What About Ackerley`S Arena? How Suite It Is!

Some questions, some answers.

Did the City Council do right by voters in deciding to allow Barry Ackerley - with tax-saving subsidies - to spend $80 million to build a sports arena?

Find a city that has a better deal. Time will come when the Pioneer Square Sports Complex will be a rich and renewing area for Seattle, so much better than if the Kingdome had been built near Southcenter as many wanted, or if Ackerley had built his arena next to the Bellevue Mall as he threatened. All that remains to be built is a small, old-fashioned-looking outdoor baseball stadium to be used in concert with the Kingdome.

Q:Was the future of the Seattle Coliseum - Ackerley's demand that it be reduced by 9,000 seats so it wouldn't compete for business with the new arena - a red herring?

You bet. The Coliseum will die a natural death, of neglect and old age, a drain on the city until it passes away. It would not have been serious competition for Ackerley, and served only as a wonderful, if meaningless, bargaining chip.

Q: What are the chances of the National Hockey League expanding to Seattle?

The seats at City Council still were warm after its decision to approve the arena when the phone rang in Ackerley's office. Norman Green, a minority owner of the Calgary Flames, was inquiring about being a majority owner of Seattle's NHL expansion team.

``They'll come in here from all over trying to put a deal together,'' said Russ Farwell, general manager of Seattle's junior hockey team, the Thunderbirds. ``In my opinion, Seattle is almost automatic for an NHL team. It is such a great location for travel, it is a prime TV market on the West Coast and along with San Francisco would help the NHL make giant strides toward credibility for a national TV contract.''

Q: Will Ackerley try to own both the basketball and hockey teams as well as the arena?

Ackerley always has had more brash than cash. The arena will test his credit rating. Bill Yuill, owner of the T-Birds, has been in contact with Ackerley, who could serve as a minority partner. Ackerley wants local ownership of the hockey team and sees Yuill as semilocal.

Q: When could the team begin playing here?

The NHL expands next season to the San Francisco Bay Area. A team could be in Seattle the following fall, for the 1991-92 season.

Q: Where would the team play?

At the Coliseum, with the Sonics. The Coliseum is OK with the NHL on a temporary basis, and certainly better than the Cow Palace, where the San Francisco team will play next year.

Q: How soon could Ackerley's arena be in operation?

As early as the 1992-93 season, if construction begins early in 1991.

Q:What will the building look like?

Bob Whitsitt, president of the Sonics, says it will look nothing like the Kingdome and very much like Pioneer Square, somewhere between the brick and bulk of the warehouses there and the neon and iron of the new bus terminal.

Q: How many seats will it have?

Not counting luxury suites - of which there probably will be 70 - the seating will be 17,000 for basketball and 16,000 for hockey.

Q:What are the luxury suites all about?

Money. Prestige. Profit. Ackerley wants to keep all the revenue from the suites - as much as $5 million a year - including the sale of tickets. The suites would seat from 12 to 18 people and would cost about a $100,000 a year, which would include tickets for every event in the building.

Q: Where would the suites be?

Halfway between the floor and the ceiling, as in 20 to 30 rows from the court or ice. The seats right below them might well be sold as ``VIP Seats,'' larger, more comfy than normal seats and with bar and restaurant service.

Q: Where would that leave veteran Sonic season ticket holders?

Whitsitt said they'll still have the seats from the floor to the VIP seats.

Q: How will this building compare with the Palace in suburban Detroit?

Not as big, not as fancy, with half the luxury suites. Obviously designed for a market almost as yuppie but not nearly as big.

Q: What arenas might the new one resemble?

From the inside, the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for one, the under-construction arena in Phoenix for another. From the outside, Chicago Stadium or Edmundson Pavilion. Something like that, I guess.

Q: What will it be called?

The Lenny Wilkens Center. Naw, it will have a commercial name, as part of Ackerley's bid to squeeze every dollar he can from every sign and sponsor around. The Seafirst Arena is still the best bet, Ackerley hoping to redo the deal with the bank. The cost apparently will be between $500,000 and $1 million a year to Seafirst or whomever wants to buy immortality.

Q: What should it be called?

The Queendome.

Blaine Newnham's column usually is published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the Sports section of The Times.