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Seattle Storm in support of new arena deal

posted by Jayda Evans: Womens Hoops Blog
Friday, February 17, 2012 at 1:39am EST

Jayda Evans covers college and pro women's basketball. While its her first year on the Washington beat, she has covered the Storm since its inception. She'll offer observations, critiques, occasional off-beat tales and answers to select e-mail inquires. Evans also has written a book on the Storm and women's hoops, called "Game On!"

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SeattleStorm.pngThe Storm remains under a 10-year lease signed in 2009 to play its home games at KeyArena, but was still moved by Thursday's unveiling that the city of Seattle has received a proposal to build a basketball/hockey arena in Sodo. The group is led by Christopher Hansen and the package was announced by Major Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

In a released statement, Karen Bryant, the Storm's CEO and president, spoke positively about the NBA possibly returning. A native Washingtonian, she was a huge Sonics fan and one of the many distraught when the team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.

"All of us here at the Seattle Storm enthusiastically support the return of the NBA to Seattle," she said in a released statement. "This is a basketball-loving town. What a fantastic opportunity for the city and sports lovers throughout the region and the state.

"Today's announcement is just the beginning of a very long process, but we will support the effort in any way we can."

McGinn was still ardent that KeyArena isn't viable for a pro men's basketball franchise and it isn't configured to hold an NHL team. "KeyArena just isn't competitive," he said, noting that Hansen is helping study its future as smaller event space.

That appears to include the Storm into the future, the women's team averaging about 8,000 fans in a lower-bowl setting that can seat 9,686. For matinee games designed for youth day-campers, regular-season finales, and postseason matchups, the Storm pulls back its black curtains on the upper deck to seat anywhere from 11,000 to 13,000 fans since Force 10 Hoops purchased the team from Clay Bennett's group in 2008.

"KeyArena is going to continue," McGinn said at the press conference, adding he's proud of the Storm. "It's just not a basketball arena, like it was."

Under the current KeyArena agreement, the Storm's rent decreased from $15,000 to $5,000 per home game. The team receives 30 percent of revenue from concessions inside KeyArena and is paid a minimum of $300,000 annually by Seattle for allowing Seattle Center to sell advertising in and around the building.

The Storm doesn't receive revenue from parking and the other 70 percent of concession sales goes to the city. The Storm also owns the Team Shop and can sell food on the KeyArena plaza.

McGinn put together an arena review panel to help as the project moves forward. It's co-chaired by former Sonic Lenny Wilkens and former council member Jan Drago is a panelist. She's a big women's hoops supporter, often spotted at Washington and Storm basketball games.

In fact, when the Storm was bought by four local businesswomen, Drago was one to voice her approval. I imagine if the Storm comes in conflict with new NBA scheduling (if a team had to temporarily play at The Key) or arena plans, she'd be an advocate for the Storm.

"I'm very happy that the Storm will continue to call KeyArena home," Drago said in a statement when the team was purchased in 2008. "The Storm players' involvement in the community makes them great role models for women and girls across the region."

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