On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted 6-2 in favor of a proposed arena deal. Though this is a much bigger step than the city ever took in preventing the Seattle SuperSonics franchise from relocating in July of 2008, many more steps remain before construction begins.
The plan calls for $200 million in public investment for a $490 million arena in the same area as the Mariners and Seahawks stadiums. The agreement now goes to the King County Council for ratification. Any changes to the plan must be approved by the council. There also is an environmental review. The Port of Seattle opposes the project pending the results of a study on what effect a new arena would have on parking and traffic in the Sodo neighborhood.
Even if all necessary steps are taken, exactly how will Seattle go about getting an NBA and/or NHL team as tenants? Arena owner Chris Hansen said Monday’s vote allows him to shop for a team to replace the Sonics. There are no plans for NBA expansion.
With the previously league-owned New Orleans Hornets recently purchased by NFL Saints owner Tom Benson, the NBA’s most likely relocation candidate is Sacramento. Kings ownership for years has attempted to secure a new arena, much like the predicament the Sonics faced six years ago with KeyArena before the franchise was sold by local owner Howard Schultz to an Oklahoma City ownership group headed by Clay Bennett. Bennett’s quest to build a new arena in greater Seattle was stonewalled from the outset and the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City, a move endorsed by NBA commissioner David Stern but widely criticized.
The Edmonton Oilers, the parent franchise of the AHL Oklahoma City Barons, is an NHL team discussing possible relocation to Seattle after plans for a proposed $475 million arena in Edmonton were thrown into doubt earlier this month. Though the franchise said it still hopes to reach a deal with Edmonton on a new arena, owner Daryl Katz, team president Patrick LaForge and Kevin Lowe, president of hockey operations, were in Seattle for meetings Monday about a possible relocation.
“(This) introduces a host of ethical questions related to the city’s own loss of the Sonics,” wrote Eric Freeman of Ball Don’t Lie. “After that experience, could the city really do the same to another NBA town that identifies strongly with its team? And if they would, what does that say about the worthiness of the cause?”
Et tu, Seattle?