SBD/Issue 141/Facilities & Venues

Sonics’ Future In Doubt Without Legislature Voting On Arena

Bennett Says “Little Hope” That Sonics Will Stay
In Seattle Region After Legislature’s Decision
Washington lawmakers will not vote on public funding for a proposed $500M arena in Renton before they adjourn this week, and Sonics and WNBA Storm Owner Clay Bennett said the teams now have “little hope of remaining in the Puget Sound region,” according to Brunner & Thomas of the SEATTLE TIMES. Legislative leaders said that there was “not enough support for the proposal,” and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire called Bennett “to ask whether talks could continue after the session.” Bennett said that he “remains willing to work with Gregoire and lawmakers ‘to explore every conceivable funding option,’ including private funding.” However, he added, “At this time we have no other concepts on the table.” Washington state House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said that arena supporters “could use the time after the session in ‘an attempt to remarket it and see if we can get something going for next year’” (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/17). Gregoire asked Bennett if he would drop his November 1 deadline, but Bennett declined (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/17). Jim Kneeland, a local PR liaison for the Sonics ownership group, indicated that it is “unlikely the team would go before the Legislature again next year” (SEATTLE P-I, 4/17).

DOUBLE TALK: Several Legislature members, including Kessler, indicated that while there “may not be support for a basketball arena, ... there could be for a ‘multi-purpose facility’ with a basketball team as the key tenant.” But in Seattle, David Postman wrote arena supporters “already tried hard to present the project as something other than a basketball arena. The spreadsheet distributed recently outlining the deal is headlined, ‘Proposed public financing for a world-class multi-purpose arena in King County’” (, 4/16).

HOME ON THE RANGE? In Seattle, McGann, Galloway & Harris note the Sonics are contractually obligated to play in KeyArena until 2010, and if the ownership group wanted to “end their lease early, they’d have to negotiate a buyout with the city.” Also, Bennett would have to petition the NBA before March 1, 2008, in order to relocate the team in time for the ’08-09 season (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 4/17). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes the Hornets were a “raging success” in their two-season stint in the city largely due to the efforts of the business community and government, and Bennett “was the main reason why.” Tramel: “The NBA owes Bennett big time and knows it. ... It would be very difficult for men who grew up in Oklahoma City to put an NBA franchise somewhere else” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 4/17).

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