Can Seattle's population support six major sports teams?

Jul 10, 2012

Battle lines are being drawn between people who want a new basketball and hockey arena in Seattle and people who don’t. A town hall meeting at North Seattle Community College at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, July 10th, will give people a chance to speak out on the proposal. 

One issue likely to come up is whether the city is even big enough to support six professional sports teams.  The plan would add an NBA team and possibly an NHL team to the city's pro sports landscape of Seahawks, Mariners, Storm and Sounders. 

King County Council Member Larry Phillips for a while has been saying six teams, plus the University of Washington’s Huskies football team, might be too many.

"That’s a substantial load relative to the local entertainment dollar and I think we do need to have a very rigorous analysis of that," Phillips said in a King County Council committee meeting in May.

So is Seattle a lot smaller than other cities with six professional teams? Yes, according to Tim Ellis, who writes the SeattleBubble real estate blog. He crunched the numbers – he figured out how many people there are per sports team in major U.S. cities. He discovered we’d have a lot fewer people per sports team. No other city this size has six teams.

"Five teams seems pretty doable. Six teams – quite a stretch for a city our size," Ellis said.

Ellis says he is completely neutral on whether there should be a new arena or not.

Meanwhile, Chris Hansen - the hedge fund manager leading the arena effort - argues that ticket sales are becoming less important as broadcast fees go up. He says that means new sports franchises could depend more on TV for revenue, and he says Seattle is one of the fastest growing TV markets in the country.