Seattle City Council Agrees on New Arena Deal, But City Still Far From Landing NBA Franchise

by NESN Staff

September 11, 2012

Seattle City Council Agrees on New Arena Deal, But City Still Far From Landing NBA FranchiseSeattle has been without NBA action since 2008, when the beloved Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, and it does not appear that hole in the city's sporting culture will be filled anytime soon.

In the event a team does suddenly become available for relocation, though, Seattle will be ready now that city council reportedly has agreed to a deal to build a new arena for either an NBA or an NHL team, or both.

The Seattle City Council came to an agreement with investor Chris Hansen on a $490 million arena that calls for $200 million in public money, The Associated Press reports. The deal, which was approved in July by the King County council, includes increased financial protections for taxpayers and requires Hansen to cover bond payments if arena revenue falls short, according to the report.

"It's not risk-free, but it certainly is worth the benefit to make this a good deal going forward," city councilman Mike O'Brien told the AP. "It's one of the best arena deals we've seen in the country."

This would appear to bring Seattle closer to bringing back basketball to the city, but an arena was only one hurdle in the process. NBA commissioner David Stern has adamantly stated that the league does not intend to expand beyond its current 30 teams, and two of the leading candidates for relocation in the past few years were recently taken off the board.

The New Orleans Hornets were recently purchased from the NBA by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, whose stated intention is to keep the team in New Orleans. The Memphis Grizzlies are in the process of being sold to a group that includes several well-known native Memphians, including AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde and pop star Justin Timberlake, who probably want to keep the Grizzlies in their hometown.

The Sacramento Kings are seen as a candidate for relocation, but so far the preferred destination for the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, is believed to be Anaheim, Calif. Stern opposes the move to Anaheim, and is believed to be sensitive about another midmarket franchise with a dedicated fanbase — a la the SuperSonics — changing cities on his watch. A recent report tied the Kings to Virginia Beach, Va., but such a move is unlikely because Virginia Beach is about 6 percent smaller than Sacramento in terms of population, and the cash-strapped Maloofs (not to mention the league) presumably would not want to move from a top-20 media market in the U.S. to one that does not even crack the top 40.

Unless the NBA suddenly decides to embark on its first expansion in eight years or Clay Bennett graciously offers the Thunder back to Seattle, the Emerald City unfortunately is still far away from rooting for an NBA home team.

To see why the people of Seattle are so eager to have basketball again, check out the highlights of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton during their glory days, accompanied by the soulful sounds of Ice Cube and Krayzie Bone (you're welcome) in the video below.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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