Every time the Seattle Times editorial board pimps for a new Sonics arena, they should print a big, bold disclaimer across the top of the page, revealing the millions of dollars in ad revenues they stand to lose should the team leave the region and their sports section.
Most of their readers are capitalists. We understand and appreciate rational self-interest. And if the Times were upfront and honest about its financial stake in churning out basketball coverage through the dreary months of Winter, perhaps we wouldn’t find the following headline so ridiculous: “Olympia owes Bennett a Sonics/Storm vote.”
Gimme a break. Olympia doesn’t owe Bennett a vote any more than it owes Nick a pony.
We know the Times wants the team to stay. We get it. But their constant, one-sided pressure on the Legislature to approve the first deal that comes their way is not only annoying, it’s likely counterproductive. There is no way the King County Council is going to approve this tax package without putting it before voters, and there’s no way, in its current form, it wins at the polls. You want to assure the Sonics departure? This is the way to do it.
If Sonics owner Clay Bennett is serious about keeping the team in the region, then he needs a slap in the face, not sycophantic kiss on the tuchis, for if his most recent press release is any indication, the man is totally out of touch with political reality.
“This a [sic] staggering and quite likely a debilitating blow to our efforts to develop a world-class arena facility. Clearly at this time the Sonics and Storm have little hope of remaining in the Puget Sound region.
We believe we have gone to extraordinary lengths with significant time and resources to craft a proposal for a global caliber multi-purpose event facility that would be a valuable public asset for the region for years to come and have minimal impact on taxpayers.”
Yeah… Bennett went to about the same “extraordinary lengths” crafting his proposal as he did crafting a press release with a typo one word into its opening sentence.
I know the folks at the Seattle Times looked the man in the eye and found him to be straightforward and trustworthy, but how exactly is a $400 million public subsidy a serious proposal coming just weeks after 74-percent of voters rejected a taxpayer giveaway half that size? And what exactly would be the point of approving a deal that King County voters would surely reject at the polls? If they really want to keep the team in the region, the Sonics and the Legislature likely have one shot at getting this right, and, well, this proposal obviously ain’t it.
The Times attacks Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) for accusing Bennett of trying to create a crisis, whining “That is not fair…”
What is Bennett supposed to do if the Legislature is not even willing to vote on the proposal?
Gee, I dunno, maybe… negotiate? You know, haggle. Bargain. Dicker. Horse trade. Compromise.
As Republican presidential frontrunner Tommy Thompson would likely tell you, if there’s one thing Jews like me understand, it’s haggling — and, well, Bennett… apparently, not so much. See the typical pattern in a negotiation such as this is for the two sides to gradually move towards each other until a deal is struck. Say, for example, you’re in the market for a new car with a sticker price of about $24,000. You’ve done your research, and so you offer $21,000 — only a few hundred dollars over invoice and incentives — and then the dealer comes back and counters with an offer of say… $48,000. That’s kinda what Bennett did.
Bennett says he’s willing “to explore every conceivable funding option,” but so far, only if that option includes about $400 million in public financing — twice what Seattle voters already overwhelmingly rejected. And he didn’t need to hire a high-priced lobbyist to tell him that in the current political climate, that dog won’t hunt.
But if Bennett is really serious about keeping the Sonics in the region, there are plenty of other options that could be explored. For example, Seattle voters might be willing to accept a Key Arena renovation proposal that included a more typical 40/60 public/private financing plan. Or maybe the City Council would consider a renegotiated lease that provides the team an additional $8 to $10 million a year in revenues.
Or, if Bennett really has his heart set on a half billion dollar hoops palace in Renton, he just might want to get the ball rolling by kicking in a couple hundred million dollars of his own. And then we can get down to the nitty-gritty of crafting a revenue package that might pass legislative and electoral muster.
My suggestion? A jock tax combined with a repeal of the sales tax exemption for newspapers would raise more than enough to pay off the bonds. And you gotta admit that it’s only fair that those who would benefit most from the new arena — professional athletes with their over-inflated salaries, and newspaper publishers with their over-inflated egos — should pick up a proportionate share of the financial burden.
And I’m sure there are many other creative ideas out there that would work for both Bennett and the region, if only the two sides could sit down at the table and negotiate in good faith. Bennett’s a successful businessman, and I’m guessing he didn’t get that way by always taking the first deal put in front of him. He shouldn’t expect the region’s taxpayers to be any less savvy.
After all, despite the Times’ insistence that the Sonics are worth keeping at any price, there is no hard deadline, and both sides have leverage. Bennett owns a couple teams we’d rather keep in the region, and Seattle owns a market three times the size of Oklahoma City.
If there’s a deal to be made, it’s time to start haggling.
Lucky for Bennett, Oklahoma City has a suitable arena, built just 5 years ago. The total cost? $89 Million.
Quite the inflation there, it seems to me. Bennett wanted to move the team from day 1, and his ridiculous demands only prove that.
headless lucy spews:
One overlooked bit of strategery would be to spend some time and money developing a winning basketball team — then ask for a new venue buttressed with public funding.
In fact, that would be the obvious thing to do, if Bennett’s real plans actually included staying in WA.
Bennet can take his “Sonic Turkey’s” back to Oklahoma — where instead of sucking, they’ll have an opportunity to at least be OK.
GBS knows that conservatives politicians and their supporters are TROOP HATERS!! spews:
Let the Sonics move to Oklahoma City. I’m suuuuuure it’s such an exciting town that the very best NBA players who will want to move there and spend most of their time at the National Cowboy & Western Museum.
Yeeeeeee-hawwww Mo’Fo, Black Bart rides again!
I don’t think many people care if the Sonics in Seattle, Oklahoma City or Rangoon. If they leave, so what?
headless lucy spews:
re 3: I’ll bet the Sonics are thanking Jesus at this very moment for the opportunity to spend lots of time in Tulsa and Muskogee.
5 Don’t forget beautiful downtown Norman.
2 Yeah, remember the Mariners at least did that to get themselves out of the Kingdome. Seems it’s been mostly downhill from there.
headless lucy spews:
When the JAZZ moved to Utah, they should have changed their name to the CLOGGING YOKELS.
Frank Blethen's heir spews:
And while you taxpayers are at it with more welfare for my richest pals, make sure to delete that inheritance tax, okay?
The new Sonic owner’s bidness partner is a significant contributor to the Swift Boat Prevaricating Rat Bastards, by the way.
‘Buh bye, Sonics.
Luigi Giovanni spews:
David, as you know, I’ve been proposing repealing the sales tax exemption for newspapers in these comment threads for a while. I’m delighted to see you proposing it right up front.
I happen to be in Norman (OK) at the moment, until United returns me to civilization tomorrow, and I have mentioned to a number of people that they will be getting the Sonics soon. People down here don’t exactly lead frantic lives, and they tend to get excited about a lot of things that are fairly routine in Seattle, but the Sonics elicit very little interest. They’d rather have kept the Hornets, it seems, so Clay’s gambit may pay off less well than he is counting on.
About football, they’re absoluely off-the-wall nuts, but the Sonics……….hohum.
Goldy, you’re right on the money as far as you go, but another big turd in this deal is the myth that Bennett would put up much money at all. As you point out, he wants $300 million from the state/county and another $100 million from Renton. The implication is he would come up with the rest, but that is wrong. A large share of his $100 million would be naming rights for the building and various components of it as well as other private contributions. Bennett could put as little as $50 million of his own considerable wealth into this $500 million center.
And there is another unspoken drain on the taxpapers. Bennett will need lots of other events to make his building pay for itself- 220 days of the year is the rough estimate. The Sonics and Storm account for around 60 of those. That means a lot of events that now use Key Arena and the Tacoma Dome will be lured to the shiny new building. I know Key Arena officials have bravely said they will be able to compete with the new building, but that is BS. Over time, more and more events will shift to Renton and Key and T-Dome will suffer until officials from Seattle and Tacoma head to Olympia seeking their own State dollars to remain competitive.
Remember, this is the same bunch of geniuses who endorsed Bush in 2000. I’m forced to conclude that the B-Clan is the result of many generations of non-selective breeding.
Roger Rabbit spews:
Here’s what the fishwrapper says:
“Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, told The Seattle Times that team owner Clay Bennett is trying to ‘create a crisis’ to force the issue in Olympia by saying the team might move to his hometown of Oklahoma City or someplace else out of state. That is not fair. What is Bennett supposed to do if the Legislature is not even willing to vote on the proposal?”
Here’s what Roger Rabbit says:
Clay Bennett bought this team knowing it has a lease at Key Arena through 2010.
Clay Bennett bought this team with no promise from anyone that taxpayers would give him $400 million for a new arena.
Clay Bennett bought this team knowing the previous owners sold it because THEY couldn’t extract a new arena from the taxpayers.
Clay Bennett bought this team knowing this community does not support more publicly funded new sports facilities.
Clay Bennett bought this team knowing that Republican politicians who habitually pander to business interests do not control state or county government here.
And this guy is being treated “unfairly”??!
Roger Rabbit spews:
@12 I’d be surprised if Bennett puts one red cent of his own money into the arena. Guys like him are all about OPM — “other people’s money.” You’d swear he got all his business principles from watching those nighttime infomercials touting nothing-down get-rich-quick real estate schemes. He has the same mentality. Fuck him. We should tar and feather him, and ride him out of town on a rail! Fucking welfare bum … fucking aggressive panhandler … an outsider who comes into our state thinking he can pick our pockets. Does he think we’re hicks? Fucking Okie.
Roger Rabbit spews:
You know, maybe they should give Bennett his up-or-down vote in the Legislature. I’m very eager to see how that would turn out. If, somehow, it passed then I’d want to know which Democratic legislators (who, we elected to protect us little guys from robber barons like Bennett) supported it before next year’s primaries.
Richard Pope spews:
We should use the power of eminent domain and let a jury determine what price should be paid to expropriate the Sonics.
He’s dreaming if he thinks Renton has $100 Million. He’s also dreaming if he thinks he can persuade King County the center will pull in people from out of state who would not be here otherwise, or that there will be a neighborhood economic impact when the whole point of his facility is to get people coming and going, having them arrive early to eat and stay late to shop.
Hmmm Well if the new owners want taxpayers to fund him then all of the games should be on TV free as we are now stockholders in this collection of millionaires and their collection of convict million dollar players just a thought