Seattle arena backer fires back at critics as Thunder begin Finals

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by CHRIS DANIELS and TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 6:00 PM

The Oklahoma City Thunder were set to host the Miami Heat Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It’s the first time the team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics will play for the championship since its departure from the Emerald City in 2008.

“It’s really a punch to the gut for Sonics fans,” said Jason Reid, the Director of “Sonicsgate,” a documentary about the team’s departure for Oklahoma City.  “We’re rooting for just about every team but Oklahoma.”

Reid stressed that he holds no ill will toward the Thunder fans, but said he still has problems seeing co-owners Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon cheering on the team.

“It makes it impossible for us Sonics fans to forget,” Reid said.

However, he and Adam Brown are now trying to channel their anger.  Brown, who produced “Sonicsgate”, said he’ll watch the game grudgingly.

“It’s just not the same,” he said. “They were sown into the fabric of this community. It’s incredibly painful to watch and they should be here.”

But he and Reid agreed that the attention the Thunder receives during the NBL Finals will only call more attention to Seattle’s story.

“As long as Sonics fans are here, the momentum will continue, and we’ll keep fighting," Brown said.

Meanwhile, all was quiet at the Sonics’s old home. No events were scheduled Tuesday night at KeyArena.

The man trying to get a new NBA arena built next to Safeco Field in Seattle was making some noise Tuesday. On his Sonics Arena website, investor Chris Hansen fired back at critics who say the location would disrupt port traffic and turn SODO into gridlock.

Hansen funded an analysis of traffic and parking in the area, which found that the neighborhood has sufficient parking and transit options to handle traffic for a new arena – about 6,000 vehicles.

However, some have said the results are inaccurate and that current sporting events already affect port traffic. In a letter to the Seattle City and King County councils, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 suggested the effect on traffic in the area could threaten up to 4,000 port-related jobs.

“While such critics have yet to provide any substantive, independent analysis of their own to support such a point of view, common sense would tell us that people are simply not going to arrive at 3-4 pm for an Arena event that starts after 7 pm,” wrote Hansen, who added that port operations shut down at 4:30 p.m.

Hansen suggests that many fans won’t be showing up until just before tip-off or shortly thereafter because they’ll still be just getting there after work.

“Thus the assumption that all of our patrons and their 6,000 vehicles will descend on the Arena site between 3-5 pm is just grossly inaccurate," wrote Hansen.

Hansen posted a live feed from a Seattle Department of Transportation camera showing traffic at 1st Avenue and Holgate Street, where the proposed arena would be built.

The Seattle Mariners have also voiced concerns, particularly about the possibility of having two sporting events within hours of each other. Some critics of the study questioned if traffic would remain manageable if the Mariners were to become successful and start selling out Safeco Field like they did a decade ago.

Hansen thanks the mayor

Also on Tuesday, Hansen issued a statement regarding Mayor Mike McGinn's Monday meeting at the NBA's headquarters in New York:

I just wanted to personally thank Mayor McGinn for taking the time to meet with Commissioner Stern yesterday and discuss the details of our plan and the merits of our fine city. Bringing the NBA back to Seattle is a community effort, and having our local officials and business leaders come forward like they have is critical to our success.

I also just wanted to share that both the Mayor and Commissioner Stern had appraised me of the meeting weeks in advance, and that this was not the surprise that some have tried to portray. As I am sure all of you can appreciate, it’s not my responsibility to share all of the intimate details of this process with the press, or even my own PR firm (which was the case here). I’m not sure why people try to create drama where it doesn’t exist, but I’m just here to let you all know McGinn and I are 100% on the same page on this.

Sonics rally Thursday

A “Rally to Bring Back the Sonics” is planned for Thursday at 4 p.m. at Occidental Park in Seattle. Hansen is expected to be there along with former Sonics Gary Payton and Slick Watts and former Sonics play-by-play announcer Kevin Calabro.

Someone on the Facebook event page for the rally posted an image of the Miami Heat logo, but changed the colors from red and black to Sonics green and gold.

Schultz mum on sale

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the man who many Sonics fans blame for the team’s move after selling it to the Oklahoma City ownership group in 2006, appeared on the CBS Morning Show Tuesday. Schultz was there to talk about creating jobs, but midway through the interview, host Charlie Rose switched gears to the Sonics.

“Are you sorry you let them slip away and you sold them?” asked Rose.

“I wish the NBA well and I wish Oklahoma City well. I’m not here to talk about basketball, Charlie. I’m here to talk about the biggest problem facing America,” said Schultz.

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