Seattle mayor testifies in Sonics trial

Jun 17, 2008 - 1:34 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Seattle mayor Greg Nickels on Monday testified that he hopes the SuperSonics remain in the city, according to the Seattle Times.

The newspaper's blow-by-blow recap of the the first day of the trial between the city and the Sonics' owners was highlighted by the mayor's testimony, which revealed his "eternal optimism" about an increasingly ugly situation.

The city is seeking to hold the owners to the remaining two years of the team's KeyArena lease. Lawyers for the city obtained e-mails that show Clay Bennett and the other owners may not have been honest about their plans to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

"Our position has been consistent from day one: to keep the Sonics playing in Seattle and playing at KeyArena," Nickels said. "Mr. Bennett knew the terms of the KeyArena lease when he bought the team from Howard Schultz.

"The terms of the lease did not change. We intend to hold him to the lease agreement that he assumed when he bought the Sonics because we have a responsibility to our taxpayers to vigorously protect our financial investment in KeyArena. City taxpayers renovated KeyArena for the Sonics in exchange for the team's promise to stay and play."

Season ticket holders also have filed a class action lawsuit that contends they were tricked into buying tickets under the belief that the Sonics would be staying in Seattle. They weren't the only one who thought as much.

"During this trial, you'll hear a lot of speculation from Mr. Bennett's attorneys, but let me be clear - we have a lease and Mr. Bennett is trying to break it," Nickels said. "That's the issue before the court."

Nickels simply said "no" when asked if there were any provisions in the lease that allowed the team to break off if KeyArena were to become outdated, the newspaper said.

The Sonics have alleged that they are losing money at KeyArena, which was renovated in 1994. The report said that the team's attorney, Paul Taylor, stated that the Sonics started losing revenue when the Mariners and Seahawks built new stadiums equipped with numerous luxury boxes.

But former Seattle center director Virginia Anderson countered, saying that revenue streams are going down "not just because of the new stadiums, but also because of the recession and the team was not playing well," the newspaper reported.

Taylor then reportedly cited a 2006 report which said that, even if the Sonics were to sell every seat for the season, they still would $6 million below the NBA average.

Anderson, the report said, thwarted that claim by stating "that doesn't mean the team would lose money" - saying that ticket sales are just one part of a team's overall revenue.

The trial will continue Tuesday when Sonics co-chairman Bennett, who wants to move the team to his hometown of Oklahoma City, takes the stand.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!