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SuperSonics present city with relocation proposal

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Oklahoma City voters approved a sales-tax extension earlier this month to make improvements to the Ford Center. The owners of the Seattle SuperSonics sent a letter of intent Friday to city leaders about relocating the team. Oklahoma City voters approved a sales-tax extension earlier this month to make improvements to the Ford Center. The owners of the Seattle SuperSonics sent a letter of intent Friday to city leaders about relocating the team.

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

The owners of the Seattle SuperSonics sent Mayor Mick Cornett a letter of intent Friday explaining their plans to move the team to Oklahoma City.

The letter outlines the lease terms and other conditions the city and the team would need to agree on to relocate to Oklahoma City. Read the letter (PDF).

The letter of intent comes two weeks after Oklahoma City voters approved a sales tax extension to pay for improvements to the Ford Center.

The city council will consider approving the letter at their meeting on Tuesday, City Manager Jim Couch said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

"We think this a very solid deal for the city of Oklahoma City," Couch said. "We're very comfortable with the deal that we struck considering the size of the market."

The team is owned by The Professional Basketball Club headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett.

In the letter, the Sonics owners list four conditions that must be met in order to relocate to Oklahoma City:

  • resolving lease issues in Seattle,
  • the NBA's approval of the relocation,
  • making sure the move satisfies the team and the city,
  • and state economic incentives.

Bennett filed for relocation in November with the National Basketball Association. NBA owners will vote on the relocation request next month.

Meanwhile the Sonic's effort to break their lease in Seattle is still pending in federal court.

The letter of intent includes a lease agreement that is contingent on the team resolving the Seattle lease, Couch said. The lease could begin on July 1 of 2008, 2009 or 2010 depending on when the team can break their lease.

The deal calls for a 15 year lease at the Ford Center. The Sonics' owners will pay the city $40,000 per game for expenses and rent, and $409,000 a year for the city's share of the naming rights to the arena.

"The existing revenue we get off the Ford Center name, will continue to remain with the city if it is renamed and any enhancement to those fees because of the value of being an NBA building, those revenues would go to the team," Couch said.

The city's agreement with Ford includes an NBA out-clause. Once a lease was signed with an NBA team, officials can renegotiate the naming rights, the city manager said.

The city and the Sonics would share the revenue from food and beverage concessions.  All of the ticket money would go to the Sonics' owners but the city could charge one dollar per ticket for a facility fee.  If ticket sales drop off significantly six years after renovations are done at the Ford Center, the team could leave.

"That's becoming a common lease term in the new NBA agreements," Couch said. "This is a term that's in the Charlotte agreement, a term that's in the New Orleans agreement and we're seeing more and more of those."

The city also would receive  $100,000 in rent for a practice facility, Couch said.

The practice facility and Ford Center improvements will be paid for by the $121 million sales tax extension approved earlier this month.

Couch said the capital improvements and lease agreement were needed before the NBA votes in April on the Sonics' relocation request.

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