It was really no surprise that the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma and the city accepted a $45 million payoff from Clay Bennett. The court case really was nothing other than posturing, and a waste of more taxpayer money since a similar settlement offer had been on the table previously.
It was pretty obvious in the early going that the poison pill defense was going to work for Bennett because for the most part it was true. The cities plan all along was to bleed the guy with losses if he didn't play ball with them.
A lot of people blame Howard Schultz, and Wally Walker, but who can blame somebody for selling a team for double it's book value? You would have to be crazy to pass that one up when you are losing millions of dollars per year.
The real blame should be put on the politicians in Seattle, and Olympia who never put together a viable solution even though that solution was always within their grasps. The obvious point was that Key Arena was not financially viable anymore for an NBA team even though it was previously remodeled in 1995. The venue was the smallest in the league, and lacked the revenue producing amenities needed to be successful in a changing market.
The previous owner Barry Ackerley almost got it right when he almost built a new arena in the SODO area where Safeco Field now sits. That arena was going to be big enough for hockey, be able to control parking revenue, and have a footprint that could be extended to take care of future needs.
The remodeling of Key Arena was more of a stop gap move designed to give an aging building, city park, and the businesses around it an extra 10-15 years of meaningful life. That model started to fail when Safeco, and Qwest opened because they took away the market for luxury boxes from the Sonics which was a big piece of the economic equation for the franchise, and the building remaining successful.
Key Arena was originally designed as a temporary venue for the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair. It was never supposed to be around fifty years later even if it was remodeled time and time again.
A 300 million dollar project to remodel it once more is another stop gap measure if the building is unable to host the NHL, and the surrounding campus may be too small to control all the revenue needed to support those franchises in this day of age.
The NBA wrote a nice letter on the way out of town which says the city has 18 months to get it's act together on building a new arena, or remodeling the Key if they want to have a chance at getting an NBA team in the next five years. Spend the money and wait with no guarantees to a city that supported the league for 41 years.
If you are going to build a new arena, or remodel Key Arena you need to make sure that it is going to be able to host an NHL franchise. If you don't, by the time the NBA comes sniffing around again the new arena may be hopelessly out of date and you have to start all over again.
Commisioner Stern is not a friend of Seattle, and he feels he owes the area nothing after Clay Bennett pays the city $45-$75 million over the next five years. There are no guarantee's, no conditional promises, only a cordial letter wrapped with cash, and an empty hope on the way out of town.
Line of the Day
As for the additional $30 million due in 2013 if Bennett hasn't helped get another franchise for Seattle -- please. Bennett being forced to help Seattle scrounge a team is like hiring Yosemite Sam to be an anger-management counselor.