Seattle's KeyArena looking kind of grubby

Seattle’s KeyArena is likely getting a makeover. The facility opened in 1962 and was last renovated in 1995. It was last home to the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics who left in 2008 to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, and still hosts the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

In order to attract an NBA return or (more likely) an NHL arrival, a group led by Jerry Bruckheimer is planning on renovating the KeyArena. Of course, Four Over Four is not typically about sports, it’s about music, but there’s a point that I’m getting to. And that point starts with an old English drinking song and the War of 1812.

Okay, okay, I won’t get into a long story. The point is, those two things are the elements that eventually led to the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. And sometime around the 1920s, the playing of the national anthem became commonplace at sporting events.

Here’s the thing: for many teams, they now have a prerecorded version of the national anthem to play before each game. This seems like a waste. However, the recent magical run of the NHL’s Nashville Predators shined a light on something the Predators do better than almost every other major sports team. They use the national anthem as a platform to spotlight local talent.

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota with Nashville Predators house band

In a confluence of Nashville’s strong music traditions and the fact that they’re a new-ish team in the lowest profile major sports league, the Predators became innovators in how they used the national anthem and other points during the game to highlight the local music scene. They have a house band, they use intermission as a performance, guest performers, a random stage they have on one end of the Keystone Arena, etc.

Do you know any other place that might have that happy confluence of factors that could lead to something similar? Why, perhaps an NHL team in Seattle would be able to do that. Seattle has a long, proud music tradition with a multitude of local bands. In fact, Seattle could probably do it better because the Predators basically do all country acts. Seattle has a much broader spectrum of genres to offer. The Predators also still bring in a number of relatively well-known acts. Seattle could use the platform for even more up-and-coming type acts.

That’s the real secret there. KeyArena, of course, currently holds concerts and presumably would continue to do so after renovations. However, a big arena like that is typically booking arena tours and the like. The teams in the arena, on the other hand, have the opportunity to pack an arena and then use that platform to support the local music community in a big way.

In fact, stadiums have a multitude of ways to expose people to undiscovered bits of local cultures from the food to the alcohol to the team store. Is it easier to outsource all this activity out to a big national corporation and let them handle it? Sure. But will it be better for the local community and the arena in the long run to build this relationship? Yes.

So consider this a bid to the people trying to revitalize the KeyArena, follow Nashville’s lead and make the stadium a hub to celebrate Seattle music, food, and culture.

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