Seattle Plans For NBA Franchise Could Be In The Works
Grant Belcher, News9.com
SEATTLE – Anyone who watched Oklahoma City's game at Portland last night obviously saw the "Save Our Sonics" fans behind the Thunder bench, holding up their banners and signs every time the camera was on them.
But if recent developments are any indication, those Sonics fans could have a team of their own again sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Behind-the-scenes operations in Seattle geared toward bringing an NBA team back to the city have come to light in the past couple of days, highlighted by commissioner David Stern confirming talks of potential buyers.
Stern told the Salt Lake Tribune that "We had heard reports of some interest in Seattle and the name of the person who's associated with it is not totally unknown to me. I think he came in and I met with him, it must be a year ago.
"Just a general conversation; he was brought in by a mutual friend," Stern said.
The person of interest Stern is referring to is San Francisco hedge-fund manager Christopher Hansen, who has purchased three acres of land just south of Safeco Field in Seattle for $21.6 million, according to the Seattle Times.
Hansen reportedly told city officials that an arena could be built with minimal impact to taxpayers. A new arena could potentially house both an NBA team and an NHL team, both of which could play in the old KeyArena in the meantime while the new stadium was being built.
The Times reported that Hansen, Seattle mayor Mike McGinn and city officials have been working behind the scenes for eight months and are seeking to bring an NBA team back to the city as early as next fall.
The timing couldn't be more perfect for potential buyers, as a couple of NBA franchises are currently in transition phases.
The Sacramento Kings are considered among the most volatile franchises in the league at the moment and the city is currently in talks about financing a new $387 million downtown arena for the Kings.
If the arena talks fall through and the Kings' current arena lease expires, the potential is there for the Maloof family to sell the franchise. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has expressed his belief that the Kings will not be moving to another city.
In addition, the New Orleans Hornets have become the first NBA-owned team after struggling financially for a number of years. The league obviously has no plans to own the team long term, making it another potential target for buyers.
If a team in Seattle comes to fruition one way or another, there could be slight effects on the Thunder franchise and its history. The cities of Oklahoma City and Seattle currently share the franchise history of the current Thunder/former Supersonics.
If Seattle was to get an expansion team (highly unlikely) within five years from the Supersonics' departure to Oklahoma City in 2008, the new team in Seattle would continue to share the franchise history with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But in a league as financially challenged as the current NBA, expansion is far from a reality at this point.
If Seattle lands a team through relocation from another city, such as Sacramento or New Orleans, it is likely that Oklahoma City would then gain sole possession of the Supersonics' history, including championships, records and statistics.
The new Seattle franchise would keep the franchise history of whichever city it moved from.