Sonics chairman Clay Bennett spoke to students and faculty at Oklahoma City University this morning about the Sonics and the business of sports and the NBA. It was his first time speaking publicly about the team in Oklahoma since he filed to relocate here in November.
You can read my story in Friday’s editions of The Oklahoman or on NewsOK.com. A couple of the highlights….
* He gave his stamp of approval on the proposed $120 million arena improvements that Oklahoma City voters will decide whether to approve on March 4.
“We think that it is exactly what we need for the foreseeable future,” Bennett said. “We believe this is the appropriate thing to do. We support it. We think that it will be a great building for a long time.”
* Bennett answered opposition by some citizens and city council members to the $20 million practice facility by saying the public benefits more from the building than the team owners even though it would be NBA specific.
Some examples he used to illustrate his point were the team’s presence creating more than 150 jobs and the team’s players, coaches and team executives boosting the local economy through spending. He also noted the team’s presence would give Oklahomans civic pride and make the state more attractive to other prospective corporations looking to relocate.
* Bennett also rejected the notion that moving from Seattle (the 14th largest market) to OKC (the 45th largest market) being a mistake.
He noted 1) Oklahoma City’s growing economy, 2) the absence of any other major league franchises, 3) the pre-existing connection between the team’s ownership group and the city’s governmental leaders, 4) the willingness of OKC’s government leaders to provide a modern arena with a suitable lease and 5) what he expects to be a rabid fan base in OKC.