Despite possibly becoming the desired destination for two franchises, Oklahoma City will not host any NBA games next season.
The NBA’s annual deadline for a team to apply for relocation is next Thursday, and new Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett said he has no intention of filing.
Barring any reversals, that means neither the Hornets nor the Sonics will play inside the Ford Center during the 2007-08 season.
The New Orleans Hornets, who relocated here 18 months ago after Hurricane Katrina, have committed to returning to New Orleans next season.
And Bennett’s decision not to file for relocation means the Sonics will remain in Seattle, pending the outcome of a new arena project.
“We do not intend to apply for relocation. We intend to be successful in Washington,” Bennett said Thursday. “I still think we’ve got a lot of life left in this deal.”
Bennett said he would relocate the Sonics, potentially to Oklahoma City, if the arena project is not approved within a self-imposed one-year deadline that began Oct. 31, 2006.
The Sonics’ ownership group, which is chaired by Bennett, is based in Oklahoma City.
Bennett selected the Seattle suburb of Renton as the site for a new arena. It will cost an estimated $500 million for the facility and the entire infrastructure, although Bennett said his group is studying cost-cutting measures.
Although the Sonics have been in Seattle for 40 years, sagging attendance and possessing the NBA’s smallest arena could result in the franchise relocating to Oklahoma City, ironically thanks in large part to the Hornets’ success here.
Since the unexpected arrival of the Hornets, Oklahoma City has gone from being an NBA outcast to perhaps the league’s top destination for relocation.
The Hornets have played 55 games the past two seasons in the Ford Center, with an average attendance of 18,362 in those games.
Coincidentally, the Hornets and Sonics play tonight in New Orleans Arena.
Despite having a perfect opportunity to present two keys to the city, Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett will not be in attendance.
Who will end up as Ford Center tenants beyond 2007-08?
The Hornets? The Sonics? Neither?
“I don’t think we believe we’ll ever be in a position to choose,” Cornett said. “I think we’re going to get a team, and I suppose the two most likely candidates are the two we’re talking about.