The Sonics Basketball team has been in Seattle for 40 years. This is where they started but in 12 months they may be gone. Today Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz announced that the Sonics have been sold by the Basketball Club of Seattle to the Professional Basketball Club LLC. headed by Clay Bennett of Oklahoma City.
So much for Howard Schultz and local ownership’s civic commitment to Seattle. Could you see Green Bay sold to Kansas City? I don’t think so.
But is any of this a surprise? The PI on July 8, 2006 had a story headlined “Plenty of cities waiting in line for NBA teams”. In the story they even noted that “It’s no secret Oklahoma City wants a permanent franchise, having sold out games last season when it was host to the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.”
What are they saying in Oklahoma. Its “Hornets will leave, but Sonics will come“
Buy up that Hornets memorabilia, Oklahoma City.
All of it’s about to become collector’s items.
Sure, the New Orleans Hornets still call Oklahoma City home, and Seattle Sonics still call the Pacific Northwest home, even though their new owners call Oklahoma City home. (Got all that?) But after an ownership group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett purchased the Sonics on Tuesday, it’s difficult to believe all of this will end any differently.
The Hornets will go back to New Orleans.
The Sonics will come to Oklahoma City.
Could be in a year. Could be two. But eventually, the moving vans will arrive in Oklahoma City, some ferrying the Hornets out, others carrying the Sonics in.
Mayor Nickels held a press conference saying he was “disappointed”. He noted the importance of local ownership in a team’s success in a community. Local ownership was a big factor in both the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks staying in Seattle. But it didn’t help the Sonics.
The City of Seattle had made 3 different offers to the Sonics in trying to meet their concerns about the Arena and their lease. One offer was for a $198 million dollar area expansion with the owners paying $49 million. The second offer was for a $149 million expansion with the owners paying 4#7 million Both of these deals would have gone to a public vote The third offer was for a $50 million renovation with no public vote.
The Seattle Times quotes Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis as saying “They never did respond to us on those three offers.”
Not mentioned by Howard Schultz was what the team was sold for. Previously the team claimed it has lost $40 million. (Update – the Seattle Times reported the team was sold for $350 million. Several sources says this leaves a profit of $80 -$90 million for a 5 year investment). The sale was noted as a business decision. So much for commitment to the local community and Sonics fans.
Something is wrong with the process when Schultz demanded a public handout for a revamped Arena with no return to Seattle financially. The decision to sell the team was not a public decision or was it debated by the owners publicly or with civic leaders.. It was done out of the public’s eye – so that Mayor Nickels and Governor Gregoire were only first informed today before the press conference. It was a business deal.
It seems that the fans and the public who supported the team by buying tickets and attending games and supporting the team for 40 years are just pawns in the process subject to business decisions, not public or community decisions.
The Sonics owners seemed to fear a public vote for the use of public money to support them. It was not that long ago that Seattle taxpayers put money into fixing up the Arena. Where’s the public share of any profits? Maybe you want to think twice before buying your next Starbucks coffee because maybe next it will be Howard Schultz and Starbucks moving to Chicago.
Sure is nice to have some dedicated business people involved in the Seattle community.