Lewis Katz conversation
I don’t know if all of this ran in today’s Oklahoman, so here’s the entire Q&A with New Jersey Nets part owner and relocation committee member Lewis Katz.
Q: What were your impressions of Oklahoma City coming in and what do you think now?
A: I had no idea what Oklahoma was about. I thought I was going somewhere was there was plains and a lot of wind. I’ve never seen a better presentation in my life. I’ve been to a bunch of these relocation meetings. I never saw better support from the business and political and government community. Your mayor and your governor are both incredible. This is almost too unbelievable to believe that a community could be that supportive. A voting community of 69 to 31 to self-impose a tax for an arena, it’s just beyond anybody’s wildest imagination that all this could be put together.
Q: Is this something you feel like the other owners are going to buy into?
A: Absolutely. This is wonderful for the league, wonderful for basketball, a strong wonderful ownership group that you have out here that can lead this thing. My hope is that we’ll find a settlement with Seattle that will give them the opportunity to have a replacement team. Seattle should have an NBA team. And I think David expressed that in the meetings. We all feel that way. So my guess is you haven’t heard the end of the Seattle story. But Oklahoma City, you can’t believe that you can build an arena with no debt and turn it into an opening for a new team at $200 million, which is the total cost of what you have hear with the renovations.
Q: What are the concerns from yourself and the other owners about relocating a team to a smaller market?
A: Let me say this about small markets. Everybody keeps telling me that you think you’re a small market. There’s an hour and a half between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. That hour and a half has 2 ½ million people or 70 percent of your state. Brooklyn, the fourth largest borough in America, has 2 ½ million people. This is not Oklahoma City. This is Oklahoma. And my view is 20 percent of your ticket sales came from the Tulsa market. I really didn’t look at this as a small market. And I think the argument in the committee was that this is a state market with a history of people that love sports.
Q: Do you think the Sonics will come here, and when do you think they’ll arrive if they do?
A: I think a lot of that has been described by the commissioner. You have a court case, so the outside is 2010 if you lose the court case. If you win the court case I think they’ll be here in a year. There’s no question in my mind that they’re coming. It’s just a question of when. And the hope is somebody makes the appropriate approach from Seattle, people get together to sit down and make a deal and everybody walks away with something good for their community. Hopefully, Seattle will then realize that the NBA is not walking away from them.
Q: What kind of situation would it be for the NBA to have a lame-duck team in a city for a couple of years?
A: It doesn’t help anybody to have a lame-duck team. Nobody should be in that position. It doesn’t help Seattle. It doesn’t help the ownership group here in Oklahoma. It’s not good for the league to have that. That’s why a good settlement that makes economic sense to Seattle (makes sense). If you don’t do that then it’s spite in my judgment.
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