Reality Bites: How Pro Sports Leagues Are Dicking Fans With Facilities

Rumors are circulating that the Sacramento Kings may be leaving the California state capitol as early as this year. Their most likely relocation destination? Anaheim, where they would play in the NBA-ready Honda Center, formerly (and more familiarly) known as Arrowhead Pond. The Honda Center is currently home to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have played their games at the Honda Center since the team’s inception in 1993.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Anaheim is damn near Los Angeles. And Los Angeles, as you may have heard, already plays host to two teams in the National Basketball Association, the Clippers and the Lakers. If this migration were to go down then, the Greater Los Angeles area would have three — yes, three — NBA franchises at its disposal. The Greater Seattle area, meanwhile, would still have zero. I mean, L.A. is a great city and all, don’t get me wrong. But do they really need ten-percent of the league’s teams? All while Seattle puts up a goose egg on that pie chart? Seems a little f**ked up to me.

It’d be easy enough to just freak out over the whole premise of this bitch. But there’s more to this story than just that.

Take, for instance, the status of the Honda Center as an NBA-ready facility. I’ve never been there, myself. From all the pictures I’ve seen, however, it looks like a nice enough place. But look at the numbers, the raw data, and things become a little suspect. When arranged for basketball, the Honda Center can seat up to 17,608 sports fanatics. That number sound familiar at all? It should, because back in the day (and by “day,” I mean all of three years ago) our very own Key Arena was deemed ridiculously undersized for David Stern’s weak ass, based largely on the fact that it could only hold 17,072 of the world’s greatest sports fans when at full capacity.

Think about that. You really mean to tell me that the difference between NBA-ready and NBA-gone is 536 people? Really? Because if that’s the case, we’ll just pay you for those extra 536 seats each game and take our team back now. I’m sure we can start a fundraiser and cover the cost. Shouldn’t be too hard seeing as how millions of people still worship the Sonics.

And then there’s the whole age thing.

If Key Arena is old, then in arena years the Honda Center is flat-out ancient. That sh*t was erected two whole years before our lovely Coliseum underwent its dramatic renovation. Granted, yes, Honda Center was an entirely brand new venue. But did you see what they did to the Coliseum before they turned it into Key Arena? They gutted that thing down to nothingness, then rebuilt it from the ground-up. It wasn’t a face lift. It was a whole new face. So let’s just call Key Arena what it really is: a sixteen-year-old multi-purpose facility. Likewise, that would make the Honda Center an eighteen-year-old multi-purpose facility. Our adolescent isn’t good enough, but their full-grown adult is. Right.

How many times can we say it’s f**ked up before it isn’t anymore? It’s not just our situation, either. There’s an entire precedent being set by professional sports leagues these days. A precedent that demands a venue first and a team second.

Take, for instance, Kansas City. In 2007, construction on the immaculate Sprint Center was completed. Thing is, Kansas City didn’t have an NHL or an NBA team to call the brand new arena home. Four years later, they still don’t have their teams. Instead, they fill the seats with concerts, minor league sports, and college basketball. Clearly, though, $276 million wasn’t pumped into this facility to host arena football from time to time. The Sprint Center was built to woo a major pro sports team. But at this point, who knows if that courtship will ever lead to marriage.

Building palatial stadiums to catch the eye of high-and-mighty suitors isn’t entirely new. Back in 1986, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida broke ground on what would eventually become Tropicana Field. The future home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays was completed in 1990…then proceeded to sit dormant for eight years before Bud Selig and his band of cronies mercifully ended St. Pete’s drought by granting the city an expansion club. Only problem was by 1998 the stone-grey dome look had become so passe. And now? In 2011? It’s amazing that Tropicana Field still exists. It currently holds the distinction of the only non-retractable domed stadium in all of Major League Baseball. How’s that for an honor?

(Oh yeah, and on a side note, those St. Petersburg f**kers tried to steal the Mariners from us in the early-nineties. You may remember that…ahem, Jeff Smulyan, you son of a bitch.)

Clearly, building a state-of-the-art venue is no guarantee that your city will land a major sports franchise. Especially in this economy. (Yes, I just wanted to squeeze “in this economy” somewhere into this diatribe. Done.)

But what about the flip side of the equation? What about when you have that once-state-of-the-art venue and your team bails? We’re seeing first-hand the effect it can have on a municipality with The Venue Formerly Known As Key Arena. If that isn’t evidence enough, go ahead and read this little blurb on Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. And yes, this blurb was taken from Wikipedia. The thing about Wikipedia is it’s never wrong. So there you go:

The Olympic Stadium[1] (French: Stade olympique) is a multi-purpose stadium in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of Montreal, Quebec, Canada built as the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics. It subsequently became the home of Montreal’s professional baseball and Canadian football teams. Since 2004, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C., the stadium has no main tenant, and with a history of financial and structural problems, is largely seen as a white elephant. It currently serves as a 56,040-seat multipurpose facility for special events (e.g. concerts, trade shows), and continues to serve as a 66,308-seat venue for playoff and Grey Cup games hosted by the Montreal Alouettes. The Montreal Impact also use the stadium on occasion when a larger capacity venue is needed or when the weather restricts outdoor play in the spring months. La tour de Montr√©al, the tower incorporated into the base of the stadium, is the tallest inclined tower in the world at 175¬†metres, and is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. The stadium’s nickname “The Big O” is a reference to both its name and to the doughnut-shape of the permanent component of the stadium’s roof; “The Big Owe” has been used to reference the astronomical cost of the stadium and the 1976 Olympics as a whole.[2]

It is the largest stadium, by seating capacity, in Canada.

The largest f**king stadium in the entire f**king country and it can’t buy a tenant. You have got to be kidding me. I don’t even care how sh*tty that place may be. Based on size alone, it should be pulling somebody. Like an ugly chick with a huge rack. I can look past your face if you just let me look at those boobies.

Is this what Key Arena is destined to become? A white elephant? And who’s to say it stops here, stops in Seattle? Every city in North America could fall victim to White Elephant Syndrome (W.E.S., I’ve just coined it, put a patent on that phrase) if the indigenous fan base isn’t willing to get on its collective knees and suck a little commissioner dick every now and then. I’ll say it again: it’s f**ked up.

This is the ultimate chicken-and-egg scenario. You pony up the cash, you build the facility, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a team. The only guarantee is that you’ll spend a lot of money. The results could be bountiful (such as they were in 2008 for Oklahoma City’s Ford Center, say…that’s right, I’m giving props to you dickheads, you better enjoy it) or barren (Kansas City).

Fact is, sometimes the chicken lays an egg and sometimes it doesn’t. Only time will tell how much of that egg ends up on the faces of forsaken sports fans. It’s not fair, but sadly, it’s reality.

Reality bites.

6 responses

  1. Forget the Sonics. They are gone. They left (partially) because Howard Schultz and a bunch of others (got greedy and) sold the team to Clay Bennett. It wasn’t about the stadium. Obviously that was a ploy to get his city an NBA (because WTF else is over there) because he knew the target market. Yes, everybody knows that Bennett bought the team in bad faith and Bennett knows that no one can prove it. Not only that, but he even tried to get a new stadium (with Washington’s money) to prove that he wanted to keep the team here. The thing is an NBA team is a business and if we really wanted the Sonics to stay, we should have went to the games. I mean the last couple of years (granted the Sonics sucked) the Key Arena was practically vacant. From the perspective of a lot of a people, you would have to be an idiot not to leave Seattle. We gave Bennett more and more reasons to take the franchise elsewhere.

    I hate to say it (because I love Seattle), but it’s true. We gave up on the Sonics, like the world gave up on Michael Jackson. Everybody was tainting him about his involvement with pedophilia (probably why he OD on Demerol). Then, after his death, people bought his s**t like hot cakes and cried at his funeral. People cried out that we lost a king, but no one appreciated (or acknowledged) Michael when he was here. So now the Mariners are in a similar situation, where the stadium is a ghost town for most of the season. A team, where for the past six seasons, Ichiro and Felix Hernandez have been the (only) talent (just about) on the Mariners. Even with tickets cheap as s**t, people aren’t going to the games. The Mariners, your Mariners are losing money and need their fan support more than ever. Your move Seattle!

  2. Sorry correction. I meant taunting.

  3. Oh and NBA team. Again, I apologize.

  4. The Mariners are still having pretty damn good attendance in spite of their product. Just look at the numbers over the past decade (since our last playoff season). It’s not terrible, and the franchise is certainly in no danger of going anywhere. We draw better than a lot of playoff contenders (Tampa Bay, for one) and we’ve been in a ten-year drought. Just wanted to point that out.

  5. I should have used another word for ghost town. And one more correction, I meant OD’d instead of OD.

  6. key arena blows a giant you-know-what
    and their PA guy is even worse, Seattle U is not that exciting

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