Sunday, July 6, 2008

Welcome Lost Children of Sonics Fandom (that's near Greenlake)

SEATTLE - The franchise is gone, and the baton of blame has been passed around from the Mayor of Seattle, to the State of Washington, back to the mayor, and wrapped up in a settlement with Clay Bennett and David Stern and passed back to the state. That's the short story, very few details are meaningful now.

Currently, the City of Seattle is ready to collect revenue generated from Sonics activity in and around Key Arena and spend 75 million dollars toward the public portion of Key Arena in a sizable rebuild. The city will spend some money on infrastructure on the structure no matter what else happens. The major rebuild is depending on the State of Washington to authorize the City of Seattle to collect hotel and motel taxes within the city of Seattle and direct that revenue toward the Seattle Center. This would provide another 75 million dollars to the Key Arena rebuild.

There is a private contribution from a group the calls its self the Seattle Center Investors. They plan to contribute 150 million in private funds, an NBA basketball team, cost over runs.

NEW YORK, July 2, 2008 -- NBA Commissioner David Stern has issued the following 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 re-build 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.”

Okay, who are the Seattle Center Investors again?
City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor


SUBJECT: Statement by Mayor Nickels on the settlement of the City's lawsuit with the Seattle Sonics
Alex Fryer (206) 684-8358

Statement by Mayor Nickels on the settlement of
the City's lawsuit with the Seattle Sonics

Today, I am announcing a settlement with Mr. Bennett and the Professional Basketball Club. Our goals for the settlement were two: To protect the taxpayers’ investment in KeyArena and have a long-term future for professional basketball.

In exchange for terminating the lease two years early, Mr. Bennett has agreed to settlement package with a payment up to $75 million to the City of Seattle. Under the agreement, $45 million will be paid to the City immediately. That covers rent and loss of tax revenue, and allows us to pay off outstanding debt on KeyArena.

Our agreement calls for Mr. Bennett and his co-owners to pay an additional $30 million in 2013—if the NBA has not approved a team to play in Seattle.
The NBA was an important part of our negotiations—agreeing that a renovated KeyArena can be a competitive NBA facility. This is a crucial point for us. A KeyArena with professional basketball is a cornerstone for a vibrant Seattle Center.

The NBA has committed to helping us secure a future team—informing us of any sale, relocation or expansion opportunities.

Committed local ownership is critical—and we are grateful that Steve Ballmer and his group, represented here by Matt Griffin, are working to secure a new team.

The city is ready to do its part. Local investors have stepped up. Now, the State Legislature must act. If it fails to approve public funding next year to remodel KeyArena, we will lose our rights to that $30 million payment if we do not get a team.

I believed all along that enforcing our lease would create time for a better deal. We now have that deal.

The Sonics name and history stay in Seattle. Seattle is a natural home for professional basketball—loyal fans, and a rich, 40-year tradition.

Working together, we are now in the best position to continue that legacy in Seattle.

Visit the mayor’s web site at Get the mayor’s inside view on efforts to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at

Better yet, contact the mayor on this page HERE!

Wait, you still don't know who Seattle Center Investors (SCI) are?

From the Reporter, Greg Johns.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Nagging question: Fix KeyArena?

City hopes it can finally get the Legislature on board

Friday, July 4, 2008
Last updated 1:07 a.m. PT


Even as the team formerly known as the Sonics begins packing for a one-way trip to Oklahoma, the story line of the NBA's long-term prospects in Seattle seems to have come full circle.

We're back to this. The region needs a new arena. Without a state-of-the-art facility, there will be no pro basketball franchise in Seattle again.

Whether it's a renovated KeyArena, which NBA Commissioner David Stern suddenly says would be just fine, or a brand-new palace, which Sonics Chairman Clay Bennett briefly pursued, no new ownership group is going to emerge without a modern building to host its team.

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Steve Ballmer and his three local partners remain interested in buying another NBA team to eventually wear the Sonics' green and gold, according to Seattle developer Matt Griffin, but won't even begin scanning the waters until a firm financing plan is in place for a KeyArena makeover.

"Without that, you're going into any negotiation with one arm tied behind your back," said Griffin, who'll continue serving as spokesman for the group that also includes Costco Chief Executive Jim Sinegal and software mogul John Stanton.

Two weeks ago, Griffin was on the witness stand in U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman's court being grilled about his group's role in the city's plan to force Bennett to sell the Sonics. The experience wasn't pleasant, but being dragged through the mud didn't diminish the quartet's interest in pursuing a pro basketball solution in Seattle.

"The good thing about the body is it doesn't remember pain very well. It's the reason we do a lot of things the second time," Griffin said with a laugh. "We're ready to work the problem. That doesn't mean it's going to happen, but we're ready to work it."

So fire up the political debates, the battles over public vs. private money and the Citizens for More Important Things against sports fans who place tremendous value on the entertainment provided by professional athletics.

Bennett's basketball team might be gone, but questions over what comes next are just beginning.

City of Seattle leaders are still hoping to leverage a KeyArena solution out of the Legislature. If a financing plan can be committed during next year's session, Ballmer's group -- now dubbed the Seattle Center Investors -- remains willing to foot half the projected $300 million renovation costs.

Just don't expect a replacement NBA team to hurry into Seattle on the wings of Bennett's departure.

"Realistically, we're looking at a couple of years at the earliest," Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said.

Brian Robinson, chairman of the Save Our Sonics fan group, said it's going to take some people time to even decide how much emotion they want to invest into a push for a replacement.

"The next step is for people to kind of deal with their grief and decide if they want the NBA here again," Robinson said. "I'm not thrilled with the decision to let the team go. But I do understand the logic is to increase the chances of getting a team in the next five years."

It's possible that a long-term solution might not even include KeyArena. Dave Bean, a local businessman, continues teaming with former Sonic Fred Brown on an effort to promote a privately financed arena in the region that could house both pro basketball and hockey.

Bean said their B2 firm has done further site analysis and investor searching in the past few months and hopes to step more to the fore now that the Sonics are gone.

"What this does is perhaps accelerate the process for all parties involved," Bean said. "We're going to continue to go down our private road and see what develops. We've been making progress, but we do have some concerns about the direction Mayor Nickels is talking about, going back to Olympia for public funding and refocusing on KeyArena.

"That's not our plan. I guess it's going to get down to who can deliver a suitable facility to the NBA and do it in a way that makes the most sense. We think we've got a much better approach with no tax dollars."

But Bean's ambitious project remains an admitted long shot, given the plan requires both NBA and NHL tenants to pencil out financially. Not to mention, he and Brown are swimming against the political stream, as city leaders are invested heavily in trying to salvage KeyArena.

"They've given our product zero recognition, but that's fine," Bean said. "We understand that game. We're going to keep doing our thing, and we're happy with the progress we've made over the last three months."

Bean believes Seattle's vibrant market and size make his proposal possible and that Stern will be interested once the pieces are in place.

"The NBA is very facility-driven," he said.

He'll get no arguments there from Griffin, but Ballmer's partner indicates his own focus is almost exclusively on a KeyArena solution.

"You never say never," Griffin said. "But my interest shrinks considerably when it's not Seattle Center. One of my reasons to get involved is I worry about the Center being empty."

Ultimately, it might take some interesting partnerships to get pro basketball back to the city. City Councilman Nick Licata, viewed as an obstructionist to previous KeyArena proposals, sounds willing to work toward a solution.

"The best thing right now is the NBA is willing to help Seattle get a team," Licata said. "That wouldn't have happened if we'd gone the straight court route (and not settled with Bennett).

"Quite honestly, the road may get a bit rougher as we approach the state Legislature," he said. "There may be some differences of opinion there. The devil is always in the details, but we'll see how it works. We have to present something that makes sense to the Legislature, just like it makes sense to the council and public. I think we can do that."

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer said the city will even need to look at Bennett as a potential ally toward getting a replacement.

Bennett will owe the city $30 million if a new team doesn't come to Seattle by 2013, assuming the Legislature also approves a tax plan for KeyArena by the end of next year.

"This region is going to need to work with him if it wants another team," said von Reichbauer, a staunch sports fan who helped broker a Seahawks solution between Ken Behring and Paul Allen in 1997 that resulted in Qwest Field's construction.

"He's one of the youngest members of the NBA Board of Governors. He's going to be there awhile."

P-I reporter Greg Johns can be reached at 206-448-8314 or

© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Yes, it is a lot. Yes, I pasted entire articles. No, I will not make a habit of it.

1 comment:

Alvin said...

This is good. We need a coordinated approach to get the funding in place for a viable arena.

I'm ready for action.