they do not have to consider potential conflicts of interest when dealing with me. A good example of this approach would be during the last mayoral election when Mike Baker took leadership in supporting the Murray campaign while I wrote in support of Mike McGinn.

At this time I remain a fan, supportive of bringing the Sonics back regardless of ownership. I do intend to consider whether it is best for me to work in support of Hansen's efforts exclusively. If a decision is made that my doing so is in the best interest of everybody involved I will clearly convey that change of position to the readers of this site and my other supporters so that there is no ambiguity about my status. I will not put myself in a position where I claim neutrality while at the same time working to advance Hansen's agenda and undermine others.

On a personal note I have to decide whether I have any interest in going through this whole rodeo again. I want to let people know IN ADVANCE that my professional obligations have changed in a way that will not allow me to have the same visible role that I held previously so I hope that people will not perceive my intermittent participation as an indicator of a change of position. I've put too much time and energy into the Sonics over the years and this time, no matter who is making moves or what I think of those moves, I am going to put my family and profession first. There is no scenario where I will be as "all in" as before.

One thing I want to urge all the fans to do is to remember how quickly these announcements come and go. As fans, and especially as fans who have been through so much hardship and toil we deserve to get excited with each and every bit of news but we should withhold significant reaction until we see more final outcomes. This could blow over very quickly and a resolution to the EIS within the next 90 days or discrediting of the Tukwila site would put us right back where we were before.

Stay the course. Get excited about all the news but don't allow yourself to become emotionally attached to any of it. The only real celebration party is going to happen at tip off of game one. Until that happens we are only cheering for the process and not the outcome.