Hey, have I ever mentioned that Clay Bennett and the rest the Sonics’ Oklahoma City based owners are a bunch of fucking liars? I mean, really… look at the facts, and you’d have to be naive and/or an idiot (or the Seattle Times editorial board) to believe for a minute that Bennett ever had any intention of keeping the team in the region.
Generally, good faith negotiations require a little give and take, with both sides seeking a mutually acceptable middle ground, yet just weeks after 74-percent of Seattle voters approved I-91’s prohibition on the use of public subsidies for sports facilities — and with it, rejected $200 million of taxpayer money to re-renovate Key Arena — Bennett responded with his last, best offer: a half-billion dollar, publicly financed hoops palace in Renton. (Look in Roget’s under “haggling” and you’ll find the Renton proposal listed as an antonym.) When, as expected, the state Legislature failed to deliver a suitcase full of unmarked bills, billionaire Bennett sadly shook his head and announced that he just couldn’t afford to continue losing money at Key Arena, and thus had no other choice but to break the lease, and move the Sonics to Oklahoma City.
Damn. Oklahoma City’s Ford Center must be one fancy arena to economically justify moving the Sonics from Seattle to a market fully one-third its size. According to the Oklahoman:
Walk inside the Ford Center, however, and you’re greeted by cold concrete, completely wrapped around a dark and dull 100 level concourse.
There aren’t any swanky clubs and lounges that make up so many NBA arenas. The VIP area for the high rollers that sit courtside is set up in a hallway outside of the restrooms, not in a more typical private and posh locale.
The average fan is treated to subpar concessions and merchandising stands and few interactive games and entertainment options throughout the concourse.
Oklahoma City’s 5-year-old facility just isn’t fan friendly. Not when you compare it to the palaces found in our neighboring states, and certainly not when compared to many of the country’s other venues.
That’s why Oklahoma City Mayor Mike Cornett has proposed $100 million in taxpayer-funded upgrades to include such spectacular innovations as sit-down restaurants, larger locker rooms, a larger team store, improved bathrooms and “general visual upgrades to the 100 and 300 concourse levels’ floors, walls and ceilings.” Wow… sit-down restaurants and improved bathrooms. That should surely make up for the dramatic reduction in fan base and broadcast revenues that comes with moving from the nation’s 14th to 45th largest market.
Of course, this was never really about economics, was it? Oklahoma City has long had a nagging Basketball Jones, and Bennett et al are the hometown heroes who will finally deliver their fix:
An Oklahoma City energy tycoon says the group that purchased the Seattle SuperSonics hopes to move the NBA franchise to Oklahoma City, but he acknowledges the team could make more money in the Pacific Northwest.
“But we didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here,” Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, told The Journal Record for a story in Monday’s edition. “We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even, we’d be thrilled.”
Yeah, well, it’s a free market, and if Bennett would rather play in a “subpar” facility in a much smaller market, well, I suppose he’s free to take his ball club and go home. But when he and NBA Commissioner David Stern wag their fingers at Seattle and tell us it is somehow all our fault, that’s just adding insult to injury.