|Stern wants Sonics stay in Seattle|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 08 June 2007 09:40|
The NBA commissioner, an associate of Sonics owner Clay Bennett for more than a decade since Bennett was the San Antonio Spurs' representative on the league's board of governors, said he thinks Bennett will find a way to get a new arena built in the Seattle area to keep the Sonics in their home for the past 40 years.
If Bennett doesn't find that way by Oct. 31, he has promised to begin the process of relocating the team, most likely to his hometown of Oklahoma City or to Kansas City, which is looking for an anchor tenant for its new arena.
``I think it's just going to work itself out and I hope it does,'' Stern said Thursday at the NBA finals in San Antonio. ``It's been a good city for the NBA and we'd love to stay there.''
Stern acknowledged that Bennett ``has more than exhausted the traditional means'' to getting a new arena built in the Seattle area. Before it adjourned in April, the state legislature rejected a plan to use King County tax revenues to cover $278 million of a proposed $500 million arena in the suburb of Renton.
Short of Bennett asking Gov. Chris Gregoire to call back lawmakers for a special session to reconsider the issue - which the governor's office confirms Bennett has not done - there is no way the Sonics can get public money approved for a building before Bennett's deadline.
``But sometimes in situations like that, something that you couldn't have contemplated comes to the forefront and maybe there's some possibility,'' Stern said.
With public financing unavailable, Bennett currently has one private, Seattle-area investor interested in helping him build a new arena.
The Muckleshoot Indian tribe owns land that includes and surrounds the Emerald Downs race track in Auburn, Wash., and its tribal council is exploring how that land might be used for an arena, tribal spokesman Rollin Fatland said. The site is 24 miles from downtown Seattle.
Representatives of the tribe, which runs one of the state's biggest casinos, met with Bennett in February in what Bennett called ``purely an introductory meeting.''
``I have not spoken with them since,'' he said. ``I am willing and ready to respond to anything they want to talk about.''
For now, Muckleshoot leaders are talking among themselves about whether to proceed. The tribal council was meeting Friday.
Stern said he was vaguely aware of the Muckleshoots' interest.
``I read about some possible Indian tribe involvement but all I know is what I read,'' the commissioner said.
When Bennett, who last summer bought the Sonics with seven co-investors who are also from Oklahoma for $350 million, was asked Wednesday if he would accept Seattle-area investors to become partners in the team to help keep them in the area, he said: ``I just don't want to speculate on any deal. We have not been presented with anything. But we are receptive to listening to any proposal.''
As for Seattle itself, deputy mayor Tim Ceis said Thursday the city will continue to enforce the lease the Sonics have to play in KeyArena through 2010, though he acknowledged both sides could agree to amend their agreement to allow a buyout.
Such an agreement would presumably cover the money the city would lose should the Sonics leave before 2010. Ceis said the Sonics have not yet approached the city about renegotiating the lease.
Stern applauded Bennett for working through frustrations in Seattle.
``It doesn't have the arena of the future and the city itself, Seattle, has turned a little bit hostile to the team,'' Stern said. ``And the leadership of the city and the owners and the legislature has refused even to bring the issue to a vote. So I could understand Clay Bennett's frustration.
``But I also appreciate his efforts to sort of state it honestly ... to be there and to take any call, pursue any suggestion or do whatever anyone thinks is a good idea. He's demonstrated to me that he's got staying power, malleability and good humor.''
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in San Antonio contributed to this report.