With the NBA’s SuperSonics planning to leave Seattle for Oklahoma City, a void in Seattle needs to be filled. Enter former Sonics star "Downtown" Freddy Brown, who recently unveiled plans for a major sports facility.
The project, called the Emerald City Center, would be a $1 billion, privately funded sports, entertainment and exposition facility aimed to lure an NBA or NHL team to the city.
Brown, the former captain of the 1979 NBA championship team, and Dave Bean – leader of Seattle advertising agency Wongdoody Communications – unveiled their vision on April Fool’s Day.
But it was no joke. The two men – collectively known as the company B2 – said they have financiers committed to the project and three undisclosed locations for the downtown project.
What they don’t have, apparently, is support from civic leaders, who are committed to renovating KeyArena with public funding. The renovation would cost $300 million and city officials are still seeking $75 million in public funding, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Matt Griffin, a Seattle developer working on the KeyArena project, told the paper the B2 project will "make life more complicated." Meanwhile, Mayor Greg Nickels expressed appreciation for the project but supported KeyArena as "our region’s sports and entertainment facility."
That’s not all: Brown and Bean mentioned they were considering the project for the Pier 46 area west of Qwest and Safeco fields. However, a Port of Seattle spokeswoman told the Post-Intelligencer that port officials had never heard of the idea until the news conference.
She noted that the Pier 46 property is leased through 2015 to Hanjin Shipping, a company that has the option of extending the lease through 2025.
"We put a lot of emphasis on the port location (in the presentation), but we are not here to offend anyone," Brown told the paper. "I know there will be naysayers out there. But this is a plan we have that we believe will work for this community."
Also, Brown’s project lacks a proposed tenant. Neither the NHL nor the NBA has previously expressed an interest in expansion teams, which Brown is requesting. Bean said having both a pro hockey and basketball team is necessary to bring in the required revenue, but Brown said the project could be scaled back if necessary.