I tend to agree with a quote in the article below that says a few million bucks of PR at least might keep people buying season tickets. I do not understand why OKC folks who supposedly have an arena would ever keep the Sonics in the Seattle area. I don't really care if the Sonics stay in the region but I do care that my taxes don't subsidize very well paid players and owners. The fact that Key Areana still has construction debt that will last beyond the Sonics lease just shows poor financial planning if viewed as a drain on City finances.
article from http://www.kingcountyjournal.com/app...NEWS/611300338
Bellevue still possibility for Sonics: Site on 'auto row' becomes latest potential new home
By David A. Grant and Dean Radford
A new site on Bellevue's "auto row" has emerged as a possible home for the Seattle SuperSonics, even as Renton underscores its role as a significant player in the competition to host the NBA team.
The latest property to be mentioned publicly for a "world-class" basketball arena is a nearly 15-acre site in Bellevue that lies between Interstate 405 and 116th Avenue Northeast between Northeast Fourth and Eighth streets, both of which have freeway on-off ramps.
That site now houses the two-story Lincoln Center office park, an auto dealership, The Coast Bellevue Hotel and a Denny's restaurant. The total assessed value of the six parcels that make up the property is more than $33 million, according to King County property records.
The taxpayer for the largest parcel, at 4.4 acres, is Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate brokerage hired by the Sonics to conduct a search for possible arena sites.
On Wednesday, team officials announced they have hired HOK Sport to design a "multipurpose sports and entertainment arena." But it will not be built in Seattle, where voters earlier this month overwhelmingly backed a measure restricting use of city tax money to subsidize sports teams.
The search for a new location includes Renton, a few miles south of Bellevue on Interstate 405, where team officials "are looking at multiple sites," said Alex Pietsch, the administrator for the city's Economic Development, Neighborhoods and Strategic Planning.
Pietsch said he's not at liberty to disclose the location of those sites. However, he said they asked what uses were allowed at the sites and what transportation improvements are planned, a key issue for the Sonics.
The Sonics were sold in October to a group of investors from Oklahoma City headed by businessman Clay Bennett. Bennett has said he wants to keep the team in Seattle, despite the existence of an NBA-quality arena in Oklahoma City
Bennett has hired a team of real estate experts, attorneys and architects to search out an arena location and design the building.
HOK has helped design dozens of basketball, baseball, football and civic facilities.
At least two other sites are being considered in Bellevue. One is a 36-acre parcel owned by grocery chain Safeway, which announced recently its intent to sell the property by the end of the year.
The buyer is a partnership between a Seattle development company and a San Francisco investment firm. Officials have said they want to rezone the property for office buildings and other uses, but would consider a basketball arena as well.
The third property is a 14.5-acre parcel located next to a garbage transfer station owned by King County just north of Interstate 90 and east of I-405, off Southeast Eastgate Way.
Matt Terry, Bellevue's planning director, said the Sonics have kept him informed about the selection process as the team winnows its list of more than 20 sites to a handful of finalists.
"I've gotten periodic phone calls about it but at this point there's nothing new to report," Terry said. "It's entirely up to the Sonics. We're just sort of monitoring what they're doing and waiting for the clouds to part."
Kemper Freeman Jr., the owner of Bellevue Square mall and a self-proclaimed cheerleader for a multi-use entertainment venue in Bellevue, said the auto row property makes sense but only if local and state governments make roadway improvements so thousands of fans could get in and out quickly.
"We can't just add a stadium without making infrastructure improvements, wherever it goes," Freeman said. "Government needs to make sure fans have access."
Terry said any decision on such improvements would be up to the City Council.
Meanwhile, Sonics owners, including Bennett, and other representatives have met or talked by phone since April with Renton city officials, including Mayor Kathy Keolker, chief administrative officer Jay Covington and Pietsch.
Keolker enthusiastically placed the city's welcome mat at Bennett's feet at a meeting of the County Council's Regional Policy Committee in early November.
Bennett told the committee the Sonics would need at least 15 acres, but 30 acres is preferred. He's not looking for a design that is "iconic" or makes an artistic statement, but is approachable and becomes part of the landscape, he said.
The team earlier indicated it expected to narrow its list of sites in King County to a short list by the end of November.
Bill Taylor, president of the Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce, said he won't speculate about possible sites for a Sonics' arena. But he's sure the city could accommodate the teams' needs.
"I think if they were serious about coming here, we would be able to find something," he said.
Hiring a design team now, Pietsch said, demonstrates the seriousness of the Sonics' interest in moving ahead quickly to evaluate sites and have a plan in place to present to the state Legislature in January.
But finding tax money to support the new arena's construction may be tough sell in Olympia, where legislators would need to approve a funding package — such as taxes on hotel rooms, car rentals and sales — to pay for it.
Bennett has said he's opposed to a public vote on a financing package for a new arena and would expect the Legislature to come up with the public's share of the money to build an arena.
Chris Van Dyk, co-founder of Citizens for Better Things, the group that pushed for the November passage of Initiative 91 in Seattle, said public funding will be dead in Olympia if King County residents don't get to vote on it.
The initiative, passed overwhelmingly by Seattle voters, restricts the use of city tax money to subsidize sports teams, effectively killing any chance of the Sonics staying in the city.
"There will be no deal for the Sonics in the state of Washington involving any dime without a public vote," Van Dyk said Wednesday. "It's simply not going to happen."
He called the team's hunt for a new arena site "window dressing that simply keeps fans buying tickets and thinking they will stay in town."
Freeman agreed that tax money in support of an arena will be difficult.
"Due to the history, I think the likelihood of major public support is close to zero," Freeman said. "The good news is, a well-designed arena will not need public funding."
Betty Nokes, CEO and president of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has not taken a position on whether public funding should be used to help pay for an arena.
"From a business perspective, we want to keep them in the region," Nokes said. "If it's not Seattle, we want it to be in Bellevue."