Follow the Sonics off and on the court with reporters Percy Allen and Jayda Evans.
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March 8, 2008 2:55 PM
Posted by Jayda Evans
It was an eerie sight down in Olympia today. The positive was about 250 fans draped in Sonics gear - either their own classic T-shirts or free ones from the Save Our Sonics crew - gathered at the state's Capitol Building to show their support for the team and literally demand that legislators act now to keep it here.
After being prepped outside and chanting "Save Our Sonics," which vibrated off the building walls, the fans filled the House and Senate galleries at separate times and cornered their elected officials to talk hoops.
That's where the bad filtered in.
It was odd to hear representatives admit to not knowing what the "real" issues are with the Sonics outside of what they've read in the papers. And many stated their doubt that anything would be done before the session closes Thursday.
Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland did offer a little hope. He told a cluster of about 40 fans outside the House chambers that a "statement of intentions" to put together a plan for a multimillion dollar financial package for local projects such as housing and KeyArena is being written to present by Thursday.
"It wouldn't involve any state money, just local taxes that currently exist," Goodman said.
Fans were not particularly happy about this resolution to their plight, however. Since the NBA will vote on Sonics owner Clay Bennett's proposal to relocate to Oklahoma City in April, many said the urgency is now for legislators to give King County permission to extend the tax being used to pay for Safeco Field to fund the $75 million toward a renovated KeyArena.
If a site and owners are in place, many believe the NBA owners will vote against Bennett because a plan is in place in Seattle. Goodman's proposal sounded a little like a punch line you'd read in "Dilbert," where management agrees to meet to decide when to meet.
"The taxes that they're looking at, they [legislators] want to use that for education," said Chris Jones, a 20-year Sonics season ticket holder, after listening to several legislators. "From what I understand, that was instituted for sports. If they want to extend four years after that for education, fantastic, but bottom line, we're on a timeline here to let the [NBA] Board of Governors know we have a viable plan here in Seattle and we have local ownership. If we do that, according to [Utah Jazz owner] Larry Miller, who was on [sports radio KJR 950-AM], that would change everything. We've got to make that happen."
But Scott Merriman, director of Legislative affairs, said this is part of the process that has to take place.
"They [the fans] are being heard," said Rep. Jim McIntire, D-Seattle, who was active in trying to solve the arena situation when Howard Schultz was owner. "But there are a lot of other priorities and calls on these dollars. We need to be careful how we step into this. We also need to recognize that we are trying to tighten our budget right now. To be cutting the budget and building something for a professional sports team sends the wrong message."
Because of the late date and need to focus on other issues, the officials that spoke with fans said next year would be a better time to look at the Sonics issue.
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