I took the train up to Seattle to shoot a special travelog for all of you. See them now at http://blazertrail.com/?p=119
I recommend everyone take a trip up before the Sonics move somewhere else if they haven't before. It is great to see a game in a different arena just to compare all the details that make each experience different. A few comparisons of my own:
#1: The Facilities: Key Arena isn't much older than the Rose Garden, but it was clearly built in a different era and on a different budget. It feels much more like a college stadium like UP's Chiles Center than the Rose Garden. Their cement is exposed, the halls are narrow, the vendors feel like a high school coke shack. I can't think of one thing they had in the concourse that I wanted at home.
#2: The View: Their arena on the inside is much different in both positive and negative ways. Their stands seem to pitch upward uniformally from floor to rafters, while the Rose Garden is flat on the bottom and steep at the top. I enjoyed the rise sitting in the lower bowl. The cheap seats looked comparable to the Rose Garden, but it has the effect of feeling further because of the pitch.
#3: The Staff: Ushers were low-key and relaxed. They didn't hassle, they liked to chat, they didn't care if you lingered a bit in the breezeway. They also looked a little resigned to the fact that they might not have a job sometime soon. The ushers were supplied by the arena, which I think is owned by the city, and their allegiance to the Sonics felt a little lower.
#4: The Fans: I felt that the Sonics fans were way more polite to us than what I saw at our home game. A french fry flew our way, but it turned out to be bored kids throwing them at anybody. Maybe this rivalry is more one sided than we want to believe, and that could also be a statement to the difference in the current franchises. Not one person commented on my wife's Oden jersey.
#5: The Lighting: Only really important to me and other photographers, but the lighting in the Key is slightly harsher and two f-stops brighter than the Rose Garden. That's the difference between a flash and no flash in many people's books.
#6: The entertainment: The Sonics have a couple of really cool things going their way. Squatch is the best mascot I have ever seen, and they have a gimmick group of "ushers" who do a great dunk routine. The dancers are a little better at hiphop moves than ours and they are used more as sex symbols than the Blazers would admit to doing. They have a more typical beer blimp that is more maneuverable and speedy (I hate ours. The thing is lumbering and ugly, like the car it represents). Finally, Squatch has a much better t-shirt propulsion rig that looks like it might be deadly at short range. They don't have our 45 different dance groups, nor do they have a cheer squad.
#7: The announcing: good, less produced. They use their announcer more when we would use something canned. He has a great "LOUDER" one-word directive that gets people screaming quickly. I am happy we don't use the Adam's Family music though. Oh, and let the record show that I miss an organ sometimes. Not all the time, just sometimes.
My final comment after reading the different agenda items for the Blazers open forum is that it isn't terrible if the games are pretty produced, but just think of the season ticketholders once in a while and change things up one game to the next. When I go home after games I start chanting my cats' names to the rhythm of D-Fense because it has entered my spinal cord memory. Annoying!