An annual health clinic that serves some 3,000 low-income and uninsured people in Washington state and beyond has been postponed until 2022 to facilitate concerts by the Zac Brown Band and The Who. Organizers are particularly concerned because large parts of the clinic have not taken place in the past two years due to the pandemic.
Founded in 2014, the Seattle/King County Clinic held annually at the city’s Key Arena (now called Climate Pledge Arena) offers free dental, vision and medical screenings and treatment for people who otherwise could not access these services, regularly drawing people from all over Washington, as well as Oregon and Idaho, and sometimes offering life-saving screenings for things like cancer.
Some of the attendees at the medical clinic are homeless, but others are employed and sometimes even insured, but still cannot access or afford all the services they need. Individuals sometimes line up 24 hours in advance to take advantage of the program. The clinic is made up of volunteers from the medical profession.
The previously scheduled window for the clinic in 2022 was the third week of October, but it has been postponed by the owners of Climate Pledge Arena to facilitate the booking of music concerts over the period, namely the Zac Brown Band on October 20 . , and The Who on October 22.
Climate Pledge Arena is owned and operated by the Oak View Group, which took over ownership in 2017. Amazon bought the naming rights to the arena in 2020. It’s where Seattle’s NHL and WNBA teams play, and it is the former home of the NBA. Seattle Supersonics.
As part of the operating agreement with the Seattle Center complex, Oak View has agreed to continue hosting the annual clinic. Just as clinic organizers were targeting October dates as the only dates that would work in 2022 due to the amount of medical equipment to rent and other logistical issues, Oak View Group booked the music concerts, closing the free clinic, which now may not occur in full until April 2023.
“During its six years of operation, Seattle/King County Clinic (SKCC) has been able to provide $20 million in dental, vision, medical and social services to 23,000 patients through the valuable support of partners, donors, volunteers and the wider community,” bed a petition set up by Dr. Rick Arnold, who is one of the clinic’s medical directors.
“In this time of great impact on our healthcare system, it is more important than ever that we all meet our obligations to each other,” Dr. Arnold continues. “This includes companies like The Oakview Group, which operates Climate Pledge Arena. Unfortunately, Oakview Group has canceled previously agreed dates for the clinic in 2022, opting instead to book other events at Climate Pledge Arena on those dates.
Oak View Group said in a statement that it is committed to bringing the clinic back in the future, including working towards the April 2023 date. “OVG and Seattle Center view this as a valuable community resource and understand its importance,” reads a statement. But with the new date more than a year away and the clinic delayed for the past two years, organizers fear that those counting on the annual clinic will fall through the cracks.
It is unlikely that the Zac Brown Band or their booking agents were aware of the conflict with the October 2020 date with the annual free health clinic. This is why the call has been made by the organizers of the clinic to inform the general public of the scheduling conflict. Due to the pandemic, many venues, artists and promoters are also scrambling for dates and venues to make up for lost time over the past two years, including some holding back tickets purchased since the start of 2020. But Zac Brown Band may be able to reschedule to a different date, while complex health clinic logistics mean they cannot.
“For an organization that markets itself as community-minded, this was not a community-oriented act,” Dr. Arnold tells cross section. “I want Oak View Group to be better partners in the future, to treat us like any other rock band, and to honor the commitments they make, especially to people who don’t have no voice.”