Much ado has been made recently over a proposal by a group of local business “leaders” to save the Sonics and keep them in Seattle. The local group proposes buying the Sonics and investing $150 million of their money in renovating Key Arena, conditioned on an additional $150 million in matching taxpayer funds.
This is by far the most reasonably reasonable arena proposal pitched thus far, or at least it would be if not for a handful of obvious stumbling blocks: A) the Sonics’ Oklahoma City based owners insist the team is not for sale; B) NBA Commissioner David Stern has promised that Seattle would not get another franchise if they allowed the Sonics to leave; and C) there was no chance in hell the tax authorization legislation could make it out of Olympia this year, coming just a week before the end of the session. And oh yeah… D) a substantial majority of Seattle voters don’t seem to give a shit whether the team stays or leaves.
According to a March 3, SurveyUSA/KING-5 poll which seemed to fly under the media and political radar, 77% of respondents said they opposed spending public funds to renovate Key Arena… about the same percentage of voters who approved Initiative 91 in 2006, a citywide measure that barred exactly that. Only 37% of respondents indicated they even care if the Sonics leave Seattle in two years, and a full two-thirds of respondents believe the team’s move to Oklahoma City is already a done deal. Hardly a popular uproar demanding the Legislature to drop all their current business and push through an arena funding bill.
Not that the folks behind this proposal ever believed they’d get a bill out of the current session. These are savvy folk. Rich folk, who’ve spent plenty of money on Olympia lobbyists in the past. They know how the system works, and they know that any proposal pitched during the final week of the session isn’t a serious proposal at all. Why they pitched it at the very last minute, I don’t know, but before any of you diehard Sonics fans get too excited by media efforts to hype this proposal into genuine hope, take a look at the facts. No bill is going to pass this session to rebuild Key Arena, and until we hear otherwise, no NBA team is available to play in it.
I’m not saying the proposal isn’t for real, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the local group eventually gets the taxpayer money they seek — if they can actually produce a team — but I’m guessing the sudden display of urgency is mostly intended to impress their fellow billionaires at the upcoming NBA owners meeting. And while I suppose it is interesting to watch the intricate mating rituals peculiar to the strange birds who comprise our nation’s moneyed elite, I’m just not so sure that us average folk really care all that much anymore.