Funding an arena is no easy feat, but when you ask for a ridiculous amount of money, that feat becomes a far off dream that only Bill Watterson can draw up.
When Howard Schultz sold the Sonics to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, Bennett said all the right things.
“It is not our intention to move or relocate the teams — as long, of course, as we are able to negotiate a successor venue to the current basketball arena and arrangements to ensure the Sonics can succeed,” Bennett said.
But Bennett lied when he said it was not his intention. Then emails with his business partners Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward surfaced, talking about quickly whisking the Sonics away to Oklahoma.
“Is there any way to move [to Oklahoma City] for next season, or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?” Ward wrote. Bennett replied: “I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!” Ward responded: “That’s the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball [in Oklahoma City] next year.” McClendon then said: “Me too, thanks Clay!”
So obviously Bennett never once thought of keeping the team in the Pacific Northwest, but he did cover his rear end by “attempting” to build a new arena.
The Sonics played at the KeyArena, which was the smallest arena in the NBA. NBA Commissioner David Stern said it was by far the worst arena. So with Stern making these comments, Bennett wanted to impress him with a state-of-the-art facility — One that would cost $500 million.
Tax payers were told they would only have to come up with $278 million with the rest of the funding coming from the state. The deal was actually a very well thought out plan, but with the Mariners and the Seahawks recently getting new stadiums, the people of King County had had enough.
Seattle showed a dying devotion for baseball club in 2001 when Safeco Field was built, and the Seahawks have been stuck in mediocrity for years, but they got Qwest Field. Citizens had to pay $360 million for that one.
So that left the Sonics with a terrible arena lease — where they earned nearly 10 percent of income. This ultimately led the NBA to leae Seattle and hitch a ride with Bennett to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder.
People keep blaming Bennett and Stern for the relocation of the Sonics, but in reality, we could have prevented it with ease. If we would pay millions of dollars for two teams, why not pay for one more? Sure Schultz screwed us over. Sure Bennett was a dishonest prick. But in the end, we’re to blame.
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