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Art Thiel's Top 5 Seattle Sports Stories Of 2016

It's been quite a remarkable year for Seattle sports. It's time for knkx sports commentator Art Thiel to count down his top five stories of 2016.  5. Seattle Arena Developments

"We all thought it was dead in May when the Seattle City Council voted 5-4 against vacating a street in SoDo, where Chris Hansen, the arena developer, wants to put his new arena," Thiel said.

"But not only is it not dead, Chris Hansen plans to submit a new plan to the City Council sometime in January, in which he's going to privately fund the entirety of his project.

"Now we have a potential second arena [option] on the horizon because Mayor Ed Murray said he wants to put out bids for the remodel of KeyArena. Whether it pencils out, we'll have to see in 2017."

4. UW In Final Four Of NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

"That one came completely out of the blue and it was delightful story, I think, for everybody following it," Thiel said.

"The Huskies finished with a good but not astonishing 26-11 record in the Pac-12 regular season. But in the NCAA Tournament they went on to beat Penn, Maryland, Kentucky and Stanford - all seeded higher - and made it all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

"They lost to a very good Syracuse team. But they also, under coach Mike Neighbors, put this program on the map. And they still have back two of their most prominent stars, Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor.

"They're off to a very good start in the end of 2016 so it could be another run to the Final Four in '17."

3. Seahawks Make Playoffs Again

"They made the playoffs last year and beat Minnesota before falling to Carolina last January," Thiel said. "Last week, they again made the playoffs, clinching the NFC West title with a win over the Rams.

"That's five years in a row for the playoffs and that's really a mark of consistency under [coach] Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

"And it's been a tremendous kick for the fan base here to see such consistent excellence from a franchise that didn't have very much of it before those two arrived."

Tie: Seattle Sounders MLS Champions And UW Football In National Playoffs

Sounders Win First MLS Cup

"I would say, right now, with championship in hand, the Seattle Sounders are the winners [on this list]," Thiel said. "Simply because that's their first championship in eight years [of existence].

"They did it in a preposterous fashion: coming from nearly nowhere in late July to barely making the playoffs with a .500 record and then cruising through the playoffs to win in Toronto with no shots on goal [but instead] on penalty kicks.

"A tremendous achievement for all involved."

No. 4 Washington Plays No. 1 Alabama In Peach Bowl Dec. 31

"The University of Washington is going to play Alabama in really the biggest game in Husky [football] history," Thiel continued.

"It's not in the books yet but what the Huskies have achieved is remarkable.

"In the third year of coach Chris Petersen, they came from two good but unspectacular seasons to a 12-1 record this year to win the Pac-12 Conference for the first time in 15 years.

"And now they're in the national playoffs - just a third-year invention of the NCAA. They play Alabama and if they win that, this place will be on fire.

"It's really been a remarkable year of achievement in Seattle sports - something we're not used to. I think maybe some of us are still uncomfortable with this much success but I think everybody has embraced it."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwestand

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.