The news from the NBA, when it comes to the league potentially putting a team in the Seattle market, is the same as it's ever been. When you get an NBA-suitable arena, Seattle, it's likely that an NBA team won't be far behind.
The news out of Seattle? It's slightly different. There's a potential team owner in place who has been actively seeking out downtown real estate lots with the hopes of enacting an arena that could entice the NBA or NHL to move a team to the city. The same roadblocks are in place in terms of public funding and voter opposition to any tax hikes that would grease the wheels for a publicly funded arena, but potential buyer and Seattle native Christopher Hensen (a millionaire hedge fund manager) seems to be well aware of what he has to do in order to sidestep the same hindrances that former SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett happily fell short of overcoming. From the Seattle Times:
[Seattle Mayor Mike] McGinn said Saturday he is taking the proposal "very seriously," but doesn't want the city to be left "holding the bag."
He said he couldn't predict the timing for the next step.
"It's a pretty substantial commitment that would have to be made by the investors," McGinn said, emphasizing that the city budget can't be tapped to fund an arena.
McGinn said the offer also must honor the will of Seattle's voters, who in 2006 overwhelmingly approved an initiative that says the city must make a profit on any investment it makes in a sports arena. McGinn noted that he voted for the initiative.
David Stern, speaking in Utah, quoted the typical party line when asked about Seattle's chances. (Via CBS.)
"Everyone says to us, 'Well, would you consider going back?' Of course, if they have a building. And so that's where it's left. We have no involvement," Stern said. "But we certainly are — if anyone asks us, we tell them what we know and we're happy to talk to them. … There's no shortage of potential sites, but the funding is a huge issue."
It is. Seattle is not willing to subsidize an NBA/NHL arena. Yes, the fan support there for an NBA team is significant, but the voters have spoken time and time again. A new arena has to come about privately. And then, on top of that, there has to be an available team. And because the NBA is unwilling to take the PR hit and move the Hornets out of New Orleans, sadly all attention has focused on Sacramento.
The Kings are struggling at the gate and in the standings as they rebuild. Coach Paul Westphal has already been fired and GM Geoff Petrie wouldn't seem to be far away from that fate were it not for the fact that the team's owners seem to be preoccupied with their other financial interests right now. The city of Sacramento has until the end of February to cobble together a financing plan that the NBA would find suitable, and though there are options in Sacto, there is still worry among fans.
And none of this happens if Howard Schultz, who made his money cashing in with Starbucks, doesn't completely sell out the city that made him billions and sell the SuperSonics to an Oklahoma City-based ownership group that lied through its teeth while pretending that it wanted to stay in Seattle. Or if George Shinn didn't poison the waters so badly in Charlotte, moving his team to New Orleans in a jump that was viewed as untenable years before Hurricane Katrina hit the city.
David Stern's chumminess with certain owners. It just boggles the mind how someone so smart could play along like this so easily.
Good luck, Seattle. Good luck, Sacramento. We'll see how this depressing mess turns out.
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