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Chris Hansen releases preliminary arena designs for the new Seattle SuperSonics arena

Yesterday, Chris Hansen released some preliminary designs of a new SoDo Arena on his website. The new arena would house an NBA team, which at this time appears to the be the Sacramento Kings considering that he is in a "binding agreement" to purchase the team from the Maloof family. It will also be ready for the NHL should a team relocate there or if another owner is granted an expansion franchise.

KeyArena has an intimate atmosphere, like during the 1996 NBA Finals pictured here.  The new arena in Seattle will also attempt to have that same intimate feel.
KeyArena has an intimate atmosphere, like during the 1996 NBA Finals pictured here. The new arena in Seattle will also attempt to have that same intimate feel.

Here are only some of the major features in the arena:

1. Lower Level Suites less than 10 rows away from the court or ice - Companies or really rich people who buy suites often host large parties for their guests but often sit many rows away from the action. In the new arena, they will have a much better view. At the same time, the suites will also be just far enough away from the action to avoid an "unsightly gap in the camera view" when games are on television.

2. Seating Bowl is closer to fans than competing arenas - The lower bowl seating is considerably steeper than in other NBA arenas, which results in all seating being relatively closer to the action. Visual comparisons to Amway Center in Orlando, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and Staples Center in LA show this, but there are no actual dimensions shown.

3. The "Sonic Rings" - These are three stacked balconies that have a total of over 2,000 seats but also contain standing room only areas and can be moved up or down. The balconies also help shorten the upper bowl seating to minimize "nosebleed seats of sorts. My assumption with the balconies is that they could also provide more of an "upper party deck" environment as well which some NFL teams have done to drive more traffic to those areas of the stadium.

All of these amenities will be nice for fans, but for the purposes of this site, what does this mean for the Seattle Storm should they move to the new facility?

First, I think that if they do, there is a good chance that the arena will still have an intimate atmosphere, not unlike KeyArena. This will help their homecourt advantage at any rate. Second, Seattle has never hosted a WNBA All Star Game, and having that game in this facility could be a good thing for fans, especially because the team has Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, who are multi time All-Star players, yet never got to play that game in front of their fans. As for the "Sonic Rings," given that WNBA teams don't put 20,000 fans in the stands every game, I don't think they would be all that helpful for them.

However, most of the issues the Storm could face with the facility deal primarily with how the WNBA team fits into the new arena's plans as a tenant. First, scheduling is a concern. Should the Sonics at some point make the NBA Western Conference Finals and Finals, could this force the Storm out of the arena and to a lower class facility during regular season games? Also when the Storm makes the playoffs, will other planned events, like a circus, or a concert do the same?

Other WNBA teams have regularly had this happen to them and the Storm now also faces this risk. It's kind of weird that at least some WNBA teams have scheduling arrangements during the regular season, but no dates are allocated for the playoffs even if those teams are projected to be very good. Lastly, with a WNBA All Star bid possibility, no smaller-ownership group has ever hosted the game (Connecticut has multiple times, but a large casino owns the team), and one possible reason may be because they may not have sufficient assets for a competitive bid though they are able to own a team. Perhaps partnering with Hansen's group and moving to the new arena could help the Storm host the All-Star game sooner rather than later.

Second, even besides scheduling or an All-Star Game bid, will the Storm have facilities like an NBA sized locker room that they could hold as their own despite the fact that the WNBA season is so short? Most WNBA teams' locker rooms in existing NBA arenas are not at the same level as NBA teams'. In fact, it's not uncommon that the best facilities in women's basketball is at the college level, rather than the pros.

Obviously, should the NBA Board of Governors shoot down the sale of the Kings to Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer this April, this would likely keep the team in Sacramento and the content of this piece is moot, at least until Seattle hypothetically gets an expansion franchise. However, for the Storm, whether the Kings move to Seattle this fall or not, these questions are likely those that would be of significant importance to ownership as well as the players on the team whenever such a move happens.

UPDATE on March 14, 2013 at 5:20 PM: Hansen released some diagrams of the arena for hockey, which can be seen here.