Bennett: Without arena, Sonics are gone

Seattle Sonics owner Clay Bennett delivered an ultimatum of sorts to Washington state yesterday, telling the Oklahoman newspaper that he’s “probably as pessimistic as I’ve been” about getting a new arena built in the Seattle area, and that “without a building solution, it’s our intent to play in Seattle and apply for relocation immediately after the deadline.” (When Bennett bought the team last October, he promised not to move it for a year. Saying you’re going to announce a move five months from now doesn’t count, apparently.) “Not to say I’ve lost complete hope,” said Bennett. “We’ll evaluate thoroughly any potential lead, but we’re out of ideas.”

As for where the Sonics would land, native Oklahoman Bennett said, “My expectation and my belief is that if we leave Seattle, we’re quite likely headed to Oklahoma City,” but added that Kansas City is an option as well. Then he said he has qualms about both cities as relocation sites, since Oklahoma City owes most of its current prosperity to an oil boom that could soon pass, and Kansas City has two other major-league franchises to compete for fan dollars.

Tea-leaf reading? Bennett’s comments were obviously timed to light a fire under somebody, though whether it’s a last-ditch attempt to scare Washington legislators into giving him his $300 million or just a step to get moving on settling on the team’s new home, only the man himself can say. One thing is clear, though: By talking down both OKC and KC, Bennett is setting up the two cities, each of which already has a new arena in place, to bid against each other to offer the most generous lease terms if the Sonics do move. In other words, none of that giving half our arena revenues to AEG nonsense.

3 comments on “Bennett: Without arena, Sonics are gone

  1. Thanks for the link to our site. Enjoy reading yours, especially with the nonsense surrounding the Sonics these days. Just wondering: With your knowledge of owners and their threats, where does Bennett’s saber-rattling rank on the “imminent announcement” scale? I’m leaning towards “I don’t really want to move, so please don’t call my bluff.”

  2. The only thing that’s unusual about it is that he’s making such a blunt statement himself – more often team owners leave it to their supporters in elected office or on newspaper sports pages to do this.

    My gut feeling is he wouldn’t be saying anything publicly if he wasn’t hoping to shake loose more money from WA and get an arena deal done there – it is a much better market than OKC or KC, after all. But that’s just a guess from 3,000 miles away.

  3. With the recent passage of I-91 in Seattle, I simply don’t see how this is an idle threat. This is about as done a deal as you’re likely to see. There is no chance those voters will decide to overturn I-91 all of a sudden.

    And I don’t believe the State legislature up there will respond to this kind of threat.

    I sincerely hope this and Sacramento’s recent rejection of the Maloofs’ “Offer” is the start of a trend. It would be so refreshing if it was. Here’s hoping.

    It wasn’t all that long ago when teams sort of took pride in playing in arenas that might have been hostile to the visiting team. Remember the old Boston Garden?