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Originally published May 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 31, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Bennett says he plans to file moving papers

Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett says he's "out of ideas" for landing an arena deal in Seattle and plans to file this November with the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett says he's "out of ideas" for landing an arena deal in Seattle and plans to file this November with the NBA for permission to move the teams after next season.

In an interview published Wednesday by his hometown Oklahoma City newspaper, Bennett said he'll continue to explore any arena ideas Seattle leaders bring to him.

But Bennett told The Oklahoman he is "probably as pessimistic as I've ever been," and that he plans to file immediately for relocation if an Oct. 31 deadline passes without an arena deal in the Seattle area.

Bennett said he's started preliminary discussions about moving the Sonics and Storm to Oklahoma City or Kansas City.

The comments were the latest in a series of increasingly bleak statements from Bennett about the future of the Sonics and Storm in Seattle since the state Legislature rejected his proposal for a $500 million Renton arena.

Bennett told The Oklahoman that negative comments from Seattle politicians and media commentators have given him little reason to think an arena deal will ever get worked out here.

For example, Seattle sportscaster Gaard Swanson recently told an Oklahoma City television station, "Nobody cares about whether the Sonics stay in Seattle."

Bennett called that "a common, broad perspective."

Bennett said the recent buzz over the Sonics landing the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft — giving them a possible shot at projected superstars Greg Oden or Kevin Durant — generated a "little bump" in ticket sales, but no momentum for an arena.

Bennett's lease at KeyArena runs through 2010, but he has said he might try to negotiate a way out of it after next season. Seattle city officials insist they'll enforce the lease and seek substantial damages if Bennett breaks it.

Regardless of Bennett's preferences, any team move would require the permission of the NBA's board of governors. The league requires team owners to file for relocation by March 1 if they want to move a team before the next season.

If the Sonics and Storm do leave Seattle, Bennett told The Oklahoman "we're quite likely headed to Oklahoma City," but said his ownership group needs to perform due diligence before making that decision. Bennett has also mentioned Kansas City and Las Vegas as possible destinations.

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But Bennett said he has concerns about the viability of the Oklahoma City and Kansas City markets, citing a lack of broadcasting revenue.

Bennett's ownership group paid $350 million to purchase the Sonics and Storm last summer, and he has repeatedly said he believes Seattle is a better financial market.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday the city has not started any serious talks with Bennett.

"I think there has just been some gathering of market information from all cities he's interested in," Cornett said.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

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