While former SuperSonics stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp got the loudest ovations, it was hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen left accepting the most praise at a rally in downtown Seattle on Thursday afternoon to support the push for a new arena that could eventually bring back the NBA.
The late-day rally crammed green and gold clad fans into Occidental Park just a few blocks north of Seattle's stadium district where CenturyLink and Safeco fields currently sit. Hansen's proposal before the King County and Seattle city councils calls for a $490 million facility just south of the Mariners' Safeco Field with nearly $300 million in private investment.
Hansen said he was overwhelmed by the turnout, with estimates of about 4,000 in attendance at the peak of the event. The rally ended with chants of ''Thank you Chris!'' and included appearances by Payton, Kemp and fellow former Sonics player Detlef Schrempf.
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. The Sonics moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City following the 2008 season.