West Seattle resident Mike Barbre, pictured center, rear, holding sign, attended a large rally to support the return of the Seattle SuperSonics Thursday. He says Seattle and its NBA fans got scr**ed. SLIDESHOW, Click on photo for more.
SLIDESHOW: West Seattle Sonics fans join thousands at rally for Payton, Kemp, Schrempf, Watts & Chris Hansen
"We want our team back!"
SLIDESHOW, Click on photo for more
Thousands of Seattle SuperSonics NBA fans, many from West Seattle, converged on Occidental Park in Pioneer Square yesterday to cheer their favorite former players, Detlef Schrempf, Slick Watts, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Nate Robinson and others, and boo their least favorite team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their mantra, "We want our team back!" And for two hours it seemed like they got their wish.
Taking the stage at the organized rally between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. were, in addition to the players, arena investor Chris Hansen, arena supporter, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other politicians, (see slideshow) and musical performers Common Market, the Presidents of the United States of America and the Blue Scholars. Emcee was Kevin Calabro, play-by-play announcer and talk show host for 710 ESPN Radio Seattle.
Before taking the stage, Slick Watts told the West Seattle Herald, "We've got to keep the people interested so that the City Council can understand that we've got fan support, and that's the key. And this is really good today."
He added, "My son Donald still coaches at West Seattle High School."
The rally was organized by Hansen and his group, Sonics Arena .That website states, "18 elected officials hold the future of Sonics basketball in their hands. We need to show the Seattle and King County Councils our support in numbers they can't ignore. Here are more ways for you and your friends to tell them you want the new Sonics Arena."
They include information on tweeting, petitioning, letter-writing, and creating a video to direct your support to City and County Council members.
Hansen has proposed a public-private partnership to build a multipurpose arena in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, south of the Safeco Field parking garage. He has asked the city and county to contribute a collective $200 million in public loans, to be paid off by taxes on the arena. His investment group would put up $800 million to help fund construction and to acquire NBA and NHL franchises.
West Seattle fans weigh in:
Some from West Seattle who attended are lifelong fans while others are former Sonics staff who started their own sports-related companies since the Sonics left.
Nick Dahl, Morgan Junction:
"I'm here to rally to get the Sonics back. Should be a good time. Hopefully this creates enough buzz to get our city and council members' attention. It hurt when they left. I've been attending games since I was a little kid. I don't think a lot of people in this city really realized what we were missing until they took off to Oklahoma City. Hopefully this will fill a big void when we can hopefully get an arena deal done and a team back."
Mike Barbre, Alki:
"It's long past time we are able to tell the leaders of this region that we need to bring this team back. We got messed, scr**ed out of our team and we're here to bring it back (...) There are so many levels of blame to go around. I think (former Sonics owner) Howard Schultz was bitter that he wasn't getting the Key Arena upgrades he asked for. I think his lack of a relationship with the leaders of the on-floor team, mainly Gary Payton, was not tip-top. And he wasn't getting the support of the City officials.
"In my opinion, he decided to knowingly go after the people he knew would piss off our region the most. Schultz being the baby he was sold the team to Oklahoma. And I think Chris Hansen is the owner that everybody wants. He's one of us. I've never been the biggest hockey fan but I tell you what. If we bring an NHL quality team here, I'm an instant fan. This is a hockey town waiting to happen."
Jim Bergem, former longtime Alki resident:
"I was working in sales with the Sonics, selling suites, court side groups, season tickets, the works. Obviously I've been following this closely. I am a hockey fan and I go up to Vancouver. I drop a lot of money on their city and I'd rather do that here. I now have a company based pin Kirkland and make team uniforms and other sportswear called Risan Athletics.
Greg Levine, West Seattle
"I just want to get the Sonics back in Seattle. I've always been a fan. I miss them.
I was a Sonics fan even when I was attending University of Wisconsin in Madison."
Jeff Custis, West Seattle
I had season tickets starting in '91 till they left and hope to get them back soon.
Matt Heuer, West Seattle
I worked for the Sonics with a lot of the people I'm here with today, game operation stuff. I did lots of music, audio for the games. We got to know the players through events. I just started a live events and sports entertainment company with two former Sonics co-workers called 3 Point Productions. We work with the Seattle Storm, Mariners, UW. "
Tim Knittel, Alki
"I was with events and entertainment with the Sonics. We were responsible for the halftime shows, national anthems, mascots, making sure the dance team got out there on time during time outs. We made sure everything went smooth for the fans. We became good friends with Nick Collison and shot around with Kevin Durant. We still have love for those guys. We can't route for OKC. My brother and I started a sports related t-shirt company called ShockWave Tees."
King County Executive Dow Constantine
"We need our SuperSonics back in Seattle!," shouted Constantine to a cheering crowd from the stage. "Bob Ferguson is working with Lenny Wilkins to help make this happen for the city."
He introduced others on stage with him who are also enthusiastic supporters. (See slideshow.)
"These and many others are the 'can-do people' who believe we can make something good happen," he said. "There are some others, the 'can't-do people'. We have can-do people like Chris Hansen (...) This is a solid deal and a good thing for our community."
Photo gallery for this story