There is a lot of excitement in the air about the potential return of the Seattle SuperSonics. This new arena proposal looks like the savior to all of the basketball fans in the city of Seattle have been waiting for. It’s exciting because the fans can again root for their favorite basketball team again. Dads can again take their sons to basketball games and watch as a new generation of basketball stars develop; they get to watch current NBA superstars come into their hometown (or close to it).
Basketball would return to Seattle. And, for the most part, it would be a welcome return for the franchise that brought Seattle its first (hockey fans would argue second) major pro sports title, the 1979 NBA Championship. It would allow this city to celebrate franchise greats, such as Garry “The Glove” Payton, Shawn Kemp, Gus Williams, Tom Chambers, and many others. But to get this new arena, there needs to be a new franchise. And that is going to be the problem.
Another city will have to lose their basketball franchise for Seattle to get the Sonics back. The two teams that are frequently brought up are the New Orleans Hornets and the Sacramento Kings. Both squads are in financial dire straits. The previous Hornets owner was forced to sell the team to the NBA; as for the Kings, their owners are in financial trouble as the changing landscape of NBA Player salaries, the smallest arena in the league and the recession combined to slowly destroy the financial stability of the Maloof Brothers (the King’s owners).
The owner of the Anaheim Ducks (NHL), Henry Samueli, offered to put $20 million worth of renovations to make the Honda Center a basketball friendly venue. The Maloof Brothers jumped at the chance, and put in paper work to relocate the Kings to Anaheim. However, that didn’t sit well with the NBA and the move was shot down. If the Kings had moved, they would have become the third NBA franchise in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
NBA Commissioner David Stern imposed a March 1st, 2012 deadline on the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings to reach a financial deal for a new arena. And it seems like they have a patchwork arena finance deal in place. Plus the Maloof Brothers have repeatedly stated that the Kings are not up for sale. Therefore, it looks like the Kings are off the table (unless the arena financing deal falls apart).
The other franchise that could find its way up to the Emerald City is the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets have an escape clause in their lease; this escape clause is that if attendance falls below an average of 14,735 for two years, then the team can wiggle out of its lease early and relocate. Average attendance at the Hornet’s home games was well below that mark last season, and it looks like they will be below that mark again this season.
|A Typical Hornets Home game|
And when you add in the fact that the NBA currently owns the financially troubled club, it doesn’t look good for the City of New Orleans. That is until David Stern recently came out and said that the league was near a deal for selling the Hornets to a buyer. This buyer promises to keep the team in New Orleans (even with the lagging attendance). Stern also came out and said that he had another buyer “awaiting future events”. Also, the NHL has a buyer, who promises to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, lined up.
These developments, while frustrating, can be beneficial to the City of Seattle. If the NBA and NHL franchise had immediately been purchased and brought up here, the city would have had to rush its study of the arena proposal. They can make sure the proposal and the finances are rock solid, and that the city won’t get screwed over like it did during the Key Arena reconstruction. As Dow Constantine put it during the press conference; “This is not Game 7. This is the tipoff of the first game of the preseason. This is a set of principles. This is a start.”