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April 8, 2008 8:36 PM

Gorton presses on despite setback

Posted by Percy Allen

Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton said he's disapointed that Governor Christine Gregoire and state lawmakers will allow Microsoft mogul Steve Ballmer's $150 million proposal to renovate KeyArena to expire on Thursday and called it a "major defeat."

However, he plans to continue with the lawsuit against the Sonics.

It appears that Gorton believes that even if the city wins its June lawsuit, the team will eventually leave Seattle. In a statement released today, he said: "We will ... continue to try to find a way to recreate a Seattle NBA franchise ..."

Read the entire statement below.

Statement from Slade Gorton Regarding Funding of KeyArena:

First, we will continue vigorously to prosecute the city of Seattle's lawsuit to enforce the Sonics' obligation to play at KeyArena through the 2009-2010 season.

The failure of the governor and the leaders of the legislature, however, to accept any of the city's proposals to authorize it to fund the final $75m of a $300m plan to refurbish and expand KeyArena means that we have no plan to present to the National Basketball Association to persuade it to reject Clay Bennett's application to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City, subject to the KeyArena lease.

This is a major defeat for the Seattle community.

Four generous and civic-minded citizens have offered a gift of $150m to the city, half of the projected cost of the necessary work on KeyArena, a facility owned by the city. I know of no equally generous such offer in any other city. Most of the cost of the work will have to be paid by the public even in the absence of the Sonics in order to retain the arena as a viable part of the Seattle Center.

Under the strong leadership of Mayor Greg Nickels, and with the apparent support of the city council, the city offered a $75m contribution to that project. In addition, the city has asked the legislature and the governor to authorize King County to extend certain of the taxes now earmarked for paying the Safeco Field bonds for a limited time to provide the final $75m.

That request was refused.

More recently, the city asked the governor and the legislature to authorize the city to impose a hotel-motel fee taxing the city only to raise that sum. The hotel-motel association did not oppose the idea. Nevertheless, the governor and the legislative leaders refused to consider it this year.

This is a failure of both imagination and courage on their part. In this case, political leaders who should have been a part of the solution were, instead, the problem.

A solution before the April 17 NBA meeting would have given Seattle the maximum leverage either to keep the Sonics or to condition their loss on the immediate creation of a new NBA franchise in Seattle.

Even an identical solution after April 17 will make the challenge of finding a new NBA franchise much more difficult as well as more costly. It also means the loss of the $150m private contribution offer.

We will, of course, continue to try to find a way to recreate a Seattle NBA franchise, but the absence of necessary support in Olympia now, in striking contrast to that shown by Mayor Nickels in Seattle, makes that task far more daunting.

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