SEATTLE (AP) -Lawyers for the Seattle SuperSonics and the city of Seattle argued before a federal judge Thursday about whether the dispute over the team's lease at KeyArena should be resolved in court or in arbitration.
The arguments were technical and revolved around competing sections of the lease agreement. One says that the length of the lease is not subject to arbitration. The other says only the Sonics can go to court over the contract.
The dispute is over whether the Sonics can buy their way out of the lease scheduled to end in 2010 and move the team.
Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr says he wants the case handled by a judge rather than by arbitrators because judges make decisions and arbitrators reach compromises.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said he would rule as quickly as possible.
New Sonics chairman Clay Bennett, stymied in his quest for public funding to build a new arena, issued a demand for arbitration last month. In response, the city sued, trying to force the Sonics to honor the terms of a deal reached in the mid-1990s: In exchange for $74 million in renovations to the old Seattle Coliseum, the team agreed to play all of its home games there through Sept. 30, 2010.
Among the team's complaints are that KeyArena is the smallest venue in the league and that under the lease agreement the Sonics must turn over too much of their revenue to the city. NBA commissioner David Stern has called the lease the worst for any team in the league.
The demand for arbitration states that the team has lost money every year since 1999 - more than $55 million in the last five years alone. Last season the team lost $17 million.
The Sonics began playing in Seattle in 1967 and won the city's only men's professional sports title in 1979; the Storm won the WNBA title in 2004.
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