SBD/Issue 128/Franchises

OKC Presents Case To NBA Officials, Moves Major Step Closer

Bennett Willing To Leave Sonics' 
Colors, Logo With City Of Seattle
Oklahoma City yesterday moved a "major step closer" to luring an NBA team after a "who's who of the state's business, civic and government leaders wowed league owners and executives" during a visit to the city, according to Darnell Mayberry of the DAILY OKLAHOMAN. NBA Commissioner David Stern, after a daylong visit which included a tour of the Ford Center, business meetings and presentations, said that an NBA subcommittee now will "make a recommendation to the league's seven-member relocation committee to relocate the [Sonics] to Oklahoma City." The relocation committee then will make "its own recommendation" to the NBA BOG during the league's April 17-18 meeting in N.Y., and the BOG will have "up to 30 days to vote on the Sonics' application request with a simple majority of the 30 owners needed for approval." Nets part-Owner and relocation committee member Lewis Katz: "There's no question in my mind that they're coming. It's just a question of when" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 3/26). In Tacoma, Eric Williams reports subcommittee members Katz, Pacers co-Owner Herb Simon and Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss were "wooed by Oklahoma's top officials and sports figures, including Gov. Brad Henry and [Univ. of] Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett also led a presentation "outlining the revenue potential for an NBA team" in the city. Stern: "It was a pretty full presentation and pretty much a tour de force on behalf of Oklahoma that I'd say impressed the members of the committee greatly." Oklahoma City Council members earlier yesterday approved terms of a 15-year lease with the Sonics that would "require it to pay the city $1.6[M] annually to use the Ford Center, and another $409,000 per year to resell the arena's naming rights." Williams notes Sonics Owner Clay Bennett recently reiterated his February offer to buy out the team's KeyArena lease that would "leave the Sonics' colors, logo and history in Seattle, taking with him only the players, coaches and management."  Stern said of the team's lease with Seattle, "If the lease can be satisfied by the payment of money, that's one thing. If it can't, then it's got two more years to run after this" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/26). 

BUYOUT BLUES: Seattle city officials said that Stern is "orchestrating a campaign to push the city toward a buyout, but insisted nothing has changed." Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis: "I think [Stern] is trying to turn up the pressure by making everything appear inevitable. It's a great publicity campaign, but they'll still need to come into court and settle this." Bennett reiterated that he is "willing to spend two more years owning the team in Seattle if the Sonics lose their upcoming lawsuit with the city, which has sued the team in an effort to require the Sonics to play through the 2009-10 season at KeyArena instead of being allowed to buy out the remainder of the lease." Ceis, when asked if Seattle is "burning its bridges with the NBA by fighting with the league instead of" reaching a settlement, said, "It seems to me [Stern] is the one who has been planting dynamite with every step he takes" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26). 

Save Our Sonics Struggles To Draw
Supporters To Protest On Monday
CAN SONICS BE SAVED? In Seattle, Greg Johns reports Seattle officials had "no news on their effort to come up with a funding solution" for the final $75M of the $300M KeyArena renovation proposal "designed to keep the Sonics in Seattle" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26). The AP's Jeff Latzke reported Stern yesterday "shot down" the proposal to renovate KeyArena in order to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Stern said that the NBA "does not view a renovation as a solution because the site could not undergo a proper expansion." Stern: "I would say that as far as we know, the footprint of Key is at present time not viewed as adequate to support what's necessary going forward" (AP, 3/25). In Seattle, Seth Kolloen reports a Save Our Sonics protest Monday against the team moving "barely drew a hundred" people. If the Sonics won the NBA championship, the team would "probably draw a million people to the victory parade." Kolloen: "It's a lot easier to get people psyched to support something than to oppose it" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26).

MAKING A CASE: In an interview with the DAILY OKLAHOMAN's Mayberry, Cornett said he thinks the Oklahoma City market is the "envy of most." When asked if there is "enough disposable income in Oklahoma City to successfully support" a permanent NBA franchise, Cornett said, "I think discretionary income is one of our strengths, because the cost of living is low and our wages are higher than the national average." Cornett added of Oklahoma City, "If you look at the other cities that we would be competing against for a relocated franchise, who has a better story than us? Can [K.C.] show support for an NBA franchise? Can San Diego? Can Las Vegas? None of these cities have our story to tell. Can you question ours? Sure, but there are bigger questions around all other cities who don't have NBA franchises" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 3/25).

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