Where There’s A Wheel, There’s A Way (or, Overcoming Doubts About An Arena, a True Underdog Story)

Seattle has a knack for approving stupid municipal projects. It’s basically our forte. Take, for instance, the Great Wheel. The Great Wheel, for those of you who don’t know, is a brand new Ferris wheel located on Seattle’s Pier 57. It’s huge and it’s stupid.

Sure, the Great Wheel might very well be a lot of fun. I suppose if you’ve spent the $13 — yes, THIRTEEN American dollars — to ride the Wheel, you’ll probably enjoy your trip up and around its axis. But for the rest of us, the Wheel serves as an example of this city’s utter idiocy when it comes to making decisions.

What practical purpose does the Wheel serve? It carries people, yet doesn’t transport them. It’s big, but not big enough to be considered a landmark of any kind. It’s as tall as a building, yet no one can house an office there. It’s a neat little toy and that’s about it. Beyond that, it does next to nothing for the citizens of our region.

The Great Wheel isn’t the only example of Seattle’s foolhardy public projects (the Monorail and South Lake Union Trolley would certainly like a say in the matter), it just happens to be the most recent. It also comes at a time when the city and its people are contentiously debating over whether or not to approve a much larger project in the form of a multi-purpose sports arena.

These two projects, of course, are apples and oranges. One will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and benefit thousands of people on a daily basis; the other is round and entertains children, not unlike Barney the dinosaur. That shouldn’t stop us from comparing these civic investments over reasons of principle, however. If we can get an oversized carnival attraction erected faster than a virgin on prom night, why can’t we be a little more rational in executing the construction of a venue that will benefit a much greater constituency?

There are all sorts of things that have been written about the prospect of this arena. These pages, themselves, have played host to a running diatribe on arena-related matters. What it really comes down to, in shorthand, is the fact that a private investor wants to fund the cost of an arena for his hometown. And in funding the cost of an arena, he is effectively giving the city he grew up in a multi-million-dollar gift. It is actually that simple. Yet for some reason, we can’t seem to wrap our heads around that.

The people that seemingly can’t grasp the concept of the very expensive, very generous donation that Chris Hansen would like to supply us with are likely the same people that find themselves justifying the expense of a public transportation device that links two points of walkable distance — yes, Monorail, this means you. In fact, one opponent of Hansen’s arena moonlights as an outspoken fanatic of our dear Monorail. She also wants to explore the possibility of renovating the antiquated Key Arena to serve as a home for NBA basketball once again (control your laughter, please). And what’s more, she even sits on Seattle’s City Council. Yes, it doesn’t get much dumber than that. So don’t hesitate to let Sally Bagshaw know how you feel.

For every Sally Bagshaw — who might simply be crazy, we don’t know — there are dozens of other ornery S.O.B.s who simply don’t want to understand the gift Hansen has wrapped so nicely. Their lack of understanding is complemented by a strong desire to scare others into believing the sheer ridiculousness they spew upon the masses. No, they don’t get it. But worse than that, they don’t want anyone else to get it, either. Why they impose their will upon us like door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses pitching Watchtower propaganda is beyond me. Shouldn’t we let our fellow citizens make informed decisions? Is that so wrong? Doesn’t that help us evolve as one? Let’s be reasonable here.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to those politicians and people of designated repute who want to misinform the impressionable, we have to worry about our very own Seattle Times and an editorial board on a mission to shoot down anything pertaining to an arena. Why? Well, rumor has it that the higher-ups at the Times have ties to groups affiliated with the Port of Seattle. The Port of Seattle, as you’ve probably heard, opposes the arena due to “traffic concerns.” (“Traffic concerns” are really just code for “we want you to pay attention to the things we need before you pay attention to that Hansen character, so we’ll fight this until we get our way.”) Because the Port of Seattle opposes an arena, and because the bonds between the Port and the Times are just that strong, by virtue of the transitive property, the Times is anti-arena.

So what does the Times do as a result? They unleash a slew of misinformation upon the public in the form of questionable op-ed pieces. It’s an absolute slap in the face to journalistic integrity. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes, this is just like when Britt Reid forced the Daily Sentinel to give his alter ego front page coverage on a daily basis. But did the Green Hornet ultimately come to his senses? Damn right, he did. If Reid can do it, why can’t the Times’ editorial board? These are the questions to which we futilely seek answers.

Supporting such a stupidly practical cause is exhausting. This is an open-and-shut case that a few idiots won’t let us close. And because of that, we’re left standing here trying to rationalize with filibustering malcontents. These are moments of our collective lives that we can never recover. And these morons are taking those moments and crapping all over them. Why? I really don’t know. Maybe they are that dumb. Or maybe they just hate nice things. Whatever the reason, it needs to stop.

The one thing we’ve learned through this process is that stupid people with their stupid questions and stupid logic can ruin everything. Or at least try to ruin everything. Likewise, there are a lot of bad people in this world who will stop at nothing to get their way — even if it means poking holes in selfless, honorable acts of altruism.

At times in this arena battle, it can feel like we’re going in circles trying to explain ourselves to the ignorant swaths of excrement that choose to oppose such a great freakin’ cause. In reality, however, we keep making progress. And while that may not be evident every day, the fact that we keep the conversation about this project simmering is reason enough to be positive about an impending outcome.

So with that, I urge you to keep hope alive. For every mistake this city has ever made, and there are plenty, there are an equal number of redemptive success stories to hang our hats on. Two of those success stories sit in close proximity to the site of Hansen’s future arena. And wouldn’t you know it, there is no means of irrelevant public transportation, nor any semblance of ill-advised tourist traps spanning the landscape between those dual beacons of righteousness.

We can do this, Seattle. Whether the villains stand in our way or not, we can do this. Keep fighting, keep discussing, keep debating, and keep believing. It’s going to happen.

4 thoughts on “Where There’s A Wheel, There’s A Way (or, Overcoming Doubts About An Arena, a True Underdog Story)”

  1. The new ferris wheel is NOT a public project. It’s a purely PRIVATE project that somehow managed to get needed over-water permits.

  2. You are correct. It’s a private project. Private or public, my point is simply to juxtapose two separate erections (heh) in the city of Seattle. Technically, Hansen’s arena is a private project, too. It just requires a little more public cooperation than perhaps the Wheel ever did. Regardless, both projects required some public integration with the city.

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