When the NBA opened its first new stadium in Seattle in 1976, the city and the team were in the midst of a $25 million-a-year, $40 million-per-year recession.
But by the mid-’70s, Seattle’s economy had recovered and the NBA was expanding its footprint.
“When the league decided to go to Seattle and invest, it was because we were able to invest, and the city was able to reinvest in our city,” said Chris Bross, a Seattle University professor of urban and regional planning who co-authored the new book “The Arena,” which examines the stadium-building history of the NBA.
“The NBA was a pioneer in terms of investing in our local communities.
It was an investment that the city wanted to have a seat at the table.”
The arena is a key part of the revitalization efforts.
But the arena is also the home of a basketball team that has yet to win a playoff series in 20 years.
The NBA’s Seattle franchise, the Thunder, has lost five in a row and sits two games out of the postseason in the Western Conference.
In the past five years, the team has struggled to make the playoffs.
In fact, it’s only made the playoffs once since its founding.
And the team’s only two regular-season games this season were played in Oklahoma City.
Seattle has also seen a spike in homicides, especially in neighborhoods near the arena.
“We’ve been dealing with the homicide crisis that we’ve seen in Seattle for a long time,” said Michael Kinsley, a University of Washington professor who has studied the city’s crime trends.
“And I think the arena was the perfect place to address that.”
The NBA is currently in the process of constructing the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which will host games in 2019-20.
The project is estimated to cost $5 billion.
That means Seattle’s $8 billion in arena subsidies over the next decade will be needed to make it work.
“It was important to have that funding,” Bross said.
“There were a lot of questions and a lot that needed to be addressed.”
Bross and Kinsler co-wrote the book with former Seattle City Councilor Bruce Kline.
The city of Seattle also invested heavily in the Coliseum, home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
In 2015, it spent $300 million on renovating the stadium and building a new scoreboard.
That stadium was eventually demolished in 2021, but not before the team made a strong push for a new home.
“Seattle is very unique in terms a city where we can do this,” Kinsie says.
“They can be successful, but they also have a lot to lose.”
In the end, Kinsleys said, the NFL was able “to make the right investment” for the city.
It built a new practice facility for the Seahawks, opened its own practice facility in Seattle and created a new $300-million sports-entertainment complex in Ballard.
“In the end it was really about who was willing to make that investment in terms the city or the NBA and the state,” Klinsley said.
While Seattle has made strides in building the arena, there are still significant challenges ahead.
The stadium sits on a site that’s considered an industrial site and the arena won’t be ready until 2026.
“I think it’s going to take a lot longer than we think it’ll take to build it,” Boss said.
“That’s a concern for me as a real estate investor,” he said.
And if Seattle’s public works department can’t get the arena constructed, he said, “it could be the beginning of a real problem for the taxpayers of this city.”
With the construction of the stadium in the planning stages, Kouts and Bross also have to contend with other issues: the impact of a natural disaster, which could take place in the future, and how much money is needed to pay for the project.
The arena has been one of the league’s top investments.
In 2019, the league spent $3.6 billion on building the facility, which has cost the league about $2 billion more than it had anticipated.
The money paid for everything from the new concession stands to the stadium’s retractable roof, the largest in the league.
The Seahawks also had the most expensive ticket prices in the NBA at $89,000, according to the book.
Kouts said the team would also have “major challenges” when it comes to how the arena’s construction is funded.
“Because we’re in this kind of an economic crisis and the recession is ongoing, there’s a lot going on with the economy,” Kouts says.
The Seattle Times asked the city for its projections for the cost of building the stadium.
The newspaper noted that the NBA already has a major infrastructure project underway: a new freeway, a $