By Sean Keely
There’s a bit of irony in the fact that Seattle almost acquired the Sacramento Kings last year and turned them into the new Seattle Sonics. It would have been the second time a franchise named the Kings turned into something else in Seattle. The first time was when the Emerald City got its NFL franchise, you know, the one potentially-playing for their second Super Bowl crown soon.
So how did we end up with Seahawks anyway? We begin that story at a time when we were Kings…
Despite overtures around Seattle to acquire a pro football franchise as far as back as the 50’s, the possibility of such a thing seemed out of reach. That was, until Wayne Field formed the Seattle Sea Lions Management Corporation in 1969 with one goal in mind…land an NFL franchise. In 1971, the would-be franchise changed it’s name to the Seattle Kings. There are multiple reasons given for the name-change, including the fact that the team would be playing in King County Domed Stadium (a.k.a. The Kingdome), which was located close to King Street Station and that Washington Huskies football legend Hugh “The King” McElhenny came on board as Team V.P. and General Manager.
Over the next few years, a rival Seattle ownership group called Seattle Professional Football emerged and the two went back and forth attempting to woo the NFL as well as locals on the idea that they were best suited to run a franchise. The NFL, however, initially thought Tampa Bay was more ideal and, in April 1974, awarded them the next expansion team.
Fears that Seattle had missed it’s opportunity were quieted soon after and on June 5, 1974, Seattle became the NFL’s 28th franchise. The only question was…who would own the team? After crunching the numbers, the folks behind Seattle Kings Football Club decided it was no longer feasible and withdrew their consideration for ownership of the franchise. Seattle Professional Football was deemed the franchise owners and Lloyd W. Nordstrom (of THOSE Nordstroms) was named majority partner.
Before throwing his support behind Seattle Professional Football, Wayne Field made one request. That, due to the hard work and time his group had put into the effort to get an NFL franchise in Seattle, the Kings name be considered. That overture was denied and the club’s name was put to a vote.
After a public contest that drew over 20K entries for 1,741 names, the Seattle Seahawks were officially named on June 17, 1975. The team played their first game on September 12, 1976 and the rest is history. Or, hawkstory, as it were.
Back in 1974 when the question of whether or not the team would end up sticking with Kings, then-managing director Herman Sarkowsky told reporters, “there are already too many Kings in professional sports.” Considering Seattle almost eliminated another one from the professional ranks last year, perhaps that’s part of our lore.
Originally published January 15, 2015 at https://seattle.curbed.com/2015/1/15/10002148/when-we-were-almost-kings-how-the-seahawks-were-named