SEATTLE — The ironic thing about KeyArena is that, for all its shortcomings, it’s a great place to watch a ball game. There isn’t a bad seat in the building. It gets loud (and these fans are loud and proud tonight). And it’s not massive like, say, Dallas’ American Airlines, so it’s a great atmosphere and you don’t feel like you’re a state away from the action. The problem for owners is that it’s so small, (the smallest in the NBA) that it doesn’t have the biggest money makers of today. Not enough suites. Not enough concession space. Not enough VIP areas. And no space for restaurants. It’s the same thing that’s going on in Oklahoma City right now with the Ford Center.
That’s a tricky balancing act. Owners need to make money, but fans deserve a great atmosphere and a good time. Houston’s Toyota Center has a great mix. Denver’s Pepsi Center is considered one of the best. You also won’t get many complaints about Staples Center in L.A. or FedEx Forum in Memphis. The only thing keeping the Hawks’ Phillips Arena off the list is that that will never be considered a great atmosphere until the place draws more than 5,000 a night. I’m quite fond of Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, which is a great place to watch a game and provides a great atmosphere but is widely considered sub par.