Sonics owner tours racetrack
Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett visited Emerald Downs horse-racing track Wednesday to weigh a budding proposal by the Muckleshoot Indian...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett visited Emerald Downs horse-racing track Wednesday to weigh a budding proposal by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe to build a new basketball arena near the track.
Bennett was joined by Emerald Downs President Ron Crockett and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, according to people familiar with the meeting.
A spokesman for Bennett said he could not be reached for comment.
Bennett met with Muckleshoot representatives in February but had been criticized by some Sonics and Storm fans for not following up with a tour of the Auburn track. In a July interview, Bennett said the tribe had not presented him with a substantive arena plan.
The Muckleshoots, who own the Emerald Downs land, have hired the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey to study whether a new arena would work next to the track, 25 miles south of Seattle.
The tribe last month said its consultant's initial research indicated the location could work. The tribe is expected to release more detailed information this month.
A tribal spokesman declined to comment Wednesday. Crockett could not be reached for comment.
Von Reichbauer, who also would not comment, has long supported a new arena to keep the Sonics in the state. The Federal Way Republican also was active in efforts to build the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums.
Despite Bennett's visit Wednesday, the Muckleshoots' arena plan is far from complete. It is not yet clear how much money the tribe would devote to an arena, or how much taxpayers would be asked to contribute.
Bennett's Oklahoma City-based ownership group, which purchased the Sonics and Storm for $350 million last year, has not endeared itself to skeptical local fans lately.
Co-owner Aubrey McClendon touched off a new round of criticism last month when he told an Oklahoma newspaper the owners never intended to keep the teams in Seattle. The NBA said it would fine McLendon $250,000 for that remark.
If the owners don't get a new arena deal in the Seattle area by Oct. 31, Bennett has said he'll ask the NBA for permission to relocate the teams to Oklahoma City.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has said he'll fight to hold the Sonics to their KeyArena lease, which runs through September 2010.
Bob Santos, the longtime Seattle activist who first pitched the idea of a basketball arena to the Muckleshoots, said he was pleased that Bennett finally toured Emerald Downs.
"At least he's making the rounds," Santos said. "The Muckleshoots aren't going to give him everything he wants, but they're going to make it pretty appealing."
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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