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Sonics cite struggles in Seattle
Bennett wraps up his second day on stand

By Chris Casteel Published: June 19, 2008

"I believed from the bottom of my heart that we would succeed (in keeping the team in Seattle),” Bennett testified. "And I'm very disappointed we did not.”

But Paul Lawrence, the lead attorney for the city, challenged Bennett's veracity, showing through exhibits of e-mails and memos that Bennett and other owners were making it tougher for their allies to pitch an expensive arena plan here and that they were talking about relocating to Oklahoma City when they were still obligated to be working toward a new site in Seattle.

In one e-mail, energy company executive Aubrey McClendon apologized to Bennett for telling a newspaper that the owners didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle.

"The truth is we did buy it with the hope of moving to OKC,” McClendon said in the e-mail.

Bennett testified Wednesday that he told McClendon he was wrong and said he had fulfilled the obligation to try to keep the team in Seattle.

Bennett also testified about looming financial losses if the team is forced to stay. He said the estimate of $60 million in red ink over two years was probably conservative. And he said the team would have other problems, including convincing free agents to sign with a team that might move. But he said the team could make about $17 million in profit if allowed to play the next two seasons at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

Lawrence countered that Bennett had already testified that he could absorb the losses and that he had been warned he was buying a money-losing team.

Among the other problems the team would face if forced to stay here, Bennett said, would be the "inability to integrate with the community.”

"It's difficult for me to be here,” said Bennett, who comes to court each day with personal security. "I can't go to games.”

"You're not a real popular guy here,” Bennett's attorney, Brad Keller, responded.

"Not real popular.”

Besides his testimony about the financial woes facing the team, Barth, the interim team president, also testified about the charitable work done here by players. The city's attorneys showed videos of the players at various public appearances. The city is trying to show a team value that can't be measured in dollars, a critical aspect of their case since the law typically allows tenants to buy their way out of leases.

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