Economist: Sonics support 1,200 jobs in Seattle Print
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Thursday, 19 June 2008 09:00
NBA Headline News

 SEATTLE (AP) -The Seattle SuperSonics support 1,200 to 1,300 jobs and are responsible for nearly $188 million in local economic activity, an expert testified Thursday in a federal trial over the team's lease at KeyArena.
And, he said, you can't assume that impact will be replaced if the team leaves town.
``Once a dollar is spent it's multiplied many times over by the goods and services it purchases in that economy,'' said Lon S. Hatamiya, a former Clinton administration official testifying as an economic expert for the city.
Thursday marked the fourth day of a six-day, nonjury trial to determine whether the team must honor the final two years of its lease at KeyArena, the NBA's smallest venue. Sonics owner Clay Bennett is trying to move the team to Oklahoma City; the city of Seattle is asking U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman to force the team to stay until the end of the 2009-10 season.
If Pechman determines the Sonics can leave, a separate trial will be held to determine how much the team must pay in damages.
During cross examination, Sonics attorney Paul Taylor questioned the effect a relocation would have on Seattle, suggesting that if people can't spend their money on NBA basketball, they'll spend it elsewhere - such as on the last-place Seattle Mariners.
``The way they're playing right now, that's probably hard to determine,'' Hatamiya responded. ``If your first choice is not available, you're not necessarily going to spend it on another choice.''
Author, poet and humorist Sherman Alexie, a longtime Sonics season-ticket holder and a winner of the National Book Award, followed Hatamiya on the stand. The city called him to describe the team's importance to the community, or at least to Sherman Alexie - and that he did, gushingly.
``I want two more years of the great gods,'' he pleaded.
He told of how isolated and alone he often feels as an American Indian in an overwhelmingly white city, and how that vanishes when he sees the melting pot of fans and players at KeyArena. He credited basketball for improving his relationship with his father, and said most of his friendships in Seattle are based on it.
He got so wound up explaining that ``the great thing about basketball is they're barely wearing any clothes'' and discussing the ``current mythology'' of the sport that the judge asked him to slow down.
``We'll try to calm your excitement a little bit, Mr. Alexie,'' city lawyer Michelle Jensen told him.
``Sorry, judge,'' Alexie replied.
He went on to talk about how things have changed for season-ticket holders since Bennett's Professional Basketball Club bought the team for $350 million in 2006: There were no signs or banners in the players' parking lot, where such fans can park. There was no free popcorn. The new personnel didn't know who he was.
And as a final linsult Alexie got a letter saying that because of the possible relocation, the Sonics wouldn't be selling season tickets for next year. The letter began, ``Dear Fan,'' instead of ``Dear Sherman Alexie.''
The litany of complaints won the wounded superfan a sincere apology.
``Thank you for your support. It's very much appreciated,'' team lawyer Brad Keller began his cross-examination. ``I'm sorry the locker guy didn't know who you are. I'm sorry there wasn't any popcorn.''
But what Alexie said he really wants is this: two more years to say goodbye.
 

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