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SIDELINES: Seattle arena deal approved, now it's time to 'steal' another city's team
It looks like the hardest part of constructing a new, publicly-funded sports arena in Seattle's Sodo district is complete.
But now comes the "icky" part — stealing a team from another city.
Seattle-native Chris Hansen has convinced the area's politicians to approve his plan to build a $490 million basketball/hockey facility with $200 million in public funds.
Both the Metropolitan King County Council and Seattle City Council voted to move forward Monday, approving the final memorandum of understanding (MOU) and interlocal agreement (ILA).
The coming-together of politicians and a private investor to build a publicly-funded arena in Seattle was a pipe dream five years back.
“While we still have a long way to go, this is the most significant step the region has made to bring back the NBA since 2008,” said King County Councilman Larry Gossett.
Seattle fans know all about the hatred that went along with Clay Bennett and his cronies, who moved the Sonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City in July 2008.
Fans remember the feeling of disbelief that followed. How could a franchise with 40 years of history and the only major sports championship in the region's existence just up and move? How could Oklahoma City and its fanbase accept a team that they stole from Seattle?
We will find out how it feels soon enough. It looks like the only way Seattle will get an NBA franchise is to "steal" one. Hansen will have to buy an existing team and move it to Seattle because the NBA has no plans to expand beyond 30 teams.
I don't know how it's going to feel. Most likely, I wouldn't care one bit about stealing another city's NBA team. And eye for an eye, I guess.
But there is a part of me that will feel a bit bad for the fans who are losing a team to Seattle. I clearly remember exactly where I was when I heard the Sonics were moving to Oklahoma City. And that's saying a lot, because I was in Las Vegas at the time on a three-day bender.
I couldn't believe Bennett could look himself in the mirror after buying the Sonics with the intention of moving them to his hometown of Oklahoma City. I couldn't believe Howard Schultz, the former owner, would sell the team to Bennett knowing he wanted to move out of Seattle. I also couldn't believe that I wouldn't be able to claim Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook as my own, like I did Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton years before.
The Sacramento Kings are on top of the plucking order for Hansen and Seattle to steal. The Kings seem like a brand-new Mercedes sitting in an abandoned parking lot with no lights, windows down and keys dangling from the ignition. They are just asking to be stolen.
The Kings and its owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, have had a rocky relationship with the city of Sacramento for more than a decade. Things seemed to improve in March when the Maloofs agreed to a deal with Mayor Kevin Johnson on a new arena deal. But weeks later, the owners pulled out.
It seems the only obstacle between Hansen acquiring the Kings and moving them to Seattle are the Maloofs, who seem unwilling to sell the team. Reportedly, they turned down a $400 million offer last year.
Other possible candidates to relocate could be the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets or Minnesota Timberwolves.
“The return of the Seattle SuperSonics would enrich our region," said King County Councilman Joe McDermott, who sponsored the legislation. "I am pleased we are moving forward.”
The $200 million public investment would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena. If that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest.
Under the deal, the arena proposal will undergo an environmental review that could take a year. The review will also look at whether other sites, including Seattle Center or Bellevue, should be considered for the new arena.