Bennett files to move Sonics to Oklahoma City
Saying there is no support for a new arena in Seattle, Sonics owner Clay Bennett said today he's asking the NBA for permission to move the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Saying there is no support for a new arena in Seattle, Sonics owner Clay Bennett said today he's asking the NBA for permission to move the team to his hometown of Oklahoma City.
In a written statement, Bennett cited the Legislature's rejection of taxpayer funding for his proposed $500 million Renton arena and a lack of any other feasible successor to KeyArena.
"Even though our proposal for a new state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility to be built in Renton was thoughtfully developed by a world-class team, was financially reasonable and was realistically attainable, we were unable to persuade the Washington Legislature to vote on our bill," Bennett said in the statement.
"We now understand and respect that there is very limited public support for such a public investment," he said.
Bennett said team owners notified NBA Commissioner David Stern today of their intent to relocate the Sonics, but said the Storm may stay put.
The timeline for a Sonics move will depend on the ongoing federal lawsuit with the city of Seattle over the team's KeyArena lease, which doesn't expire until 2010.
Bennett said in the statement that he notified Stern that team owners intend to relocate "if we succeed in the pending litigation with the City, or are able to negotiate an early lease termination, or at the end of the lease term."
The announcement was immediately blasted by Seattle officials.
In a written statement, City Attorney Tom Carr called it "a transparent attempt to alienate the Seattle fan base and follow through on his plan to move the team to Oklahoma City. The deadline for notifying the league of his intent to move is March 1. Making this move now continues the current ownership's insulting behavior toward the Sonics' dedicated fans and the citizens of the City of Seattle."
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels vowed to do "everything in my power to enforce our lease and keep the Sonics and Storm where they belong — in Seattle through 2010 and beyond."
Bennett's announcement came two days after the Oct. 31 deadline he'd set for Seattle-area politicians to come up with a deal for a new arena.
Even if the Sonics leave, the Storm may stay in Seattle. Bennett said owners have not made a decision on the future of the Storm.
"We appreciate the deep local interest and support for the Storm and have begun to evaluate a future course of action for the team," he said.
Reacting to news of a Seattle-area group interested in buying the Sonics and Storm, Bennett told The Oklahoman newspaper that he has no intention of selling.
"The teams are not for sale, and the parties don't need to spend their time and energy working on that process," he said.
Dennis Daugs, managing director of Lakeside Capital Management, a former part-owner of the Sonics who represents the potential buyers, said he still remains open to talking with Bennett.
"Based on the tremendous support we've received from the community and fans on our efforts to purchase the Sonics and Storm, we know there is strong support to keep professional basketball in our city," Daugs said in a written statement Friday.
Brian Robinson, the cofounder of Save our Sonics and Storm, said he was not surprised by Bennett's announcement.
"All he did today was confirm what we all know, that his desire is to move the team," Robinson said.
Robinson said he hopes the NBA will think long and hard about supporting a team relocation from a city with years remaining on its arena lease.
"It's a terrible precedent for the league," he said.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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