At Tuesday's public hearing for Chris Hansen's Seattle Arena project, the opponents of the development kept using one particular buzzword: "delay." The common thread among all the arguments was that there is no team available, so there is no need to rush into voting on a street vacation at this point. While it seems like a valid point, the fact of the matter is that it's simply not going to fly with either sports league.
We are still, more or less, in the same position we have been in for the past eight years. The position that led NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to say he was surprised that Seattle hadn't built an arena. The same position that led NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to say the city needs to "get their act together on an arena." As super agent Leigh Steinberg told Sonics Rising, "The concept of waiting until there is a promise for a team precludes any chance of ever getting a team. The league wants to know that there is financing, permits, environmental impact reports, etc. that signify that this arena will become a reality." No league wants to hear that you're one vote away. They want to hear that you're shovel ready.
Chris Hansen told KJR's Dave "Softy" Mahler the other day on his radio show that while getting the street vacation approved is the last "major hurdle," it still doesn't make the arena shovel ready. There is still the final vote on the Memorandum of Understanding and the Master Use Permit to be issued. Delaying one vote pushes those votes further out as well, which is just more reasons that Hansen would have to explain to the NBA that he's not ready, and convince them that those votes will go his way, which isn't guaranteed.
The excuse that there is no NBA team is also a flimsy one in itself. In December, there were reports that the Philadelphia 76ers would be going up for sale. There are ownership issues percolating in Minnesota. Hell, no one even knew who Chris Hansen was when he suddenly announced a purchase agreement for the Sacramento Kings. These things happen fast. We've also said, repeatedly and stand by it, that the NBA won't say they are going to expand until they are going to expand. Seattle won't even be able to get in line without building permits in hand. Chris Hansen will have a hard enough time as it is arguing against cities like Kansas City, Louisville, and even Las Vegas, who already have arenas standing. Trying to tell the NBA "no, I promise, all I need is for them to vote on the street vacation, then vote again on the MOU, then issue the MUP, and then... then I'll be ready to start building. I PROMISE!" is a hard sell. What would be much more impactful would be tell the NBA "I've got everything I need right here. All I need is your signature granting me a team and I can start building today."
Why delay any further? We've been going through studies and reports for nearly six years. The street vacation is conditional on the arena being built. The arena being built is conditional on a team being secured. So why delay until a team is promised? Even with the street vacation, nothing is guaranteed until a team is in hand. So what's the benefit in delaying? It's simple, the opposition hopes the project will die on the vine long before it ever bears fruit.
Now is the time to act. Now... is Game Time.