Arena investment group holds 'Bring back our Sonics' rally in Seattleon June 14, 2012 @ 5:23 am (Updated: 6:54 am - 6/15/12 )
97.3 KIRO FM's Brandi Kruse estimated nearly 3,500 fans showed up - along with a number of former Sonics stars to demonstrate support for the plan put forth by hedge-fund manager and investment group leader Chris Hansen.
The rally is an important opportunity to send a strong message to the city and county councils considering whether to approve financing for the new arena, according to Kevin Calabro, 710 ESPN host and former voice of the Seattle SuperSonics, who emceed the event.
"I just think that there's so much upside to this. I think it's a bold progressive step I hope the city will take," Calabro told 97.3 KIRO FM Seattle's Morning News.
While it's a chance to mourn the loss of the beloved Sonics, Calabro says it's also a chance to begin the healing, especially for those fans feeling the pain of watching Seattle's former team playing in the NBA finals as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's the chance to look forward, not back," Calabro said.
Former Sonics players Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Gary Payton, and Slick Watts appeared, along with popular Seattle music groups the Blue Scholars and the Presidents of the United States of America.
"Today is a huge day for so many reasons," says vocal Sonics advocate and "Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team" director Jason Reid. "It's a chance for Sonics fans to come together and not only get our minds off the fact that game two of the NBA finals should be happening in our city, but also to come together behind this very generous arena proposal that Chris Hansen and these guys have come up with."
The effort gained a lot of attention on Wednesday as several well-known and well-heeled Northwest names joined the list of investors. Hansen sent a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn indicating that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom family are also on board as investors in the arena.
Sonicsgate director Reid says this is Seattle's big chance to show the nation the city is ready to have an NBA team again.
"We have an unprecedented plan that we can get behind that will bring the NBA back," says Reid. "The mayor is not meeting with David Stern in New York if this isn't serious business. Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom brothers aren't coming out publicly unless this is serious business."
Hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen introduced the proposal for a new $490 million basketball arena in the SoDo area earlier this year.
The project calls for about $290 million in private investment from Hansen's group, along with $200 million from the city and county through 30-year bonds. Any franchise that comes to Seattle and uses the arena would be required to sign a non-relocation agreement that would span the life of those bonds.
A memorandum of understanding on a new arena was reached last month between Hansen and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine. That agreement is being reviewed by the city and county councils with votes expected later this summer. Both would need to approve the agreement for the project to move forward.
The rally is one of four ways Hansen is asking for the public's support. Hansen also encourages arena supporters to contact their elected officials, follow the cause on Facebook and Twitter and sign the petition to bring back the Sonics.
"The momentum is building to bring the team back," says Reid, "I think everyone in Seattle should be excited."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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