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. But those things are pretty much out of our control.” Cornett said he and other city officials are monitoring the Hornets’ and Sonics’ situations closely, but they are little more than observers at this point. “We stay in touch with the NBA and the people involved, but it’s all going to evolve beyond our ability to do much about it,” Cornett said. “In neither market can we aggressively pursue a team because both have existing leases.” The Hornets are under a lease agreement with New Orleans Arena through 2012. The Sonics are under lease with KeyArena in Seattle through 2010. “Don’t underestimate what we’ve already done, and that’s prove ourselves as a success story in the NBA market,” Cornett said. “There’s really no story to tell. Both ownership groups are well-aware of our story and we’re aware of their circumstances. “I’d love to know how it’s going to turn out. To a certain extent, I’m just a very interested observer.” Bennett said he chatted several times with NBA commissioner David Stern during last weekend’s all-star activities in Las Vegas. “He’s been very supportive,” Bennett said of Stern. Asked about the Seattle situation, Stern told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “The new ownership has done so much, beyond what we could have hoped. They were very poorly treated at first. Everyone thought they were simply going to go in and wanted to move the team to Oklahoma City again. And they were disbelieved when they said they would like to keep it there. “We’ve been around this track a long time and I hope it happens because Seattle has been a very good city for the NBA, and the Clay Bennett group, I think ... will continue to be great owners for the Sonics. I don’t see a role for me at this point.” When an NBA team applies for relocation, the commissioner appoints a relocation committee, which studies the application and makes a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors. The board then votes at its annual meeting in late October, with a simple majority needed for approval.
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Share your thoughts "I don't think we believe we'll ever be in a position to choose ... those things are pretty much out of our control.” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett Where they stand
SonicsThey were purchased by a group of Oklahoma City businessmen led by Clay Bennett, who is trying to get a new arena deal approved. Bennett has said he would relocated if the deal isn't approved within a self-imposed one-year time period that began Oct. 31, 2006. The Sonics' lease with KeyArena in Seattle runs through 2010.
HornetsThey relocated to Oklahoma City 18 months ago and have averaged 18,362 in attendance in 55 games at the Ford Center. However, the team is set to make its return to New Orleans after this season, and its lease with New Orleans Arena goes through 2012.