Every city has its problems and Seattle is no exception. From public spending to transportation and everything in between, the politics of these everyday issues make for no easy solutions.
But what about sports? We often tend to forget that sports are one of the most important components to a functioning municipality. We view sports as recreation, as a diversion from everyday life, when in reality sports help to create, fund, and maintain the everyday lives we lead.
From generating dollars and cents in the economy, to providing multi-purpose venues for public use, to building a sense of community, sports are an integral part of our city and require their own care and maintenance to thrive at a certain level.
It is on us, as citizens, to address areas in need of extra attention in all facets of our city, including sports. Hence, we’ve created a list of 11 ways that the Seattle sports scene can be improved. Your suggestions and additions are more than welcome, as well.
11. Do Something (Anything!) With Mercer Arena
There’s a good chance that many of you have no clue what Mercer Arena is, which just goes to show how irrelevant Seattle Center’s other arena has become.
Located on the corner of Mercer Street and Fourth Avenue, the 8000-seat venue hasn’t housed a sports team since the Seattle Reign of the women’s American Basketball League (a predecessor to, and brief competitor with the WNBA) played their final season in 1998. Prior to that, Mercer Arena had been home to the Seattle Thunderbirds up until 1995, at which time the team moved full-time into Key Arena.
In addition to hosting sporting events, the arena has been used as a temporary facility for the Seattle Opera, as well as the stage for such touring acts as Britney Spears and Led Zeppelin.
But since 2003, Mercer Arena has been mostly empty.
A proposal by mayor Greg Nickels suggested the facility might be reconstructed into an administrative building for the Opera, but that was two years ago. Concert promoter Live Nation has expressed a desire to use the facility as a full-time concert venue, but nothing has come of that either.
For now, the building sits eerily dark, a veritable symbol of the downfall of the Seattle Center (along with another decaying arena which we’ll discuss later).
10. Start Living Up To That “Best Fans In Baseball” BS
For years, the Seattle Mariners have trumpeted their fan base as the “best in baseball.” As an M’s fan, myself, I’m going to go ahead and call BS on that.
To be more specific, the Mariners should label their fans as “mostly blindly loyal in baseball,” which is nice, but doesn’t necessarily equate to “best.”
At any given M’s game, any knowledgeable, fun-loving fan can easily be taken down a peg by the thousands of idiotic, boring, sedate “fans” that overpopulate Safeco Field.
From the uneducated loudmouths that openly question the infield-fly rule, to the old-timers that shoot you dirty looks every time you cheer a Mariners run, M’s fans are far from being the “best fans in baseball.”
The solution is simple: Require all fans who purchase tickets to take a short quiz before being allowed entry. Make them answer a question about the team, a question about common baseball knowledge, and a question about what it means to be a fan. Then subject them to a minute or two of loud cheering.
In order to garner entry, the participant must answer all three questions correctly AND be able to tolerate the cheering. If the participant’s face even so much as hints at a grimace during the cheering portion of the exam, send them back home to knit and watch the game with their cats before they can come back.
As individuals, there may be some of us out there who truly are among the best fans in baseball. But as a collective whole, Mariners fans have a long, long way to go before they can even fathom themselves among the elite.
9. Sell Out Qwest Field For Sounders Games
Attention Qwest Field: If you open it, they will come.
And of course by “it,” I mean the upper bowl at the Sounders home stadium.
Sounders games have sold out on a regular basis this season, and thousands of fans have been left out in the cold searching for tickets to the action. Of course, a “sellout” at a Sounders game really only means that half of Qwest Field is being occupied, so is it really a sellout after all?
By technical definition I suppose it is, since 100% of the allotted tickets are being sold to fans, but come on. Let’s stop kidding ourselves, here. A true sellout means every seat in the house is filled and every person in attendance is going nuts. Until the good people at the former Seahawks Stadium opt to fill EVERY SINGLE SEAT in the place for Sounders matches, we won’t truly have sold out any games at all.
8. Address Transportation Issues On Game Days
No matter where you’re headed (Safeco Field, Qwest Field, Husky Stadium, Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Key Arena) or who you’re headed to see (Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Huskies, Storm), chances are you’ll run into a hefty dose of traffic along the way.
Seattle has major transportation issues as it is, but those issues often seem magnified when we go watch our favorite teams in person. From the limited parking spaces at outrageous prices, to the lack of public riding options, something needs to be done to help the average fan get to and from the game.
Seattle’s new link light rail is a start, but currently the train only runs between downtown Seattle and Tacoma. That’s great if you live down south, but what about everybody else?
In Portland, the city’s Max light rail runs throughout the downtown metro area and out into the extending suburbs. Fans can ride to and from games at the Rose Garden arena, or park blocks away for free and make the final leg of the trip aboard the Max. It’s a system that Seattle strives to adopt, but has yet to make their own. We’ll get there one day…we hope.
7. Bring The NHL To Seattle
For years, fans have been pining for an NHL team in the Pacific Northwest. No, Seattle isn’t your traditional hockey hotbed, but the minor league teams in the area have enjoyed a fairly good amount of fan support over the years, and one can only imagine the increased love for a team at the highest professional level.
Over the past twenty years, the NHL has gradually been expanding out west, even locating a team in Phoenix, of all places. If the warmest metropolitan area in America can get a team, what’s stopping the league from coming to Seattle?
The biggest obstacle facing Seattle-based NHL proponents is a venue. Currently, Key Arena isn’t up to the NHL’s standard for a facility (where have we heard that before?), and none of the other smaller arenas in the area (Comcast Arena in Everett, ShoWare Center in Kent) are big enough to support a major franchise. Until a building can be secured, Seattle will probably be an afterthought in the mind of the National Hockey League.
6. Increase The Visibility Of High School Sports
You might not know it, but the Seattle Metro area is home to hundreds of high schools with rich athletic pedigrees. Save for newspaper coverage and the occasional game on TV, the average fan barely gets the opportunity to be a part of the prep action due mostly to a lack of exposure. That’s something that often comes with the territory in a major league city, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Right now, there are only a select few tournaments and games that get played on a big stage at the high school level. And even when many of those games are played, few people know about them because the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association) does little to promote them.
Outside of getting more television exposure, the WIAA needs to do their part to let people know when and where to watch high school sporting events. With all the budding talent in this area, it’s a shame more sports fans aren’t noticing.
5. Renovate Memorial Stadium
A once-proud facility that has hosted its share of big events, Memorial Stadium has slowly become a decrepit structure that is in need of major revamping.
For those of you that have been to Memorial, think about this: When was the last time you saw the water fountains in the stadium’s parking lot actually flowing? It has to have been at least twenty years, which would lead some to wonder whether the building even has running water anymore.
Okay, so there probably still is liquid in those pipes, but that doesn’t change the fact that Memorial Stadium is in drastic need of some help.
Currently, the stadium hosts high school football games and little else. It used to be the site of Sounders (the old, minor league Sounders) home games, and once hosted an exhibition by Pele.
With a few touch-ups, Memorial Stadium could once again be the occasional home to the Sounders FC. The team plays a few of their lesser home games at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, but a brand new venue at the Seattle Center could very easily keep them within Seattle’s borders.
On top of that, a renovation could attract more prominent high school events and would surely generate more funds for the city. That’s money, to you, Greg Nickels.
4. Build A NASCAR Track
Once upon a time, there was a proposal in Snohomish County to build a NASCAR race track that fell through. Racing fans throughout the Seattle Metro area were devastated, their dreams crushed by their constituents and the government.
Okay, so it’s only been a couple years since the whole NASCAR debacle went down, but it’s a topic worthy of consideration just a short time later.
Even if you’re not a big racing fan, there’s no denying that NASCAR is one of the biggest revenue-generating sports in America. Millions of fans turn out each year to watch talented drivers make left-hand turns at high speeds, and dammit, we should be a part of that.
From a financial standpoint, it makes a whole lot of sense. The cost of the track would be paid off in a short amount of time, thanks to all the local racing fans, and from that point forward we would be profiting off our little slice of pavement.
Yeah, it means we’ll have to endure fat dudes in tank tops and billions of empty Keystone Light cans being processed through our recycling facilities, but that’s okay. With our long-sleeved shirts and Pyramid hefeweizen, the elite amongst us will just look better by comparison.
3. Take An Entitled Granola Cruncher Out For A Good Time
Entitled Granola Crunchers are the bane of sports fans’ existence in the Seattle area.
Armed with the attitude that “I’m better than you because I ride a bike to work and incorporate British euphemisms such as ‘cheers’ and ‘aces’ into my everyday vernacular,” Entitled Granola Crunchers are seemingly the individuals who shoot down every proposed tax increase that even remotely relates to sports (no matter how much money would be coming to them on the back end). By nature, that makes them the enemy.
And what is it they say about enemies? Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Which means we need to buddy up to these bastards before it’s too late.
There’s no better way to do that then by taking an Entitled Granola Cruncher out to a ballgame and showing him or her how much fun it can be. Challenge your newfound friend to NOT enjoy him or herself. It won’t happen. They’ll enjoy it, and they’ll be hooked.
As soon as we reel in enough of these EGC’s, we can secure the votes we need to pass all sports-related initiatives in the city of Seattle. That means progress, and progress is a good thing.
It’s a bombastic plan with awe-inspiring implications. Together, we can make it happen.
2. Replace Key Arena
Notice I said “replace,” not renovate. The easy solution is to renovate Key Arena so as to attract an NBA or NHL team, and at the same time upgrade the near-dormant facility. But we’re not making any progress with the proposed renovation, so why settle for that?
Renovating Key Arena would be like watching an ugly chick put on heavy doses of makeup. Yeah, you might look better now, but we all know what’s really under there.
And on top of that, didn’t we just renovate Key Arena not 15 years ago? Does anyone else see a pattern ensuing?
We don’t want to go through this renovation process every two decades, so let’s just nip this thing in the bud right now and replace the aging monstrosity with a newer, bigger, better-looking monstrosity. Yes, it will cost money, but it’s worth it for the civic value the new arena will provide.
What would you rather have? A decaying enormity of a building that slowly but surely drags down the quality of life in the surrounding area, or a brand new symbol of progress that breathes life into the community and neighboring businesses? The answer isn’t as simple as one of those two choices, but it’s darn close.
Key Arena needs to go and a new arena must stand in its place. It’s as simple as that.
1. Bring Back The Sonics
I don’t need to say anything. You already know. Bring them back. ASAP.