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Originally published September 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 11, 2007 at 2:07 AM

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Sonics

Council votes 8-0 to enforce Sonics' lease

The Seattle City Council on Monday vowed to block any effort by Sonics owner Clay Bennett to escape the team's KeyArena lease before it...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council on Monday vowed to block any effort by Sonics owner Clay Bennett to escape the team's KeyArena lease before it expires at the end of September 2010.

By an 8-0 vote, the council approved an ordinance modeled after an initiative filed by a fan group earlier this year demanding the city enforce the arena lease.

It was a largely symbolic act, since Mayor Greg Nickels already has said he has no intention of negotiating an early lease buyout. A spokeswoman for Nickels said the mayor will sign the ordinance.

A Bennett spokesman declined to comment. Bennett has said he'll ask the NBA for permission to move the Sonics and Storm to Oklahoma City next season if he can't get a new arena deal by Oct. 31.

It's not clear whether the council vote will trigger new arena talks, despite some wishful comments by council members Monday.

"The intention here is to send a message and to try to add some love to the discussion," said Councilmember Sally Clark. "If the relationship is the metaphor, then I suppose we want to go to couples counseling."

The council has not proved friendly to efforts by successive Sonics ownership groups to secure taxpayer funding for a KeyArena expansion or a new arena outside the city.

Council President Nick Licata told Sports Illustrated last year the cultural impact of the Sonics leaving Seattle would be "close to zero." He later apologized for the remark.

The council's vote Monday was praised by leaders of Save Our Sonics and Storm, the fan group that requested the action. The group hopes delaying a Sonics move for at least three years will give area politicians and team owners time to develop a viable arena plan.

"We feel it's very important that the back door is locked," said Steven Pyeatt, co-founder of the fan group. The council action negates the need for the group to gather signatures to place an initiative on the ballot.

The Storm also have a KeyArena lease through September 2010, but that agreement allows the owners to cancel it after any season.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628

or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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