Tuesday, May 31, 2016 This Week's Paper

Our view: Ponder it: Tacoma Sonics

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The Seattle City Council doesn’t want an NBA basketball team to return to the Emerald City. So it only seems fitting to ponder Tacoma swooping in on that action.
It isn’t as odd of an idea as it might seem at first. The Sonics played in the Tacoma Dome for a season already, and Seattle’s elected officials won’t even vacate a strip of roadway to allow for a stadium to be built.
Not only could landing a professional basketball team bring the Sonics back to the region, but the move could provide another boost to a city that is clearly already on the rise.
Tacoma officials pondered the idea of bringing an NBA team to the Tacoma Dome, but the Great Recession stalled those plans. The downturn is over, and Tacoma is a boom town once again. The addition of the Sonics would be further fuel to the City of Destiny’s profile on the international stage.
Tacoma already has such international draws as the Museum of Glass, LeMay: America’s Car Museum, Tacoma Art Museum’s nationally ranked collection of Western art and international shipping traffic. Then there is that whole draw for Mount Rainier and the growing attractions at Destination Point Defiance.
Think about the added spark the Sonics could bring to the city. Landing a pro team would justify the replacement of, or dramatic renovation to, the Tacoma Dome. It’s a home the team knows well since the Sonics played their 1994-1995 season under the Dome’s timbers while the Seattle Center Coliseum was being renovated into what is now KeyArena.
Other professional teams that once called the Dome their home include the Tacoma Stars soccer, Tacoma Express football, Tacoma Rockets and the Tacoma Sabercats hockey, as well as the Seattle Sounders soccer in 1994. The Tacoma Dome also hosted the 1987 United States Figure Skating Championships, the 1990 Goodwill Games, the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four in 1988 and 1989, as well as a roster of National Hockey League preseason exhibition games between 1983 and 1996.
Sure, the 23,000-seat dome – or 17,100 for basketball – of today is not the dome it was during its prime. It is showing its age.  Sure, it’s not bad for 33 years old. Times have changed and it hasn’t. Higher expectations are leading to the Dome losing out to newer venues around the region. It needs some love. Any renovation or replacement deal would require private dollars to spruce up or replace the Dome, but Tacomans are already working on a plan to raise money to paint Andy Warhol’s “Flower” on the Dome, so the buzz around raising private dollars has already been planted.
If Seattle doesn’t want to bring the Sonics back, Tacoma should welcome them.

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