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Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.

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June 16, 2008 12:18 PM

Nickels said he's attended two Sonics games in the last 10 years

Posted by Percy Allen

In his cross examination, Sonics attorney Brad Keller tried to get Mayor Greg Nickels to admit that a 2006 city task force determined that the Sonics were suffering from an economic hardship because of KeyArena.

After several exchanges, Nickels grudgingly admitted the point. But he tried to assert that both the city and the team were not benefiting from the original lease.

Keller established that former Sonics owner Howard Schultz had complained about the limited revenue-generating potential of KeyArena.

Nickels acknowledged that the long-term lease was not beneficial to Sonics ownership.

Keller described the lease as "economically dysfunctional," however, the mayor declined to use that characterization.

Keller introduced a Seattle Center task force report that agreed with the city's KeyArena subcommittee that the building had become antiquated and outdated.

Paul Lawrence, the lead attorney for the city of Seattle, made several objections during Keller's cross examination and argued a lack of foundation. Judge Marsha Pechman overruled the objections each time.

At 11:31 a.m., Keller began a line of questioning on what the city of Seattle did while the Professional Basketball Club lobbied to build a new $500 million arena in Renton.

Nickels said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis told state lawmakers that they would need to consider adding another $30-40 million to pay off the KeyArena debt. The mayor said he did not think the additional cost would hinder PBC's effort to gain support for a new arena.

At 11:36 a.m., Keller introduced an April 2006 letter from Nickels and the City Council to Gov. Christine Gregoire that said a new facility outside of Seattle should not be built.

At 11:48 a.m., Keller introduced a July 2007 e-mail between former Sonics President Wally Walker and a Nickels' staff person.

Nickels repeatedly stated he had not met personally with Walker, however, Keller established that Nickels' staff was consulting with Walker.

It seems Keller is trying to establish that Nickels was in cahoots with Walker and the John Stanton group long before the city filed its lawsuit. If Keller establishes this point, he can assert that the city's lawsuit isn't about the final two years of the lease, but about the city's plans to "bleed the Sonics dry."

Keller repeated Nickels' infamous "lawyering up" quote and noted that the city set aside $1 million for legal fees.

At 11:56 a.m., Nickels said he's attended just two Sonics games in the last 10 years. Keller asked: "Are you going to feel pride and exuberance if the only reason they are here is because of a court order?" Nickels stumbled through his first response then said "yes" when asked again.

Keller hammered in on Nickels about Seattle being a word-class city before Pechman interrupted the questioning and suspended the proceedings for a lunch break.

The trial will resume at 1:30 p.m.

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