A former employee of the late Seattle Supersonics explains how former owner Howard Schultz’s cheapness and demands for luxury seating cost Seattle its beloved franchise. The whole thing is a great read, but the following passage from Jeremy Repanich’s post is particularly important.
It’s common knowledge to stadium scam observers that owners push for new stadiums primarily so they can sell new luxury seating. (See Atlanta Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank’s push to demolish a 20-year-old stadium.) But ownership always veils it as providing better facilities for the team so they can remain “competitive” and they claim it will improve the stadium experience for all fans. But Repanach reveals that — behind the curtain — new stadiums do nothing for the regular fan.
Wally Walker, the team’s president, gathered the minions in the bowels of the nondescript office park that housed the Sonics’ headquarters. Sure, it was coming a few days late, but at least we were finally getting some clarity and marching orders.
Alas, Walker didn’t have the good sense to lie to us. He went through a litany of minor reasons why the team needed a new arena: higher capacity, bigger arena footprint, more room for high-end concessions, more places for premium seat holders, a.k.a. the super rich, the people who could afford a pair of courtside season tickets for $70,000. These were the justifications he offered us to explain why we were asking for a heaping pile of taxpayer dollars. After Walker’s spiel, a member of the sales staff asked the fateful question: “Wally, what will this arena upgrade do for Joe Sixpack—the regular fan?”
After an uncomfortable few seconds, Walker said, “Well, nothing.” The wind went out of me. It was as if he’d punched me in the stomach. Walker tried to backtrack, but the damage had been done. The battle for hearts and minds had ended before it’d even begun. I didn’t see how we’d get an arena deal led by men who couldn’t conceive of it as anything but a rich man’s boondoggle, perpetrated on behalf of other rich people. Average people would shoulder the costs of making sure that the Puget Sound’s affluent—suits at Boeing, executives at Microsoft—could be coddled at a sporting event that average people would no longer be able to afford to attend.
Repanach goes on to blame Howard Schultz more for the loss of the Sonics than Clay Bennett, who took the team to Oklahoma City and is commonly the villain in the story. If you’re interested in more on the Sonics tale, be sure to check out Sonicsgate.org. And h/t to FieldofSchemes.com for alerting us to the above passage.
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