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Legislator sees little hope that Sonics will remain in Seattle

By Darnell Mayberry Published: August 14, 2007
A Washington legislator who led an unsuccessful bid to secure state funding for a new arena said Monday she sees little hope that the SuperSonics will remain in Seattle.

Washington Sen. Margarita Prentice's comments came one day after a published report in which a member of the NBA team's Oklahoma City-based ownership group said "we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle.

"We hoped to come here,” Aubrey McClendon, co-founder and CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, told The Journal Record. "We know it's a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it's great for the community and if we could break even, we'd be thrilled.”

In a statement released Monday, McClendon softened his stance, saying he supports a new arena for the Sonics and WNBA Storm in the Greater Seattle area.

McClendon said his published comments reflected his personal desire that Oklahoma City will someday have an NBA team.

Prentice, whose legislative district includes Seattle and the suburb where Sonics owners have proposed a publicly-funded arena, said she can't understand the negative response the proposal has received.

"I just think it's part of Seattle's elitist attitude that somehow or another we're too cool for sports,” Prentice said Monday in an interview with The Oklahoman. "It's just never been allowed to get anywhere, and that's a darn shame.”

Prentice, a Democrat, had sponsored a bill that would have authorized $278 million in hotel, car rental, and restaurant taxes to help fund a new arena. It never came to a vote of the full senate.

"I would hate to lose them, and if they go to Oklahoma you're going to enjoy them,” Prentice said.

Sonics chairman Clay Bennett has said he will ask the NBA for permission to relocate the team to Oklahoma City if an agreement for a new arena is not reached by Oct. 31.

In a statement issued Monday, Bennett said the ownership group has been "disheartened” by the lack of progress but hasn't given up hope.

"Aubrey expressed his personal thoughts and, in context of the story, was not speaking on behalf of the ownership group,” Bennett said.

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