NEW YORK — The fate of the Seattle SuperSonics will be decided today in a downtown New York City hotel so ritzy a can of Sprite runs $9. Welcome to the big business of the NBA, the reason Oklahoma City stands on the brink of landing a professional basketball team.
NBA owners today will vote on whether the Sonics can relocate to Oklahoma City, where residents and city leaders have bought into the league's business model while Seattle leaders have decided not to fulfill measures that would ensure the city retains professional basketball. For the Sonics to move, a simple majority of the league's 30 owners need to approve the franchise's relocation request, which team chairman Clay Bennett filed on Nov. 2. If owners approve the move, the Sonics' arrival date will be determined by a Washington federal court judge, who has scheduled a six-day trial to begin June 16 in Seattle. Owners of the Sonics are seeking a ruling that will allow the franchise to escape the final two years of its arena lease by paying off the remaining rent in order to play in Oklahoma City next season. The city of Seattle's legal team wants to bind the team to its contract and make the Sonics play in Seattle until 2010. NBA owners and officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but the league is scheduled to hold a press conference today after the conclusion of the meetings. Bennett, however, who is representing the Sonics at the league meetings in New York, seemingly has a strong case to present to the league before today's vote. Oklahoma City first proved it could support the NBA with strong support of the temporarily displaced New Orleans Hornets the past two seasons. The team ranked in the top 15 in the league in attendance in each season, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would later say that the support exceeded his expectations. In an attempt to attract the NBA, Oklahoma City residents also overwhelmingly approved a 1-cent sales tax extension on March 4 that will fund $121 million in Ford Center renovations, largely upgrading the venue to provide more revenue streams while transforming it into a more fan friendly facility.