It's getting real, folks. The vote for the vacation of Occidental Avenue is tomorrow, and the opposition is fighting to the bitter end.
KING 5's Chris Daniels reports that Seattle City Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Lisa Herbold will offer an amendment that places acquisition of an NBA franchise as a condition for closing the street. Here is the pertinent language.
Those who watched the transportation committee meeting two weeks ago might recall that Bagshaw attempted a similar amendment in that meeting, but was unable to get her motion seconded. Since Herbold is co-sponsoring the amendment, it will most certainly receive an up or down vote on Monday.
Passage of this amendment would strongly weaken the street vacation because it would put all of our arena eggs in one basket - the one with the NBA logo on it. While Adam Silver cracked the door open a bit on expansion recently, it was only a bit. Truthfully, we don't know if, when, or how the Supersonics will return to Seattle. We certainly don't know if it will happen before the MOU expires.
Many believe it much more likely that the NHL would arrive first if we get the arena situation taken care of, but this amendment would slam the door on that possibility, which requires either an NHL first amendment to the MOU or all private financing by Chris Hansen and Victor Coleman.
We don't know how much negotiation has happened between the two parties, but we know that Coleman declined to apply for NHL expansion last summer because he didn't know if Hansen could get street vacation passed, as Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker reported.
A week before it became public knowledge Coleman would not apply for expansion, his representative, sports consultant Jeff Marks of Premier Partnerships, requested a July 9 conference call with Gregorich and city officials. Marks emailed Gregorich that the call would "discuss next steps and bring you up to speed on the NHL expansion application process and timing and what our team is thinking around the process.''
Marks said in an interview Coleman told the city during the call he wouldn't be applying for a team since he couldn't control whether Hansen gets his arena approved.
Baker later reported that Coleman was waiting for a council vote before making any further agreement with or commitment to Hansen.
The NHL needs Hansen and Coleman to work something out. When I spoke recently with Jeff Marks, a sports consultant working with Coleman, he told me his client is monitoring Seattle's political situation and wants assurances Hansen can get his arena approved before signing off on any deal.
We don't know how far Coleman is willing to go even after an arena approval, but the Bagshaw-Herbold amendment would make that point moot.
And that's just how it impacts potential NHL ownership. Let's not forget how it might impact Seattle's relationship with the league itself. Consider the recent exchange between Baker and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
"If and when Seattle has something to tell us, we'll take note of it,'' Bettman told The Seattle Times while attending The Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meetings in Manhattan. "I don't know that we'll do anything more than that at the time. So I'm not making any promises.
"But it's clear, at least to this point, that there appears to be no arena process. And I think that has discouraged lots of interest. And I'm not opining as to whether or not it's anybody's fault or responsibility. It is what it is. And so we have other things to focus on.''
"If and when Seattle has something to tell us, we'll take note of it?" If this amendment passes, what Seattle will be telling the NHL is "we don't want you. Go away."
While the NHL's arrival in Seattle isn't guaranteed even if we were to build the arena on spec, the league is, by most accounts, much more open to the possibility than its NBA counterpart. But don't underestimate the degree to which league commissioners and owners can be offended by public officials who spurn them. How much of David Stern's anger toward Seattle was caused by Frank Chopp or Initiative 91? The answer is most of it. It cost us our NBA franchise in 2008 as well as the chance to get one back in 2013.
Do Bagshaw and Herbold have something against the NHL? Do they have something against privately funded development? Regardless of their feelings on the NHL and sports in general, this is about serving the maritime interests that funded their campaigns. This about Bagshaw's ridiculous fantasy of a remodeled Key Arena.
This is about killing the Sodo arena.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
We know we have four yes votes and two no votes. Three are unknown. We know that the no votes are likely to vote yes on the Bagshaw-Herbold amendments. But what about the three who are on the fence? Is it possible they will try and have it both ways by voting for both street vacation and an amendment that severely weakens it?
These are politicians, so it's a legitimate concern. Please send a quick, but respectful email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let them know that you see right through this amendment and that they should to. Let them know that a yes vote on this poison pill is virtually the same as a no vote on street vacation ... and the arena.
Let them know it matters.