It's now official: the Seattle SuperSonics will move to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 NBA season. A settlement between team owner Clay Bennett and the city was reached, which ends the city's lawsuit attempting to keep the team in Seattle until the team's lease with KeyArena ran out after the 2009-10 season. A judge was set to issue a ruling today before the deal was reached.
The team will pay $45 million to the city immediately. If the Washington state legislature authorizes at least $75 million in public funding to renovate KeyArena by the end of 2009, and the NBA doesn't place an existing or expansion team in Seattle within the next 5 years, the team will have to pay another $30 million to the city in 2013.
There is another lawsuit against Bennett. The former owner, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, claims that Bennett didn’t follow through on an agreement to negotiate in good faith for a new arena in Seattle for one full year before trying to move the team. Schultz, who sold the team to Bennett in 2006 for $350 million, is asking that the team be returned to him. It would seem to be a longshot at best.
The only good news in this sad tale, in which loyal fans of a once-successful team are being given the shaft by a team owner and a league hellbent on getting their greedy hands on every single tax dollar possible in order to build newer palaces with more exclusive luxury seating for those who can afford the exorbitant ticket prices, is that as part of this deal, the SuperSonics name, colors and logo would remain in Seattle if the city gets a replacement franchise. -- Joe Guckin