News Game Plan
posted by April 8 at 13:39 PMon
Last Friday, I Slogged that there’s really only one thing that will make a Sonics exit worthwhile: If the city of Seattle gets props—like on-the-cover-of-Sports Illustrated props—for standing up to the NBA’s childish (and untenable) business model.
If we can’t spin this nationally as a precedent setting move, as a solid statement, than the city’s current court battle with the Sonics (trying to make the team honor its lease); our overwhelming vote against corporate sports subsidies; and our rejection of Bennett’s $400 million bailout request, will ultimately just be a bummer: No NBA team.
Seattle needs to get national attention for this.
I’m repeating all this today because Mayor Nickels announced this morning—a week in advance of an NBA board of governors meeting, where the NBA is surely going to give the green light to sycophantic Oklahoma CIty (voters there savored the blackmail and approved a $120 million tax subsidy last month), that we do not have the money to upgrade KeyArena. That money—we needed another $75 million—was part of plan to satisfy a group of local investors including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who had recently sparked hope by saying it might buy the team if Seattle could satisfy the NBA with a KeyArena upgrade.
I’m trying to read between the lines of Mayor Nickels statement to see if he’s positioning himself for a year down the line, when the Sonics may bolt, to give that New York Times, CNN, SI interview where he says, look man, we bargained in good faith, but the NBA is an extortion racket.
Unfortunately, I’m not finding it. (I’ve posted his statement in the jump).
He wastes his energy pointing fingers at the legislature, which undermines the case that we’re not going to stand for the NBA’s tactics. Yes, I agree that the Ballmer idea was encouraging—even Nick Licata liked it—but let’s not take our eyes of the issue: Even as the Sonics are asking us to cough up hundreds of millions for a new stadium, we’re still covering the Sonics losses to pay off their share of the loan on the $75 million arena we built them 13 years ago.
As good as the Ballmer idea was, the legislature—which got petitioned in the last week of the session—had every right (and it fits with the theme Nickels needs to be spinning) to say, we’ve got more important business to take care of.
Nickels needs to grasp the importance of that point. It’s the story.
Time Runs Out on KeyArena Offer
SEATTLE - Mayor Greg Nickels today announced that the city will not be
able to close a deal that would have evenly split the costs of
renovating KeyArena with a local investment group hoping to buy the
Seattle Sonics basketball team.
“This is truly a missed opportunity for the city, the region, the
state and the NBA,” Nickels said. “But this is not the end of it.
Seattle has been home to the NBA for more than 40 years, and I’m going
to work hard to see that continue.”
The investment group, which had pledged $150 million in private money
for KeyArena, set an April 10 deadline to secure an equal amount in
public funding to renovate the city-owned facility. The timing was
important given the NBA’s Board of Governors’ upcoming vote on a
proposal by the Sonics’ current owners to move the team to Oklahoma
Under a plan announced last month, the local investment group would
have paid for upgrades that directly benefit a basketball team, while
the public investment would have covered needed renovations to the
public areas and building systems in the city-owned arena.
The members of the local ownership group include Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer, Seattle developer Matt Griffin, Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and
wireless magnate John Stanton.
Under their proposal, the investors would have contributed $150 million
for improvements to KeyArena that would benefit the team, such as club
seating, suites, practice facilities and other upgrades.
The other $150 million would have been a public investment to cover
improvements to public areas, such as concourses and restrooms, and
building systems, such as heating and plumbing.
The city of Seattle pledged $75 million toward the public portion of
the renovations, which would have been offset by leases, admission
taxes, sales taxes on construction, and the revenue generated at
But the State Legislature decided not to take action this year on a
proposal to allocate $75 million from the current taxes on restaurants,
bars, and rental cars in King County for KeyArena. Instead, state
leaders promised to form a task force and consider the idea next year.
Nickels said he looked for other sources of financing that the city
could tap without affecting basic services such as police, fire, parks
and libraries. But all the options either fell short or required state
Basketball accounts for about a quarter of the events in KeyArena. With
or without an NBA team, the city of Seattle will still need to make
improvements to KeyArena.
In the meantime, Nickels said today that the city will move forward
with its lawsuit against the team’s current ownership. The city is
seeking to keep the team from breaking its lease at KeyArena, which runs