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Council focuses on practice facility in Sonics' lease

Oklahoman Modified: March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm •  Published: March 18, 2008
p /> The 15-year deal calls for the SuperSonics to pay the city $1.6 million annually to use the Ford Center and another $409,000 per year to be able to re-sell the naming rights currently owned by local Ford car dealerships. It has an exit clause after six years if revenues were to fall off dramatically.

The NBA relocation committee is due to visit Oklahoma City next week ahead of team owners' scheduled April 17-18 vote on the SuperSonics' request to move. The Sonics' lease in Seattle runs through 2010, and a federal trial is scheduled for June to determine whether the team can break it.

Bowman said he was generally pleased with the terms of the Sonics' usage of the city-owned Ford Center, but his concerns were focused on the practice facility — including the team's proposed rent.

"To me, that's kind of a $1 a year fee," Bowman said.

Bowman was pleased to see that Bennett, an Oklahoma City businessman, had relaxed his stance that the team wanted the city-owned facility to be used solely by the team. He said city officials must take the initiative to find other public uses for the building in the offseason, as allowed by the lease proposal.

City officials have said some revenue concessions had to be made to allow the team to be competitive with larger markets, and White said a strong part of that should be freeing up the naming rights for the Ford Center.

"I think the public probably needs to think about the fact that when they see what the naming rights are ... that they're going to be a big number," White said. "It's going to be a lot of money, but that value is not brought to the table by us. That value is brought to the table by them bringing the Sonics here."

He said he didn't want to give the impression that he was "negative about this because I'm not."

"There are things that I would have liked to have seen but when I look at it, I think it's a good deal," White said.