Hmm. Clay Bennett paid about $350 million to buy the Sonics and the Storm, and now he wants the state to build him a $530 million “multiplex” from which he would reap all the profits from all events. Nice deal for him.
Um… but wouldn’t it have been cheaper for us taxpayers if we had simply bought the teams and kept them at Key Arena, which as far as I can tell, is still a pretty damn nice place to watch a basketball game? It’s a shame we can’t just force a sale of the teams via eminent domain. Sure, we might lose a few million dollars a year operating the clubs (though who really knows when it comes to professional sports accounting?) but that’s a helluva lot less than the cost of paying off the bonds on a half-billion-dollar arena. Plus, a state-owned team would be a much better investment of public monies, as sports franchises seem to constantly go up in value regardless of their performance, while flashy new arenas and stadia apparently become worthless hunks of junk the minute we drive them off the lot.
The fact is, publicly financed stadia just don’t make economic sense, but at twice the price of other new arenas Bennett’s latest proposal is particularly crazy. Crazy as a fox.
See, when Bennett and his partners bring the Sonics back home with them to Oklahoma City they’ll be greeted as conquering heroes. That’s why they bought the team. But if they come right out and say it, they’ll lose dump trucks full of cash between now and the 2010 expiration of their Key Arena lease as local fans abandon the team in droves. So Bennett has to at least make a show of wanting to stay.
In that context a $530 million arena proposal makes perfect sense. The dream of a Renton multiplex is just enough to keep hope alive and fans in the seats… but more than crazy enough to assure that it’s a political nonstarter.
At least, I sure hope it’s more than crazy enough to be a political nonstarter — though when it comes to publicly financed stadia, you never know.