I had a telephone conversation with a Seattle City Councilman for the first time earlier today, and I hung up the phone with a better understanding of just how toxic the situation has become up there.
During our 10 minute conversation, Councilmember Richard McIver made it clear that he wants to keep the Sonics in Seattle. He also made it clear that they are in no way interested in building a new arena.
My direct question: “Is there anything else you guys can do to try to get a deal done?”
McIver: “I think there’s some things I hope the Mayor’s office is working on. I believe if they chose to stay there might be some opportunity at doing some remodeling of the existing facility, provided that they’re willing to put a substantial stake in it. I think we will be willing to do something in that way as long as we’re in a partnership.”
OK. Let’s review. Not only has Clay Bennett said a countless number of times that he’s not interested in a renovated facility, but not once has the ownership group said anything about putting up their own funds. Sounds like irreconcilable differences to me.
But then I press the issue and ask McIver in these exact words: “What’s the climate of the civic leaders in the area? Are you all completely against a new arena? Are renovations the only way you guys see fit?”
McIver: “I think that’s all that you’re going to see in Seattle. ”
Now, McIver, it’s worth noting, is the Chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, which according to the Council’s Web site, “makes recommendations on legislative matters relating to the financial management and policies of the city and its agents.”
From what I gathered of his explanation, much of the reason why McIver is against a new building is because it doesn’t make sense for long term economics.
“My basic premise, and one that I think even Oklahoma needs to be worried about, is if you build a new stadium and you have a 30 year bond and you have leases that last about 10 years. Then you find that the facility is determined to be not adequate. So over a 10-year lease, you still have a 20-year payment left on a facility.”
McIver makes great points, and, without having talked with them (yet), I’m sure his fellow Councilmember’s agree with him, especially considering Seattle recently built Safeco and Quest Fields for the Mariners and Seahawks. This thing is not going to get done before Oct. 31. The best solution I see for Seattle is NBA commissioner David Stern stepping in. But that still might not do much. Seattle is tired of paying for arenas. Nothing Stern can do about that.
I do, however, think Seattle’s political leaders are now ticked at the ownership group and are going to try to get them to stay for the heck of it. Aubrey McClendon’s comments had a lot to do with it. Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley points that out in his piece today. There’s also a good story in the Times about whether or not the city can hold the Sonics to their lease. All worth reading.
- Darnell Mayberry