Sonics Will Be In Seattle For 2007-08 Season

Friday, February 23rd 2007, 6:24 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ Even if a new arena proposal doesn't win the support of Washington state lawmakers, the Seattle SuperSonics will be in the Pacific Northwest for at least one more season.

The Sonics will not file paperwork with the NBA, by a March 1 deadline, to potentially relocate the franchise, team spokesman Tom Savage confirmed Thursday night.

Owner Clay Bennett has said that if state lawmakers do not agree to help fund a $500 million new arena in the south Seattle suburb of Renton, he would relocate the team, possibly to Oklahoma City, where he is a prominent businessman.

But it won't happen until the 2008-09 season at the earliest.

``They have no intention on filing,'' Savage said.

Bennett told The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City earlier Thursday that his focus is on getting a deal done in Washington state.

``We intend to be successful in Washington. I still think we've got a lot of life left in this deal,'' Bennett told the newspaper.

At last week's All-Star Game in Las Vegas, league officials indicated they didn't anticipate receiving any paperwork for relocation from the Sonics. Plans for relocation must be approved by the NBA Board of Governors after the league does a market analysis of the new location.

The Sonics' proposed new Seattle-area home is a 21-acre Renton parcel owned by The Boeing Co. Bennett has said the team needs at least $300 million in public tax money for the project.

If Bennett doesn't get an agreement for a new arena in the Seattle area by Oct. 31, his $350 million purchase agreement allows him to move the team _ most likely to Oklahoma City. Bennett's ownership group bought the team last July.

The tax authority the Sonics want from the Legislature is currently paying for new Seattle stadiums for baseball's Mariners and the NFL Seahawks, as well as for remaining debt on the now-demolished Kingdome.

The taxes, to be applied after they expire for the Seattle stadiums, would include a one-half of 1 percent sales tax on restaurant tabs and rental cars, and a hotel-motel tax, all in King County.

But the proposal has received a very chilly reception from lawmakers in Olympia. House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, pronounced the plan dead on arrival in the House, despite support in the Senate from powerful Renton Democrat Margarita Prentice.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has been involved in discussions with Bennett and worked with previous owners _ The Basketball Club of Seattle, headed by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz _ to try and broker a solution. Gregoire said earlier this week she is warming to the Sonics' new proposal.

Both the previous ownership group and Bennett say that with the NBA's current economic model, the Sonics' current Seattle home _ KeyArena _ is outdated. In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Bennett said the team anticipated losing at least $20 million this season.

Oklahoma City successfully hosted the New Orleans Hornets for the last two seasons in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But the Hornets are headed back to New Orleans for the 2007-08 season, leaving behind a rabid fan base in Oklahoma City.

At last week's All-Star Game, commissioner David Stern said the league has no plans to step in and help get a deal done in Seattle.

``They've spent enormous sums of money and time and the like to come up with a plan, a funding plan,'' Stern said. ``They've laid it out. They've got a site selected, etc. And it will either happen or it won't. We've been around this track a long time and it hope it happens because Seattle has been a very good city for the NBA.''