Research expert, economist take stand in Sonics trial

Jun 20, 2008 - 3:01 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Seattle SuperSonics witness Dr. Deborah Jay, the president and CEO of a research company, took the stand on Thursday in the fourth day of the federal trial regarding the team's lease at KeyArena.

Sonics co-owner Clay Bennett, who is attempting to move the team to his hometown of Oklahoma City two years before the arena's lease expires, has been a key figure in the trial.

But Thursday's testimony featured Jay, who heads the polling company Field Research Corps. She was hired to determine whether Seattle residents felt the city would be better or worse off if the Sonics left the city. Evidently, the citizens of Seattle appear to be indifferent.

Jay's company conducted 402 interviews in the Seattle metropolitan area and 276 people within the city limits. Fifty-eight percent of people questioned in the metropolitan area said the city would be "no different" were the Sonics to leave, while 54 percent of citizens in Seattle agreed.

However, there are people who feel losing the Sonics would hurt the city. Thirty-three percent of Seattle residents said the city would be "worse off" if the team left, and 31 percent of the metropolitan area concurred.

Meanwhile, 12 percent of people in Seattle said the city would be "better off" without the Sonics, compared to seven percent of the metropolitan area.

Jay's testimony was crucial to the Sonics' cause after the city brought in an economist earlier in the day to estimate what impact the potential departure would have on the city's economy.

Lon Hatamiya testified that the total aggregate economic impact of the Sonics on the Seattle-metro area was an average of $187,842,290 per year from 2003 to 2007. In addition, Hatamiya stated that the Sonics' presence creates around 1,200-1,300 full-time and part-time jobs.

Testimony will conclude on Friday with former Sonics president Wally Walker - one of three witnesses scheduled to take the stand. Closing arguments are scheduled for June 26.

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