Seattle’s NBA franchise is officially moving to Oklahoma City. Immediately. The team will play it’s 2008-09 games at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

The SuperSonics made the announcement today following a settlement of their lawsuit with the city of Seattle. The settlement came just hours before U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman was scheduled to announce her verdict in the city’s lawsuit against the club.

Under terms of the settlement, the city of Seattle will receive up to $75 million from Sonics owner Clay Bennett and his group. The city receives $45 million immediately. That money will be used to help Seattle pay off the remaining balance of its lease on Key Arena.

The city of Seattle will receive an additional $30 million if it is not awarded another NBA franchise by 2013 (either by expansion or relocation.)  The settlement also states that in order for the city to be eligible to collect the remaining $30 million, the Washington legislature MUST approve funding of the renovation of Key Arena. The NBA now says that a renovated Key Arena would be an adequate facility and meet league standards. That’s a 180 degree shift in their previous position. The NBA had said they needed a brand new arena and no renovation of Key Arena would be acceptable.

Mayor Greg Nickels says efforts are being made to put together a local ownership group to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle. A proposed ownership group is being headed by Microsoft executive Steve Balmer.

The city of Seattle keeps the SuperSonics’ name, logo and colors if they get a replacement franchise.

 The settlement does not effect a seperate lawsuit filed by former Sonics owner Howard Schultz. Schultz is trying to regain control of the franchise, saying Bennett acted in bad faith when he bought the club from the Starbucks founder. Schultz maintains Bennett never had any intention of keeping the franchise in Seattle. Schultz could theoretically go to court and get an injunction stopping the Sonics move to Oklahoma City. However, a federal judge has ruled that Schultz would have to post a bond as high as $40 million to continue his lawsuit.

Bennett says there is a clause in the settlement that requires the city to return half of the $45 million it has already received if a Schultz lawsuit prevents the Sonics from playing in Oklahoma City next year. Several reports stated that Schultz (though he will continue his lawsuit) has no plans to file an injunction preventing the Sonics move to Oklahoma City. Bennet says that move will start tomorrow.



  1. Mel Says:

    Actually…. Barry Ackerley should have to fund the money to renovate the Key Arena since it was under his Sonics ownership that renovation of the Seattle Colesium got so screwed up. A facility that does not meet NBA standards that is only 13 years old!? Give me a break. The renovation was screwed up to begin with (even though badly needed) and Ackerley should have to have some responsibility for that.

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