SEATTLE - Hundreds rallied Thursday in green and gold to support the former Seattle Sonics, a new arena and the battle to bring professional basketball back to the city.
The event happened at Occidental Park in downtown Seattle, and was organized to show public support for a new arena and a team.
Chopper 7 flew over the crowd of people in support of getting a new sports arena built.
It has been four years since the Sonics left, but their supporters are still passionate about the team.
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Essex Porter spoke with a fan, Babe Eyle, and she said she brought her grandkids from Enumclaw to the event, and they’ve all heard her stories about the year the Sonics won the championship in 1979.
“I remember I went to the parade, the championship parade, when I was little. That was exciting,” Eyle said. “Lenny Wilkens brought us there, and I just want us back home.”
For dedicated Sonics fans, the NBA finals are likely painful to watch as the former Sonics, now the Oklahoma Thunder, take on the Miami Heat, but this afternoon, fans of a new arena in Seattle channeled that energy.
“Not having the Sonics, it hurts,” said Sonics fan Madi Dyer. “Watching the other team in the finals right now, it just hurts. I can’t even come up with words. I was so angry when they made the finals.”
A Facebook page for supporters of a new arena said thousands of people were attending the rally at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square. On Thursday morning, about 25,000 people were invited, and more than 3,000 said they would be there.
Former Sonics players such as Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf were in attendance, along with a lot of excited arena fans.
The arena developer, Chris Hansen, paid for the rally and spoke to the fans.
“This crowd is sending a message to the city, county, the NBA and to the world,” Hansen said.
The rally happened a day after it was announced that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom family are joining the investment group led by Seattle native Hansen.
Even though Hansen bought land south of Safeco Field for the NBA arena, there are issues with King County and Seattle council members.
Some of the issues include protecting the public money, solving traffic concerns and the fact that construction can’t begin until Hansen’s group secures an NBA team for Seattle.
The King County Council and the Seattle City Council will hold hearings to decide whether to approve it.