|SuperSonics owner Bennett says he'll file to relocate team to Oklahoma City|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 02 November 2007 09:55|
The move came just over one year after Clay Bennett formally took ownership of the Seattle SuperSonics. He had set an Oct. 31 deadline for having a plan to replace KeyArena, which he says is outdated, after which he would ask the league for permission to move the team.
Not wanting to distract from the start of the season, Bennett backed off that deadline, but only briefly. He watched Thursday night's home opener against Phoenix from his owner's suite, spending most of the second half chatting with Hall of Famer Bill Russell while fans chanted ``Save our Sonics!'' during parts of the game.
``Today we notified commissioner (David) Stern that we intend to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City if we succeed in the pending litigation with the city, or are able to negotiate an early lease termination, or at the end of the lease term,'' Bennett said in a statement.
Bennett, who also owns the WNBA's Seattle Storm, is locked in a legal battle with the city over the Sonics' lease at KeyArena.
He is trying to void the final two years of the lease, while the city wants to hold the Sonics to the agreement, which calls for the team to play its home games at KeyArena through the 2009-10 season.
Bennett said the team lost $17 million last year because of the lease agreement with the city.
The Sonics had sought arbitration to decide the matter, but earlier this week a federal judge blocked the team from seeking an escape through arbitration, keeping alive the city's attempts to gain a court order forcing the Sonics to play in Seattle.
Earlier this year, Bennett championed a proposal for a new arena in the suburb of Renton that called for about $300 million in public money. That plan failed to get backing in the Washington Legislature.
``We now understand and respect that there is very limited public support for such a public investment,'' Bennett said.
He has until March 1 to file for relocation with the NBA if he wants the team to play the 2008-09 season anywhere besides Seattle.
Bennett has long said he had no intention of splitting the Sonics and Storm, but appeared to hedge on that stance Friday. He said there has been no determination on the future location for the WNBA team, which will play the 2008 season in Seattle.
A few hours before Bennett's announcement, a group of local investors offered to buy the Sonics in an effort to keep the city's oldest major league professional sports franchise from moving.
The group headed by Dennis H. Daugs, a private wealth manager and managing director of Lakeside Capital Management LLC, issued a statement saying it had written a formal letter of interest to Bennett.
Bennett, who bought the Sonics from a local group headed by Starbucks Coffee chairman Howard Schultz for $350 million last year, has said the club is not for sale. Schultz, who also was unhappy with KeyArena, and his group paid $200 million for the franchise in 2001.
``We want to recapture the spirit and love of basketball in Seattle by bringing the Sonics and Storm back to local ownership,'' said Daugs, a former minority owner of the SuperSonics.
The statement did not identify anyone else in the group and Daugs didn't name other members Thursday in an interview with The Seattle Times. How much the group would bid also was unclear.
``This town loves the Sonics and Storm,'' Daugs said in the statement. ``We have a genuine appreciation of the fan base. We respect the many loyal fans and we want to build a populist movement to keep the teams here. We believe there is strong local support for the Sonics and Storm.''