Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sonics moving to Oklahoma City

Say goodbye to the Seattle Sonics, if you haven't already. Tomorrow, they'll be on their way to Oklahoma City.

The City of Seattle and Sonics owner Clay Bennett (known as Professional Basketball Club LLC in court proceedings) came to a settlement prior to Judge Marsha Pechman's decision that was to have been issued at 4 p.m. today. The details are as follows:

The city of Seattle will be paid $45 million in exchange for letting the Seattle SuperSonics move to Oklahoma City this year as part of last-minute settlement announced this afternoon.

Sonics owner Clay Bennett would have to pay the city an additional $30 million in five years if the city is unable to secure another NBA team, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said.

Nickels said the NBA agreed that a renovated Key Arena would be suitable to support a new team. However, the mayor said the state Legislature must pass a funding bill next year to help pay for a renovation.
The Sonics name, history and presumably colors will remain in Seattle.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, continuing his efforts to extort solicit public funds for a new arena, issued this statement:
“We are pleased that the Sonics and the City of Seattle have settled their litigation. While the decision has been made to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City, the NBA continues to regard Seattle as a first-class NBA city that is capable of serving as home for another NBA team. In order for this to occur, a state-of-the-art NBA arena must be funded and constructed in the Seattle area, a subject that has been extensively debated -- but not ultimately acted upon -- by local political and business leaders over the past four years. We are pleased that the City remains committed to addressing this fundamental requirement for the return of NBA basketball to Seattle and we hope that other elected officials critical to a solution will support the City’s efforts.

“We understand that City, County, and State officials are currently discussing a plan to substantially re-build KeyArena for the sum of $300 million. If this funding were authorized, we believe KeyArena could properly be renovated into a facility that meets NBA standards relating to revenue generation, fan amenities, team facilities, and the like. Assuming the funding can be committed, the league is willing to work with the City on the design and construction of the rebuild to facilitate this result. Under these circumstances, if an opportunity arose in the future for an NBA team to be located in Seattle, we would support that team playing its home games in a re-built KeyArena, if it wished. However, given the lead times associated with any franchise acquisition or relocation and with a construction project as complex as a KeyArena renovation, authorization of the public funding needs to occur by the end of 2009 in order for there to be any chance for the NBA to return to Seattle within the next five years.

“We are pleased that Steve Ballmer has expressed the continuing willingness of his group, Seattle Center Investors, managed by Seattle developer Matt Griffin, to be a part of the solution for returning NBA basketball to Seattle. The NBA will keep SCI and the City informed if opportunities arise in the next five years for franchise sale, relocation and/or expansion. Under the circumstances outlined above, the NBA would be happy to return to the City of Seattle.”[emphasis mine]
Since all that's left of the Sonics is memories, here is David Stern back in 1995 waxing poetic about the renovated Key Arena.

Full disclosure - 2 points:

1. As a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders (and Lakers too. I'm from L.A.), I'm familiar with teams leaving the big city for other locations. It hasn't been the end of the world for L.A. (though the NFL still hasn't returned), and that's because there are 2 professional baseball teams, 2 basketball teams, a hockey team, 2 Major League Soccer teams, a WNBA franchise and many other opportunities, not to mention my USC Trojan football team that probably could have beat the Miami Dolphins last year. In addition, with no local teams, there are no blackout issues and so more football can be watched on the television on Sunday, than could be watched with 2 hometown teams. Seattle also has other professional sports and entertainment, and this won't be the end of the world, though personally I hope the NBA does return to Seattle so I can take my kids to a game.

2. I am a staffer at the state Senate, and I have strong opinions about the issue of public funding and the way this whole situation with the Sonics has gone down. But I won't be expressing those thoughts here due to conflict of interest (real or perceived). My opinions as expressed on this blog are mine and are not necessarily representative of the Senator I work for.


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