Sonics Trial Blog
Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.
June 16, 2008 10:26 AM
Posted by Percy Allen
In his opening statement, Sonics' attorney Brad Keller said the case hinges on two fundamental premises. He acknowledged the city wanted a 15-year commitment from the Sonics for the 1994 renovations, but argued the second fundamental premise was that "the Sonics would have a venue that was economically feasible and comparable from an economic and physical standpoint to other NBA venues."
Keller said the relationship between the city and the Sonics "broke down. And it failed as the years went by and just got worse and worse."
Keller said that while Clay Bennett's Professional Basketball Club was in Olympia lobbying for a new venue in Renton, the city of Seattle was thwarting that effort. "The landlord response was, 'You either play in my sandbox or drown in red ink.' "
Keller said when the city helped in the construction of Safeco Field and Qwest Field, KeyArena's luxury suite sales plummeted.
Keller told Pechman that she will learn about the economics of an NBA arena. That an NBA arena needs to be able to generate revenue streams well beyond selling seats. That an NBA arena needs very special amenities to attract suite holders.
Keller's first evidence was information about the inadequacies of KeyArena. He noted that the average NBA arena is 700,000 square feet and KeyArena is half of that. He said other arenas have larger coaches offices and locker rooms. He said the federal courthouse has a news conference room and KeyArena does not.
Keller highlighted a 2006 report from a city task force that said: "KeyArena has significant shortcomings and issues that affect the financial health of its tenants. ... The original funding plan doesn't work."
Keller introduced his "unclean hands" defense later in his statement. He noted that Slade Gorton, one of the city's attorneys, conspired with former Sonics president Wally Walker and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to "force bleeding of about $20 million per year to get them to sell."
Keller said the trio engaged in a "bleed them until they sell" strategy that began months before the city filed its lawsuit November 2007.
Keller said the city has other tenants and treats them better. He said the city's other tenants are allowed to leave their lease. He said Seattle is a world-class city and would still be a world-class city without the Sonics.
Keller said a lame-duck relationship would not benefit either the city or the team. He downplayed arguments about the civic pride surrounding the Sonics.
Keller noted that lawmakers failed to support a KeyArena renovation package four times. He noted the passage of I-91 and said "the public has made it very clear how it views sports teams." He said 30 percent of the ticket buyers didn't go to games last season. He said television ratings have declined and the situations would just get worse.
Said Keller: "The last two years of this lease is all that this case is about. And rightly or wrongly the owner of this team has decided to move to Oklahoma City and instead of losing $60 million, it stands to make a profit of $10 million."
Finally, Keller said: "This marriage is broken and it has been broken for over five years. We say it's time to stop."
The city has called Mayor Greg Nickels as its first witness.
Jul 2, 08 - 02:01 PM
Godden: Looks like a settlement for Sonics and city
Jul 2, 08 - 11:49 AM
City and the Sonics discussing settlement?
Jul 2, 08 - 06:00 AM
Judge to rule today in Sonics case
Jun 26, 08 - 07:44 PM
Confidential? Let's talk about it: Slade Gorton's NBA meeting
Jun 26, 08 - 07:22 PM
Press conference audio
Furniture & home furnishings
Allah Stainless Steel Necklace
Blue Crystal Beads Statement Bib Necklace
City of Des Moines Notice to Bidders Saltwa...
POST A FREE LISTING
Sonics attorneys focus on city's "poisoned well" plan
Bennett says Sonics could lose $60 million if forced to stay in Seattle 2 more years
Sonics CEO: Fans are apathetic
Clay's excuses sound as contrived as his arena plan
On the hot seat: Sonics' attorney trips up Nickels
Attorneys in Sonics case described as tenacious, polite
This judge will decide the fate of the Sonics
Seattle vs. Sonics: Trial starts next week, if there's no settlement
Take a closer look at the Sonics case
More revealing Sonics e-mails emerge
OKC officials inform Schultz they expect Sonics to relocate, no matter who owns team
Sonics e-mail hints at NBA's concern over breach of promise
Howard Schultz suit adds fuel to e-mail fire
NBA owners approve Sonics' move, but legal fight continues in Seattle
E-mails reveal Sonics owners intended to bolt from Seattle
Oklahoma House passes tax package designed to help lure Sonics
2007 "Poisoned Well" document (PDF)
Ward: "Are we doomed to have another lameduck season in Seattle?" (PDF)
Bennett's e-mail to Stern: "You are just one of my favorite people on earth" (PDF)
Clay Bennett and Sonics' court filing (PDF)
Gallery | Seattle SuperSonics: Lasting memories
Gallery | Bittersweet night for Sonics fans
Gallery | Sonics through the years
Gallery | 25th anniversary of Sonics world championship
Gallery | End of a Season, End of a Franchise?
Sports fan "Big Lo" seeks answers from Howard Schultz