SBD/Issue 198/Franchises

Sonics Leave Seattle, Part III: Who Will City Target To Fill Void?

Stern Says Renovated KeyArena Would
Be Viable Option To Host NBA Team
Several NBA teams "possibly could relocate or be sold in the next five years" and be targets to replace the Sonics in Seattle, including the Hornets, Grizzlies, Kings, Bucks and Hawks, according to Percy Allen of the SEATTLE TIMES. But Seattle "isn't the only city in the market for an NBA team," as K.C., Las Vegas and San Jose are "among those who also would like teams." Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and NBA Commissioner David Stern, "staunch enemies during the city's trial, appeared aligned Wednesday," as the NBA for the first time expressed that a renovated KeyArena could be viable for a future NBA team. Nickels: "This is a crucial point for us. A KeyArena with professional basketball is a cornerstone for the Seattle Center. The NBA has committed to helping us secure a future team." Stern on Wednesday recognized Seattle Center Investors (SCI), a potential local ownership group led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Seattle-based developer Matt Griffin, and said the NBA "would be happy to return to the City of Seattle" (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/3). In Tacoma, Williams & Lynn note hopes for a new team in Seattle "seem to rest in part" with SCI, which also includes Western Wireless Founder John Stanton and Costco CEO Jim Sinegal (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/3). Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin: "We’ve set ourselves up for the possibility of getting a team. My best guess would be 50/50" (KCPQ-Fox, 7/2).

ATTENTION TURNS TO ARENA PROBLEM: The NEWS TRIBUNE's Williams in a separate piece reports Seattle business and political leaders are turning their "attention toward solving the main problem that hampered efforts to keep the team here: Financing an arena that meets the NBA's needs." Overcoming a "chilly relationship between Stern and Seattle city officials is another hurdle for the city," and "now the city finds itself with the task of having to smooth over that relationship since it needs Stern's help to secure a new NBA team." King County (WA) Council member Pete von Reichbauer: "I've said this before -- don't demonize Commissioner Stern. You can disagree with him, but today's opponent may be tomorrow's ally. Clearly now if you are going to have an NBA franchise in this region, it's going to come through Commissioner Stern's office" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/3).

RETURN TO SENDER? In Tacoma, John McGrath writes, "Understand this: The NBA is coming back to Seattle, coming back to KeyArena, coming back in green and, yes, gold." The "only problem with an NBA team returning to Seattle as the Sonics: The team most likely will be uprooted from Memphis, or Sacramento, or Charlotte" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/3). Meanwhile, any new Seattle team "could inherit the Sonics name and the team's green and gold colors" (USA TODAY, 7/3). ESPN’s Michael Smith said of the city retaining the franchise marks, “That’s good, assuming they get a team." But he added, "If you retain a franchise history, does it matter if you don’t get a team? ... I don’t know if the NBA is going to be hard pressed to put a team in Seattle” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN2, 7/3).

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