SEATTLE — Seattle Sonics chairman Clay Bennett filed paperwork with the NBA today to relocate his NBA franchise to Oklahoma City next season.
Bennett announced the move in a statement Friday morning, one day after the team's home opener.
"We will now begin to work with Oklahoma City to understand the comprehensive relationship that the team and the city will have if we relocate,” Bennett said in an interview with The Oklahoman
. "What the facilities would look like, what the lease arrangements would look like, what any other number of other elements of the relationship would look like.
"Now, timing is unknown. Timing could be upon determination of this litigation. So it could be at the end of this season. It could be at the end of the existing lease term. It could be in between if there is some settlement or negotiation that we both agree to.”
Bennett called the relocation process very comprehensive and said it will involve a lot of people and take time. The Sonics are currently in the middle of a federal court case in Washington, where a judge will determine if the team must play at KeyArena until its use and occupancy agreement expires in September 2010.
But Bennett said if the team is forced to stay, and no concrete arena deal is in place by the end of the arena contract, he will move the franchise in 2010.
In his strongest statement of record, Bennett also reiterated that the Sonics and WNBA's Storm are not for sale.
A report in Friday's editions of the Seattle Times cited a group of Seattle investors who were members of the previous Howard Schultz-led Sonics ownership group and are offering to buy the team from Bennett's Oklahoma-City based owners with the goal of keeping the teams in Seattle.
Sonics relocation statement
The Seattle Times