As many of you Warriors fans know, the Seattle Supersonics may have played their last game in Seattle this weekend. The current owners of the Sonics purchased the franchise a little over a year ago and are trying to move them to Oklahoma City. Though OK City played host to the temporarily homeless New Orleans Hornets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, its population and television audience size (the source of much of a team’s revenue) are smaller than Seattle. One of the main reasons cited for not being able to stay in Seattle is the condition of KeyArena, the venue in which the team played. The owners claim that it is not up to the standards of what is to be expected of an NBA team’s arena, even though it underwent a complete renovation in 1994 and 1995 (more on this later). As a result, they are trying to get out of a contract that states that they will lease KeyArena until the contract’s expiration in 2010.
Following the sale of the team by former owner Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, to the new ownership group, a promise was made for the new owners to try for one year’s time to find a way to keep the Sonics in Seattle. This good faith effort has been questioned by many, especially following statements from Aubrey McClendon, a minority owner, where he infamously said back in August, “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here [Oklahoma City].” The enthusiasm of their effort has come under fire even more recently after a series of e-mails between owners dating from last April has surfaced which reveal their desire to move the team to Oklahoma City. Another e-mail catches the majority owner, Clay Bennett, in an outright lie when he promises to David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, that he and the other owners have never discussed moving the team to Oklahoma City.
Many suspect that David Stern is allowing this to happen because he is close friends with Clay Bennett. This blatant nepotism has been denied by both the commissioner and the ownership group, but many remain highly skeptical. Stern maintains that Bennett and the other owners have operated in good faith under the agreement to try to remain in Seattle. The complaints of Sonics fans and former players who argue that a city with 41 years of basketball history and that has won an NBA championship should not be stripped of its team have fallen on deaf ears.
I realize that this is a long-winded introduction to why Warriors fans should care, but I hope you will see my point after the evidence is presented.
As stated before, one of the main complaints about KeyArena is that it does not meet the standards of the stadium for which an NBA team should play, even though it was renovated less than 13 years ago. Warriors fans should be concerned because Oracle Arena, the venue in which the Warriors play, underwent a similar renovation in 1997, less than 11 years ago. In fact, Oracle Arena’s Wikipedia page cites the renovations done to KeyArena as a comparison of what was done to the stadium.
Here is a comparison of the two venues:
|Cost of Renovation:||$95.5M
($74.5M from the city,
$21M from the franchise)
When you compare the two, they’re not that different. Granted, Oracle has 2,500 more seats and almost half of those extra seats are club seats, but ultimately I don’t think they’re that different. In comparison, the capacity of the Staples Center is 18,997 and it has 2,500 club seats, 160 luxury suites, and 32 party suites. The capacity of the American Airlines Center is 21,041 and it has 1,600 club seats and 144 luxury suites. Clearly, the money is in the suites and both KeyArena and Oracle Arena are lacking.
So why should Warriors fans worry? I am of the belief that cities should not be held hostage by sports teams that demand to have cities pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the newest and most modern stadiums, especially when the current venue is less than 15 years old. However, this is exactly what the new owners of the Supersonics are doing to the city of Seattle. Warriors fans should worry because if Chris Cohan, current owner of the Warriors, decides to sell the team to a buddy of David Stern and this new owner wants to move the team to another city, the owner will be allowed to move because of the precedence that is bein set by the Seattle situation. This will leave the Bay Area without an NBA team. You don’t think it can happen? It can. Talk to Seattle fans who are already mourning the loss of their beloved Sonics.
Oftentimes people don’t care about wrongs that are being done to others unless those same wrongs happen to themselves. However, it is not uncommon that if a particular wrong is allowed to happen to someone else, there is a greater likelihood that it will happen to you.
Warrior fans, this is why you should care.