Sep 16, 2012

Wheeling and dealing

And great it was! The Great Wheel of Seattle! I’ve been watching the new ferris wheel down at the waterfront from my Queen Anne window for three weeks now. It makes a round silhouette in front of the two stadium arches and Mount Rainier, and some evenings it fires off in a magnificent light show, stadium arches as a nice backdrop in solids. Isn’t there a way we could light up The Mountain too? Silent choppers circulating with giant spotlights?

Anyway, as Broparken (The Bridge Park) in Umeå is now proving the plans for really coming to life, changing into that rolling flowing green space declining towards the river that we have only scene on sketches before, The Great Wheel on Pier 57 owned by Hal Griffith opened late June being the first evidence that the Seattle Waterfront is changing.

-       I don’t know how that happened, suddenly it was there, it must have slipped under the radar of the Seattle Process! Says Elizabeth.

Trouble 1, our friend Elizabeth and me are having the perfect summer Friday fun evening down at the waterfront slowly spinning on top of the world right in the middle of the skyline, the port and Elliot Bay while the sun is setting behind The Olympic Mountains. It just doesn’t get much better than this!

So, there is The Seattle Process. Exactly the way there is The Umeå Process. My two cities have the very same culture when it comes to decision making and developing. And from where we are sitting in the ferris wheel gondola we have the perfect view over the area that just this week came very close to the end of a process that’s been under the eye for some time now.

To make a very long story as brief as possible: For 41 years Seattle hosted a NBA team, The Super Sonics, residents in what’s now the Key Arena at Seattle Center. The team moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, a loss that basketball fans in The Emerald City are still deeply grieving.

So did Chris Hansen, a Seattle native, now a hedge fund manager-millionaire in San Francisco, who showed up at the Seattle scene proposing a new basketball-hockey-entertainment stadium neighboring the baseball stadium and the football stadium in Sodo (the area SOuth of DOwntown), turning a big part of the Industrial District in to Arena District, also plugged in to the Port of Seattle and shipping terminals.

This is truly a big thing. As much as a lot of people agree on that it sure would be nice being the home of a NBA team again, there is among other things the question about increasing traffic in an already congested area. The Port of Seattle links to 30 000 jobs in the region, and what could be more important than jobs?

So, after months of serious dealing (which is by the way an extremely short time!) a Seattle City Committee Thursday agreed on a plan for a new 490 million arena in Sodo. I will leave the numbers out, but the agreement between the City and private investor Chris Hansen includes a transportation-improvement fund for the area, and another one looking into the needs of the Seattle Center Key Arena. The deal is a unique private/public partnership where the City has worked on financial protections to reduce public risk to a minimum, and Hansen is taking on both an enormous responsibility and huge risk. Final approval is expected September 24. After that Chris Hansen can begin shopping for a NBA team for Seattle.

Well, we all have different wallets for shopping. In our ferris wheel gondola, Trouble 1, our friend Elizabeth and I are agreeing on 15 dollar for a four round magical pleasant sunset spin is definitely worth the money. And Umeå, on my wish list for the more eastern of my two waterfronts in the world there is now not only a heated pool on a barge on the Umeå River and a Light Box for summer night-light concerts, I definitely want to throw in a ferris wheel! It’s just the perfect gentle, non-aggressive fun for everyone in the family to agree on and enjoy. And so beautiful! What can go wrong?!

And, by the way, the wheel didn’t just happen. Hal Griffith, the owner of Pier 57 where the ferris wheel is located, had envisioned this new attraction for 30 years. Three decades was needed for the plan to come to fruition. For the deals to close. For The Wheel to turn.

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