It should be the New Jersey Nets playing away to the Seattle SuperSonics.
I began this blog just prior to the 2007-08 NBA season, which was the last one for the Sonics before they moved. I wasn't yet doing these travel guides. If I had been, with the Nets making their final visit on November 23, and the Nets their last on February 2, the one for the Sonics would have gone something like this (with updates in italics):
Yes, that really is Seattle. Yes, that really is a nice blue sky overhead. When the clouds part, and you can see Lake Washington and the Cascadia Mountains, including Mount Rainier, it's actually a beautiful city. It's just that it rains so much, such a sight isn't all that common.
Before You Go. Seattle is notorious for rain, and while this game will be indoors, you will have to spend quite a bit of time outdoors. Check the websites of the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the weather forecast. Right now, they're predicting the high 50s for daylight on November 23, and the low 40s for the evening.
Seattle is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.
There is high-speed passenger ferry service from Seattle to the Canadian city of Victoria, the capital of the Province of British Columbia. But it takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, and costs a bundle: $187 round-trip. (The scenery in Washington State and British Columbia is spectacular, and this is clearly part of what you're paying for.) From there, you can easily get to Vancouver. (I don't know what it actually would have cost in 2007. That's what it costs in 2016.)
If you want to make this trip, you will have to give confirmation within 48 hours of booking. And it's a passenger-only ferry service: No cars allowed. If you'd like to make a side trip to Vancouver, you're better off driving or taking the train. But any way you go over the border, you should have your passport with you.
Tickets. The SuperSonics averaged 15,955 fans per home game in 2006-07, about 93 percent of capacity. And they're not very good at the moment, so tickets shouldn't be difficult to obtain.
(Unfortunately, I can find no reference to what Sonics ticket prices were in their final season, or in any other.)
Getting There. It's 2,854 miles from Times Square to Pioneer Square in Seattle. In other words, if you're going, you're going to want to fly.
After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days to get there. One way.
But, for future reference, if you really, really want to drive... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and stay on that until it merges with Interstate 90 west of Cleveland, then stay on 90 through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, into Wisconsin, where it merges with Interstate 94. Although you could take I-90 almost all the way, I-94 is actually going to be faster. Stay on I-94 through Minnesota and North Dakota before re-merging with I-90 in Montana, taking it through Idaho and into Washington, getting off I-94 at Exit 2B.
Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2 hours, Wisconsin for 3:15, Minnesota for 4:30, North Dakota for 6 hours, Montana for a whopping 13 hours (or 3 times the time it takes to get from New York to Boston), Idaho for 1:15 and 6:45 in Washington. That’s 50 hours, and with rest stops, you're talking 3 full days.
That's still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, changing in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minneapolis and Missoula, $362 round-trip) and Amtrak (67 hours, changing in Chicago, $746 before booking sleeping arrangements). (Note that these prices were in place for a Yankees-Mariners series in August 2016, but were probably close to what they were in November 2007 or February 2008.)
On Amtrak, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Tuesday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Wednesday, and board the Empire Builder at 2:15 PM, and would reach King Street Station at 10:25 AM Pacific Time on Friday. (Of course, for the Nets-Sonics game on November 23, this would have been complicated by the day before being Thanksgiving.)
King Street Station is just to the north of the stadium complex, at S. King St. & 3rd Ave. S., and horns from the trains can sometimes be heard as the trains go down the east stands of CenturyLink Field and the right-field stands of Safeco. The Greyhound station is at 811 Stewart St. at 8th Ave., in the Central Business District, about halfway between the stadiums and the Seattle Center complex.
A round-trip flight from Newark to Seattle, if ordered now, could be had, although not nonstop, on American Airlines for around $550. You can get a nonstop on United Airlines for around $850. Link Light Rail can get you out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), and the same system has Stadium Station to get to Safeco and CenturyLink Fields. The fare is $2.75.
Once In the City. Founded in 1853, and named for a Chief of the Duwamish Indians, Seattle is easily the biggest city in America's Northwest, with 635,000 people within the city limits and 3.6 million in its metropolitan area. Just as Charlotte is called the Queen City of the Southeast, and Cincinnati the Queen City of the Midwest, Seattle is known as the Queen City of the Northwest. All its greenery has also gotten it the tag the Emerald City. With Lake Washington, Puget Sound, and the Cascade mountain range nearby, including Mount Rainier, it may be, on those rare clear days, America's most beautiful metro area.
East-west street addresses increase from Puget Sound and the Alaskan Way on eastward. North-south addresses are separated by Yesler Way.
The Times is Seattle's only remaining daily print newspaper. The Post-Intelligencer is still in business, but in online form only. This is mainly due to the high cost of both paper and ink, and has doomed many newspapers completely, so Seattle is lucky to still, sort of, have 2 daily papers.
ZIP Codes in the State of Washington start with the digits 980 to 994. In Seattle proper, it's 980 and 981; and for the suburbs, 982, 983 and 984. The Area Code for Seattle is 206.
Although Seattle is the largest city in the State of Washington, the State Capitol is Olympia, 60 miles to the southwest. It can be reached by public transportation, taking Bus 594 Lakewood, and then transferring to Bus 620. It takes about 2 1/2 hours.
The Washington State House in Olympia
Going In. Erected for the 1962 World's Fair, Seattle Center is at 400 Broad Street at John Street, about a mile north of downtown. It can be reached from downtown by the Number 33 bus, although the nearest Link station is several blocks' walk away.
The complex includes the city's trademark, the Space Needle. Also there is Memorial Stadium, a high school football stadium built in 1946. It used to host the old North American Soccer League version of the Sounders, and now hosts the women's soccer team, the Seattle Reign. On June 24, 1975, it hosted a game between the national teams of the U.S. and Poland, ending in a draw.
The old Coliseum
For our purposes, the most important building in this complex is the KeyArena, home of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, the WNBA's Seattle Storm, and the basketball team at Seattle University. KeyBank owns the naming rights. The old Seattle Center Coliseum was built on the site in 1962, 3 blocks west and 2 blocks north of the Space Needle, and the expansion Sonics moved in for the 1967-68 season.
The Beatles performed at the old Coliseum on August 21, 1964, and did 2 shows there on their final tour on August 25, 1966. Elvis Presley, who filmed It Happened At the World's Fair at Seattle Center in 1962, sang at the Coliseum on November 12, 1970; April 29, 1973 (2 shows); and April 26, 1976.
It was demolished, and rebuilt while the Sonics played the 1994-95 season at the Tacoma Dome. The Arena's official address is 305 Harrison Street. Parking is $8.00.
The new Arena
Since the arena is north of downtown, most fans are likely to enter from the south. The court is laid out north-to-south.
On May 12, 2014, The New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. With the loss of the Sonics, Seattle fans not only refused to accept their former heroes as Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunders? Thunderers? Thundermen?), but also refused to accept the next-closest team, their former arch-rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers, 171 miles away, as their new team. They seem to divide their fandom 4 ways, none of which should surprise you: The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. But if Seattle should ever get another team, these fans would certainly get behind the new Sonics.
Food. As a waterfront city, and as the Northwest's biggest transportation and freight hub, it is no surprise that Seattle is a good food city, with the legendary Pike Place Market serving as their "South Street Seaport." Fortunately, KeyArena lives up to this.
The northwest corner has Uptown Kitchen, which includes seafood like fish & chips and clam chowder; and La Choza, a Mexican food stand. The northeast corner has Grill 206, with burgers, hot dogs and fries; and Ceres, with roasted nuts. The southeast corner has Seven Hills Grill, named for the 7 hills of Rome, and featuring pizza and Italian sausages; and a gluten-free food stand. The southwest corner has World's Fare, featuring what it calls "global street food." In addition, there are what the arena calls "general concession stands" all over.
(All of these stands are still in place, 8 years after the Sonics left.)
Team History Displays. The Sonics began play in 1967, and have usually been at least good. They've made the Playoffs 22 times in their 1st 40 seasons; won 5 regular-season division titles, most recently in 2005; reached the Western Conference Finals 6 times; won the Western Conference in 1978, 1979 and 1996; and won the NBA Championship in 1979. That remains Seattle's only World Championship in any sport, except for the Seattle Metropolitans becoming the 1st team from outside Canada to win the Stanley Cup, in 1917.
In addition, the Seattle Storm won the WNBA Championship in 2004. The north end of the arena has the 1979 NBA title and the 2004 WNBA title at the center of a banner display, with the other banners arranged in chronological order -- oddly, with the Storm's other banner, for their 2004 Western Conference title, mixed in with the Sonics' banners.
(The Seahawks have since won Super Bowl XLVIII, and the Storm won another WNBA title in 2010.)
The Sonics have retired 6 numbers. The 1st was the 19 of Lenny Wilkens, a guard in their early days and the head coach of their 1979 title, retiring it just as their next season started. Later, from that title team, they retired the 1 of guard Gus Williams, the 32 of guard Fred "Downtown" Brown, and the 43 of center Jack Sikma.
They've also retired the 24 of forward Spencer Haywood, from their early days; and the 10 of guard Nate McMillan, from their 1996 Conference title. So far, they haven't retired the 20 of guard Gary Payton or the 40 of forward Shawn Kemp from the '96 Sonics. They have, however, retired a microphone for Bob Blackburn, who broadcast for them from their 1967 debut until 1992.
Haywood watches his Number 24 join the honorees
Wilkens, Haywood and Payton are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Bill Russell was elected while he was Sonics coach, but was fired, and replaced by Wilkens. Russell was a great coach when he had Bill Russell to play for him; when he didn't, not so much.
Since the Sonics moved, Dennis Johnson, also a member of the 1979 title team, was elected. Like Haywood, he wore 24 with the Sonics. While some teams (including the Yankees and the Knicks) have retired a number for 2 players, the Sonics never so honored him, although the Boston Celtics retired the 3 he wore with them. Also since the Sonics moved, the Storm have retired a number, the 15 of Australian forward Lauren Jackson, 2001-12.
Wilkens was the only player with significant time with the Sonics to have been named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
The Storm's Jackson and Sue Bird were named to the NBA's 15th Anniversary 15 Greatest Players in 2012.
Alas, the Sonics are gone now.
Stuff. The Huddle, the main team store, is in the southwest corner of the arena, behind Section 118. Sonics and Storm items are available there.
There aren't many books about the team. Probably the best one is Nate Leboutillier's 2006 contribution to the NBA: A History of Hoops series, The Story of the Seattle SuperSonics. A DVD collection from their 1979 title team should be available.
In 2014, a video titled Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team premiered.
During the Game. Wearing Knick or Net gear in Seattle, including inside KeyArena, will not endanger your safety. Sonics fans hate the Portland Trail Blazers, and they don't much like the Los Angeles Lakers. But they don't mind the New York-area teams.
The Sonics hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Their mascot is Squatch, short for "Sasquatch," or "Bigfoot," a creature that supposedly inhabits the Pacific Northwest. His "uniform number" is a footprint. Like Go the Gorilla in Phoenix, he does trick dunks -- indeed, he may have been inspired by Go, since he debuted for the 1993-94 season, the year after the Charles Barkley-led Suns won the NBA West.
After the Game. Seattle Center is not an especially high-crime area, and Sonic do not tend to get violent. You might get a little bit of verbal if you're wearing Knick or Net gear, but it won't get any worse than that.
To the northwest of the Arena, on Republican Street, in the Queen Anne neighborhood, are a few bars known for serving Sonics fans after games. Taylor Oyster Bars at 124, Triumph Bar at 114, Agave Cocina at 100, and Dick's Drive-In at 500 Queen Anne Avenue North.
Two bars are usually identified with Mariners and Seahawks games, but they're 2 miles southeast of the Arena. Sluggers, formerly known as Sneakers (or "Sneaks" for short), is at 538 1st Avenue South, at the northwest corner of CenturyLink Field. A little further up, at 419 Occidental Avenue South, is F.X. McRory's. Pike Place Market is about halfway between, about a mile southeast, and may still be open after Sonics games.
As for New York-friendly bars, while there are Yankee Fans everywhere, I couldn't find anything specific on the Internet. I've been told that Buckley's in Queen Anne is good for football Giants fans. It is at 232 1st Avenue West, at Thomas Street, 3 blocks west and 1 block south from the Arena.
The Sonics' last season in Seattle, 2007-08, was the early days of mass satellite TV exposure of world soccer in America, making this next line viable.
If you visit during the European soccer season, which will soon be upon us, the leading "football pub" in the Pacific Northwest is The George and Dragon Pub, 206 N. 36th Street, 5 miles north of downtown. Bus 40.
Sidelights. Aside from the KeyArena and the Safeco/CenturyLink complex, Seattle doesn't have a lot of sports sites worth mentioning. But these should be mentioned:
* Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and site of Kingdome. The Mariners new ballpark is at 1516 First Avenue South. It is in a neighborhood called SoDo, for "South of Downtown."
CenturyLink Field, formerly Seahawks Stadium and Qwest Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and MLS' Seattle Sounders, is just to the north of Safeco, across Royal Brougham Way, on the site of the Kingdome. It is regarded as the loudest outdoor facility in the NFL, and it has one of the better soccer atmospheres in the U.S. as well. The U.S. soccer team has played at CenturyLink 4 times, and won them all. It also hosted the 2009 MLS Cup Final.
In case you're wondering, Safeco is an insurance company, and CenturyLink is a telecommunications outfit, which bought similar company Qwest.
CenturyLink was built on the site of the Kingdome, home to the Seahawks from 1976 to 1999, the Mariners from 1977 to 1999, the old Sounders from 1976 to 1984, and the Sonics for some home games from 1978 to 1984.
The Kingdome hosted the Final Four in 1984 (Georgetown over Houston), 1989 (Michigan over Seton Hall), and 1995 (UCLA over Arkansas). It also hosted 3 U.S. soccer team matches: A win, a loss, and a draw.
It was functional, and that's about it. It was demolished, and that was best for everyone from sports fans to architecture fans.
The Kingdome. It served its purpose, getting Seattle
into MLB and the NFL, and was thankfully replaced.
The book gives awful details of the place's inadequacy: As an 11,000-seat ballpark, it was fine for Triple-A ball in the 1940s, '50s and '60s; expanded to 25,420 seats for the Pilots, it was a lousy place to watch, and a worse one to play, baseball in anything like the modern era.
Elvis Presley sang at Sick's on September 1, 1957 (since it had more seats than any indoor facility in town). Supposedly, Hendrix, then 15, was there. A few days prior, Floyd Patterson defended the heavyweight title there by knocking out fellow 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher.
Demolished in 1979 after the construction of the Kingdome (whose inadequacies were very different but no less glaring), the site of Sick's Stadium is now occupied by a Lowe's store. 2700 Rainier Avenue South, bounded also by McClellan & Bayview Sts. & Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Mount Baker station on the Link light rail system.
* Husky Stadium. The home of the University of Washington football, the largest stadium in the Pacific Northwest (including Canada) is right on Lake Washington, and is one of the nicest-looking stadiums in college football. A rare feature in major college football is that fans can dock right outside and tailgate by boat. (The only others at which this is possible: Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee, and Heinz Field for University of Pittsburgh games.)
It opened in 1920, making it the oldest stadium in the Pacific-12 Conference. The Seahawks played a few home games here in 1994, after some tiles fell from the Kingdome roof, and played their games here in 2000 and 2001 between the demolition of the Kingdome and the opening of what's now CenturyLink Field. In 1923, it was the site of the last public speech given by President Warren G. Harding before his death in a San Francisco hotel.
Sadly, The Wave was invented here in 1981, by university yell leader (think male cheerleader) Robb Weller, later one of Mary Hart's co-hosts on Entertainment Tonight.
A major renovation was recently completed, necessary due to age and the moisture from being on the water and in Seattle's rainy climate. Pretty much everything but the north stand of the east-pointing horseshoe was demolished and replaced. The Huskies played the 2012 season at CenturyLink, and moved into the revamped, 70,138-seat Husky Stadium for the 2013 season. Rutgers University will play its 1st game of the 2016 football game against Washington here, on Saturday, September 3.
3800 Montlake Blvd. NE, at Pacific St. Bus 545 to Montlake & Lake Washington Blvd., then walk half a mile across Montlake Cut, a canal that connects Lake Washington with Lake Union. Or, Bus 511 to 45th St. & 7th Ave., then Bus 44 to Pacific & Montlake, outside UW Medical Center, then walk a quarter of a mile.
* Edmundson Pavilion. Adjacent to Husky Stadium, at 3870 Montlake, is Alaska Airlines Arena at Clarence S. "Hec" Edmundson Pavilion, the home of "U-Dub" basketball since 1927. Hec was the school's longtime basketball and track coach, and "Hec Ed" hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1949 (Kentucky over Oklahoma A&M, the school now known as Oklahoma State) and 1952 (Kansas over St. John's). It has also hosted the State of Washington's high school basketball finals.
UW has been to the Final Four only once, in 1953, although they've won the regular-season title in the league now called the Pac-12 11 times, including 2012; and the Conference Tournament 3 times, most recently in 2011. Washington State, across the State in Pullman, reached the Championship Game in 1941, but hasn't been back to the Final Four since.
* Tacoma Dome. The Sonics used this building during the 1994-95 season, as the Seattle Center Coliseum was demolished and the KeyArena put up in its place. Opening in 1983, it seats 17,100, and its most common use has been for minor-league hockey and concerts. 2727 East D Street, about 32 miles south of downtown Seattle. It can be reached from downtown Seattle by Bus 590, 592, 594 or 595, and it would take about 45 minutes.
The Spokane Coliseum, at Boone Street and Howard Avenue, seated 5,400, lasted from 1954 to 1995, and was replaced by the 12,200-seat Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, across the street. It's home to minor-league hockey's Spokane Chiefs. 720 W. Mallon Avenue. Spokane is 280 miles east of Seattle.
* Seattle Ice Arena. The Seattle Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to the league's folding in 1926, and won 5 league championships: 1917, 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1924. In 1917, they defeated the National Hockey Association champion Montreal Canadiens, and became the 1st American team to win the Stanley Cup. This would be Seattle's only world title in any sport for 62 years.
They played at the Seattle Ice Arena, which seated only 4,000 people, and was demolished in 1963. The IBM Building, a typically tacky piece of 1960s architecture, now stands on the site. 1200 Fifth Avenue at University Avenue, downtown.
If Seattle ever got a new NBA team, it would rank 17th among NBA metro areas in population. It would also rank 17th in the NHL. The closest NHL team is the Vancouver Canucks, 144 miles away. According to an article in the January 8, 2016 edition of Business Insider, the Canucks are the most popular NHL team in the State of Washington.
* Museums. In addition to the KeyArena, the Seattle Center Complex features the city's tradmark, the 605-foot Space Needle. Admission is $22, less than the cost of the Empire State Building, and it's open 'til 11:00 PM, with great views of the region's natural splendor.
Seattle Center also has the Pacific Science Center (think of it the Northwest's version of the American Museum of Natural History and its Hayden Planetarium), the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (not sure why Seattle was chosen as the Hall's location, although the city is a major aerospace center).
Aside from the Pacific Science Center and the Science Fiction Museum, Seattle isn't a big museum city, although the Seattle Art Museum, at 1300 1st Avenue at University Street, might be worth a visit.
The State of Washington has never produced a President, so there's no Presidential Library. Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972 and 1976, but didn't get particularly close. The State's never produced a Vice President, either. Thomas S. Foley served a District centered on Spokane in Congress from 1965 to 1995, and was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1995.
At 967 feet high, Columbia Center, a.k.a. The Black Tower, is the tallest building in the Northwest, and, for the moment, the tallest building in North America west of the Rocky Mountains except for the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. (A building going up in San Francisco, and another in Los Angeles, are both expected to top the Black Tower in 2017.)
Aside from Seattle Center and its Space Needle, and the stadiums, Seattle's best-known structure is the Pike Place Market. Think of it as their version of the South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market. (Or Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, Baltimore's Harborplace, or Boston's Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall.) It includes the 1st-ever Starbucks store, which is still open. Downtown, 85 Pike Street at Western Avenue.
Not many TV shows have been set in Seattle. Northern Exposure was filmed in the State of Washington, and Twin Peaks was both filmed and set there, but not in the City of Seattle. The science-fiction series Dark Angel, which vaulted Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly to stardom, was set in a dystopian future Seattle, but was filmed in Vancouver. So was Millennium. So was Smallville, but that wasn't meant to be Seattle. Arrow, about another superhero, is filmed in Vancouver, and perhaps due to Green Arrow wearing a green costume, I've often thought of his hometown of Star City (Starling City on the show) as being DC Comics' analogue for Seattle. While Frasier was set in Seattle, and Grey's Anatomy still is, there were hardly any location shots.
Nor have there been very many movies set in Seattle. The most obvious is Sleepless in Seattle, and the city was home to Matthew Broderick's and Ally Sheedy's characters in WarGames (in which Broderick's computer hacking has much greater consequences than it would 3 years later in the Chicago-based Ferris Bueller's Day Off).
Singles came along in 1992, at the height of grunge and the rise of Starbucks, which helped make Seattle the hippest city in the country in the years of George Bush the father and Bill Clinton's first term -- or, as Jason Alexander put it on Seinfeld, "It's the pesto of cities." It also reminded us of how good an actor Matt Dillon is, how gorgeous Kyra Sedgwick is, and that Bridget Fonda (daughter of Peter, niece of Jane and granddaughter of Henry) and Campbell Scott (son of George C. and Colleen Dewhurst) were worthy of their genes.
So, if you could have afforded it, it would have been nice to go on out and join your fellow Knick and Net fans in watching your team play the SuperSonics in Seattle. Who knows, maybe, one day, it will be again.