Bennett, Nickels won't play ball
Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels came to a rare agreement Thursday on the issue of KeyArena. They agreed there's no...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels came to a rare agreement Thursday on the issue of KeyArena.
They agreed there's no point in speaking to one another.
In dueling public statements, Nickels and Bennett nixed a planned meeting, each blaming the other for being unreasonable.
Bennett fired off a statement first, saying he would skip the sit-down he'd sought with Nickels if the mayor insists on pursuing a KeyArena renovation instead of a new arena.
"It is clear that if all we have to discuss is the renovation of KeyArena, then a meeting with the Mayor will not be productive or necessary," Bennett said.
Nickels quickly retorted that if Bennett wants to talk only about an early buyout of his KeyArena lease, "then I agree — a trip to Seattle isn't worth the price of the plane ticket."
Last month, Bennett visited Seattle and called Nickels to request talks on the arena situation.
To set the stage, team representatives met with the mayor's aides last week, but it became clear they had little common ground, said Nickels spokesman Marty McOmber.
Bennett has said KeyArena is too old and small. He wants to explore whether the Sonics can buy their way out of the team's lease before it expires in 2010.
Nickels has insisted he'll hold Bennett to the lease and push for a renovation.
At a news conference Wednesday, Nickels said he thought the city and team could be partners in a KeyArena renovation if the Sonics were to contribute $100 million to the effort.
Bennett's latest statement made it clear he's not interested.
Noting that he's always maintained that KeyArena is inadequate since purchasing the Sonics and Storm last year, Bennett said he'd hoped Nickels would "use his regional leadership platform to rally support for a solution.
"Instead, he focused on old unworkable concepts that are not acceptable," Bennett said.
Brian Robinson, co-founder of the fan group Save Our Sonics and Storm, said he was disappointed in Bennett's latest statement, which he took as another sign that team owners simply want to get out of Seattle and head to Oklahoma City.
"Obviously, I don't believe Clay is trying to stick around any longer," said Robinson, who has filed an initiative that would prohibit the city from letting the Sonics out of the arena lease.
Despite the fighting, Bennett and Nickels said they want to keep the Sonics in the Seattle area.
Said Bennett: "We can only hope that business, civic and elected leadership can step up quickly and offer real solutions to help build a new building. We stand ready to engage in those discussions."
Nickels responded: "Let me say again, if the Sonics are committed to staying in Seattle there are sensible solutions that, working in good faith, can be found."
But for now, Nickels and Bennett don't seem to have anything to talk about.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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