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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Game Plan

posted by on April 8 at 13:39 PM

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
legislative approval.

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
through 2010.

RSS icon Comments


How come the sonics can break their multi-million dollar lease and I can't break my lease on a 575 dollar studio with cockroaches and fucking bedbugs.
Fucking shit.

Posted by Chicago | April 8, 2008 1:42 PM

Do you honestly think Sports Illustrated would jeopardize their relationship with the NBA by praising Seattle for standing up to them?


Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | April 8, 2008 1:48 PM

Sour fucking grapes. National attention may give you a chubby, but it's not doing anything for me. It's certainly not something I can root for six months a year.

And dollars to donuts the attention goes to Nickels, not the City generally, and that's a bad thing. That man needs more exposure like the Sonics need a new arena.

Posted by joykiller | April 8, 2008 2:03 PM

David Stern says he's going to make an example of Seattle. I say it's the other way around. Seattle is making an example of the NBA.

Posted by I Got Nuthin' | April 8, 2008 2:08 PM

Charles Barkley was wearing a Save Our Sonics t-shirt on ESPN the other night. For what that's worth.

I'd like to hear what the players union thinks about the move to Oklahoma City. Has that been said? If so, can someone give me a link to it?

What NBA player is going to want to play in Oklahoma CIty? I think Durant is going to get out of there as quick as possible.

Posted by trent moorman | April 8, 2008 2:15 PM

great point josh. this will continue to happen until major cities refuse to tolerate it, and see it for what it is.

Posted by infrequent | April 8, 2008 2:16 PM

It is a consolation prize, but it is true
@ 3 that Nickels would take credit then talk about the weather some more.

Posted by el rutherford | April 8, 2008 2:16 PM

Save us, please, from self-appointed, self-important, self-righteous, self-promoting LAMERS who insist on telling us what Seattle NEEDS to do.

What will it make us, Josh, a "world-class city?" We don't need props from SI or anybody else.

Posted by ivan | April 8, 2008 2:21 PM

Instead of an NBA team, start a "Seattle Globetrotters" touring team to serve as our international ambassadors of goodwill and zany courtside antics. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Posted by Smarm | April 8, 2008 2:24 PM


Sick of all the pro-sports extortion. Scratching one's ass is more important.

Go to fucking Jeebusland, where they can bathe in wholesomeness.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | April 8, 2008 2:27 PM

The only story national sports media see is the city and state playing the game of put the turd in the others pocket.

Neither side wants to take the blame when the Sonics leave town. It's been one failure of leadership after another for four years.

Josh, this is not how you draw attention to your idea of a noble cause. Probably because their really hasn't been anything noble going on -- just elected officials ducking the issue and trying to blame someone else.

Posted by pablo | April 8, 2008 2:44 PM

The only reason to keep the Sonics is because it might be a reason for Thierry Henry to spend a season or two with the Sounders.

Maybe they can just keep their lease and then go when Titi retires. I'd approve of that.

Posted by Abby | April 8, 2008 3:01 PM

@12, what? What in the world are you talking about? Does Mr. Henry refuse to play in cities with no basketball teams or something?

Posted by joykiller | April 8, 2008 3:36 PM

The city should sue to keep the name Seattle Sonics if the team tries to break the lease.

Revenge is a dish best served with ultra-hot spices and water, no milk.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 3:50 PM

Henry’s a big basketball fan, and friends with Tony Parker.

Posted by BB | April 8, 2008 3:56 PM

@15 don't you mean keeping the name "Sonics"?

Because it's pretty much a given that the name will change from "Seattle Sonics" to "Oklahoma Sonics" the instant the contract is void.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | April 8, 2008 4:03 PM

@13: what 15 said. My thought is if he's in the US, he'll want to watch some NBA. So an area with an NBA team might win over an area without an NBA team if they're both offering the same kind of deal.

Not that Thierry Henry will come here anyway, Sonics or no, but it's a nice daydream.

Posted by Abby | April 8, 2008 4:09 PM

@14, yeah, that'll show Clay Bennett and those greedy NBA owners! I can't WAIT to see the looks on their face when they find out they can't use the Sonics name in a different city! Then they'll really be screwed and we'll have our revenge!

Posted by joykiller | April 8, 2008 4:44 PM

@16 ... no, I meant the city owns the name Seattle Sonics.

They can call themselves the Oklahoma Sonics until the cows come home, for all I care.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 5:11 PM

For that to be the story requires too short of a memory. Even if it were spun as standing up to the NBA, we've still given too much money to the NFL and MLB in the recent past to make this about principle. Seattle and WA don't have a problem subsidizing sports. Just some sports, like basketball. To anyone in the national sports press, it will just look that way, because that's the way it is.

Posted by James | April 8, 2008 5:18 PM

For that to be the story requires too short of a memory. Even if it were spun as standing up to the NBA, we've still given too much money to the NFL and MLB in the recent past to make this about principle. Seattle and WA don't have a problem subsidizing sports. Just some sports, like basketball. To anyone in the national sports press, it will just look that way, because that's the way it is.

Posted by James | April 8, 2008 5:18 PM

I wish the NBA would just GO already! David Stern can lick my ass crack. I will never support pro basketball in North America again.

Posted by Ace | April 8, 2008 5:24 PM

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