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Seattle “fourth or fifth choice” for the NCAA

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With Las Vegas about to approve a football stadium and Sacramento about to open their new arena, where does Seattle stand?

NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For those pro basketball people in Seattle who have been too busy wondering how many times Russell Wilson can keep getting crushed and still come back, or actually watching baseball for the first time in over a decade with the Mariners on the verge of sneaking into the playoffs, there have been a couple developments in the last week that are oddly relevant to Seattle in terms of our arena.

Not that our arena is progressing forward. Despite Hansen’s newest land purchase, our arena remains in purgatory.

What I'm talking about are these three things:

  1. Las Vegas is closer to building a football stadium than we are to building a basketball arena.
  2. Sacramento is very close to opening their new Golden 1 Center for professional basketball and other events.
  3. The NCAA is moving first and second round games from North Carolina due to their anti LBGT laws.

The fact that Vegas already has a world class arena that the NBA loves and is potentially looking at for expanding/moving into the market should be worrisome for our chances of getting a team back. Vegas has already done the leg work. They almost got the 2017 All-Star Game, but the league preferred an established NBA market there.

Sacramento got their arena measure passed through an “any means necessary” type approach. Kevin Johnson might not be the most ethical person on the planet, but he did what he had to do to keep their professional basketball team in Sacramento and that deserves some applause. He did everything that our leaders weren’t willing to do to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

Finally I come to the bigoted government in North Carolina that has cost their state millions upon millions in tourist dollars because of their new found love of laws that would have been questioned back in the 1880’s. They have cost Charlotte the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. They have cost them numerous NCAA championship events from softball all the way through football and finally it has cost them the first and second round games from the 2017 NCAA tournament.

We reached out to the NCAA on Friday to see if they had any thoughts on possibly moving the games to Seattle and we received this in response;

"Seattle would be our third, fourth or fifth choice if we moved this event to the NW/West Region. Other arenas in the region provide better amenities to our fans which provides a better experience. Seattle can't offer the world class experience we require."

Let that sink in for a moment. Seattle is “third, fourth or fifth choice” in the northwest. A quick search of tournament sites in the region that have recently hosted, or will be hosting, NCAA tournament games resulted in the following cities; Portland, Spokane, Boise, and Salt Lake City.

Portland and Salt Lake City I can understand being on that list, but Seattle falling behind both Spokane and Boise is embarrassing. Both are great cities in their own respects and Boise is growing and growing on me (I have family there that I visit frequently), but they are not on the same level as Seattle. Even Portland and Salt Lake City are not on the same level as Seattle.

However, in at least one way they are above us. They all have arenas that the NCAA considers more elite to give their customer base a better basketball experience.

I reached out to Ted Norwalk, CEO of Visit Seattle, who told me that the city is “in the bidding process on a number of NCAA events for multiple years (we should know how we do by November).” He declined to comment further. It’s unclear if basketball is on that list.

Former voice of the Sonics Kevin Calabro went on to say that Seattle may just not care about basketball as much as those other cities. “Simply get a better facility, better breaks for the hotels, and improve transportation. I am not sure if Seattle wants that like the other cities do. It’s a feather in the cap for Boise, Spokane, Portland. It might not be as important to Seattle as it is for them.

“What is the appetite for basketball in Seattle?”

While we know the fandom is there, it’s hard to argue a city’s passion for sports when the city council thinks an empty avenue is more important than a world class arena. We currently do not have a venue that can house the NBA, NHL, national political conventions, or, as we now know, the NCAA. We need a new arena in order to continue to be a “world class” city.

Sonics Rising reached out to Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council for comment but received no response.