Share “Oklahoma City gets NBA team”

By Randy Ellis Modified: July 2, 2008 at 9:45 pm •  Published: July 2, 2008

Bennett said all home regular season games will be played in Oklahoma City, but talks are in progress that would allow some preseason games to be played in Tulsa.

The local chamber of commerce will assist the team in dealing with people interested in employment or establishing vendor relationships with the team, Bennett said.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman was expected to rule Wednesday whether the Oklahoma City-owned team could buy out the last two years of a lease at KeyArena, which is controlled by the city of Seattle.

Early Wednesday afternoon, word leaked that Seattle and the team owners were negotiating some type of settlement.

Before the trial, Sonics owners offered the city more than $26 million to get out of the lease.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Pechman issued an order saying the two sides had come to a settlement.

Seattle leaders filed the lawsuit last fall to keep the Sonics from moving to Oklahoma City.

Sonics owners argued that KeyArena was no longer a competitive NBA venue and was at the root of the team's financial problems, which began before Bennett and others bought the team in 2006.

During the six-day trial the city claimed the owners couldn't buy out the last two years of the lease because a dollar figure couldn't be put on the value that the 41-year-old franchise brings to the city.

Witnesses, including Bennett, estimated during the trial that the team could lose upwards of $60 million over the last two years of the lease.

The Sonics' lead attorney, Brad Keller, argued that the relationship between the city and the owners was a failed marriage and that the Sonics shouldn't be forced to stay under the city's roof for the final two years when a financial remedy was available.

The owners also contended in their case that the city's lawsuit was part of a plan to keep the Sonics in Seattle and hurt them financially so they would consider selling the team to a group of Seattle-area investors.

The goal all along of the city's legal fight to enforce the KeyArena lease was to ensure some sort of future for NBA basketball in Seattle, City Council President Richard Conlin said Wednesday.

Mayor Nickels said a group led by Microsoft mogul Steve Ballmer will immediately begin exploring options to bring a new team to Seattle.

Read the ruling Statement from NBA commissioner David Stern Statement by Seattle Mayor Nickels Sonics settlement press release Sonics settlement agreement

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