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April 11, 2008 6:35 PM

Gorton blasts Gregoire, Bennett

Posted by Percy Allen

Slade Gorton, the lead litigator in the city of Seattle's case against the Sonics, responds angrily to the inaction in Olympia after Steve Ballmer and his group's offer to pay for half of the $300 million in KeyArena renovations was allowed to expire on Thursday.

Here's the release ...

Statement from Slade Gorton Regarding Funding of KeyArena:

For more than a year it has been obvious that the only way in which to save NBA basketball for Seattle in the long term was a major remodel of KeyArena to make it acceptable to the NBA and to any prospective owner. Not a single suggestion as to how that could be accomplished has ever come from the governor's office or from the leaders of our legislature.

The KeyArena solution is by far the least costly, strengthens the Seattle Center, and requires the public to pay only for those improvements that are necessary for its viability even in the absence of professional basketball.

Clay Bennett, however, was never willing to consider this alternative.

Two months ago, four civic-minded citizens offered not only to purchase the Sonics but to contribute $150m to the city, half of the cost of the KeyArena remodel. I know of no more generous private offer for a public facility anywhere. Mayor Nickels and the city promptly pledged $75m, half of the remainder. The city then asked the governor and the legislature to authorize it to raise the rest. Its latest proposal was to use 1 percent of the existing 7 percent hotel/motel tax collected inside of the city. The consistent answer from Olympia has been that any timely answer is impossible.

While many of us will continue to try to find a way to save NBA basketball for Seattle, by far the best chance of doing so is to have a specific proposition to put in front of the NBA next week that includes the KeyArena remodel. That will require an unequivocal state commitment to authorize Seattle to raise the final $75m, strong enough for the city literally to take to the bank.

There is not much time, but this is the only plan that will work.

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