As I linked below, the Arbitration Demand filed by the Sonics’ ownership is now available on-line. I thought it might be instructive to read the document, and, well, poke a few holes in the arguments therein.
“... the Sonics have worked diligently with elected officials to obtain a suitable multipurpose facility for the future beyond 2010.” [page 1, line 8]
If by “worked diligently,” they mean “came up with a $500 million project the Sonics’ would not pay $0.01 towards,” then, yes, the Sonics worked diligently.
“ ... for many years KeyArena has not been economically viable for men’s professional basketball.” [1, 20]
Interesting, because it was revealed earlier this year that the one time in the past half-decade when the Sonics qualified for the playoffs, the team actually turned a profit and/or broke even. Add in the tax benefits accrued by deducting Sonic losses from other business ventures, and the increase in annual value of the franchise, and methinks you doth protest too much, Mr. Bennett.
“... City officials have repeatedly acknowledged that there will be little or no cultural or economic impact on the City if the Sonics leave.” [2, 1-2]
This is cherry picking. Some members of the city council have argued this tact, just as others on council argued the opposite. Expecting a city council to unanimously support something, then expressing surprise when it fails to is a specious argument.
“... the relationship between the Sonics and the City’s elected leaders is all but gone.” [2, 2-3]
As Louis Armstrong sings, it takes two to tango. Mr. Bennett is at least as culpable in the current acrimony as any member of council.
“Likewise, a majority of the public has accepted the team’s imminent departure.” [2, 4]
A majority of every city’s population – Oklahoma City included – is apathetic when it comes to sports, otherwise teams would play in arenas with capacities of 500,000 rather than 20,000. Did Mr. Bennett expect the city to be less than skeptical of out-of-town ownership moving their team when it has already been attempted with the other two professional teams in Seattle?
“The reality is that even if the City were right ... it simply delays the Sonics’ departure by two years and hurts the City.” [3, 8-9]
Left unsaid is that it makes it more likely for an acceptable arena to be built, which was the whole reason for doing this. Is it not hypocritical to criticize the city for apathy on the one hand, then criticize them for fighting to keep the team with the other?
“To that end, PBC began an exhaustive exploration of alternatives by which the Sonics could stay in Seattle ...” [4, 18-19]
This is a dubious claim. While no one except the Sonics’ ownership is privy to the “alternatives” mentioned, the fact that numerous alternatives (e.g., Sabey, Muckleshoot) have been proposed and dismissed is illustrative to the true nature of the “exploration.”
“KeyArena is no longer an economically viable facility for men’s professional basketball [and has a limited] point of sale opportunities for food, beverages, and merchandise. ... AT&T Center (San Antonio) has 11,400 ...” [6-10-21]
Funny, I seem to remember reading something recently where the Spurs were less than satisfied with their situation as well.
“The problems with KeyArena were aptly summarized in The Seattle Times: ... ‘soon, KeyArena was dwarfed by larger, more lucrative NBA arenas.’” [7, 15-20]
This is the essence of the problem, in my view: Building NBA arenas nationally is a zero-sum game. It is inevitable that whatever arena is built in Seattle, within one decade it will become the poor sister to its siblings across the country. Sacramento, Orlando, Las Vegas, wherever; competing cities will construct new monstrosities that will compel Bennett & Co. to come crying to the City asking for another handout.
“... there is a considerable record showing, at best, profound community indifference about whether the Sonics stay or leave.” [8, 7-8]
Granted, Seattle doesn’t have the vast experience of hosting an NBA franchise as Oklahoma City, but I think 40 years of above-average attendance, multiple fan sites supporting the team (I ask you: Where are the Oklahoma City NBA sites?) would counter Bennett’s argument.
“The lack of interest is borne out by the television ratings for Sonics’ games. They have declined from an already low 3.12 rating in 2004-2005 to a 1.6 rating in 2006-07 – a drop of nearly 50 percent.”
Gee, do you think that following up the only playoff appearance of the Bush Administration with consecutive seasons of 31 and 35 wins had anything to do with that? And have you missed the millions of articles the past few years bemoaning declining NBA ratings nation-wide, and how the NBA Finals is annually “the worst-rated Finals in NBA history?” Using declining TV ratings to justify your opinion of community apathy is ridiculous.
Well, that’s enough for one day. I’ll leave it to the lawyers to analyze the most important piece of this document, whether specific performance is relevant to lease enforcement, or if the Sonics are free to go after cutting a check to the City next June. At this point, the only arbitrator needed is one David Stern. Mr. Stern, you can prevent this legal crap from continuing by stepping in and forcing Bennett to either deal honestly with the city or sell the team. Before Bennett leaves town, it MUST be required that he offer the team back to local ownership at the present value of the club, and NOT at the inflated price he paid to Howard Schultz. His stupidity in overpaying for the team should not be revisited upon the next buyer of the club.