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Thursday, July 4, 2013 - Page updated at 10:30 p.m.
Even after missing on NBA and NHL, Seattle can build on this
By Jerry Brewer
Times staff columnist
Well, we sure do stink at taking things that don’t belong to us.
Neither the NBA nor the NHL will be here next season because, well, Seattle has a secret power. We didn’t know it until recently, but we have the supernatural ability to solve other cities’ sports problems. All we have to do is show interest in another town’s team, start rationalizing why it’s OK to do what Oklahoma City did to us five years ago, and, poof, like magic, our potential victims begin doling out franchise-saving public subsidies. It’s as if we’re hosting some bizarre telethon to benefit wealthy owners.
There may be no honor among thieves, but in Seattle, there’s no joy among aspirant thieves. Our motto should be something like: Always the robbed, never the robber.
First, NBA commissioner David Stern led Chris Hansen’s investor dream team to believe the Sacramento Kings were a legitimate relocation option, but it turned out to be a trick, which resulted in a frustrating, faux open competition that was meant to keep the team in Sacramento all along.
Now, after a random public revelation by the NHL two weeks ago that Seattle was Plan B if the Phoenix Coyotes couldn’t work out a lease agreement in Glendale, Ariz., we played the role of Leverage City for a second time this year. Naturally, the Coyotes are skipping home with a fresh business deal.
Seattle should really charge a fee for its services.
The NBA relocation fight remains a sensitive issue, but Tuesday’s news about the Coyotes staying is nowhere near the emotional blow. For one, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was more forthright than Stern. In addition, after the NBA debacle, everyone knew not to get too attached to the notion of a miracle NHL gift.
But now that the awkward, nervous pursuit of two Big Four sports teams is over, for now, it’s better to reflect on the progress of this mission rather than wallow in lament.
Yes, Seattle was so close to an embarrassment of sports riches. How close? If eight more NBA owners would’ve voted for relocation and one more Glendale City Council representative would’ve voted against the Coyotes lease, then both sports leagues would be here next season. It’s an unfathomable thought, but to find the proper perspective about a hunt that is only beginning, consider how far this sports town has come in only 20 months.
Hansen went public with his plan early in 2012, and since then, he has forged an agreement with the city and county on a $490 million Sodo arena that will be 58 percent privately financed. The work done in 2012 to negotiate this arena plan led to the drama of the past six months.
We’re focusing on the results right now — no teams — but there was a consolation in bidding for the Kings and being available if the Coyotes wanted to move.
Seattle is now No. 1 on the waiting list for both leagues.
As contentious as the NBA relocation became, it’s a net positive because Hansen, Steve Ballmer and Co. stood before the NBA and its owners and provided compelling evidence about their aptitude as potential owners, Seattle’s growth over the past five years and the city’s overall NBA worthiness.
On the NHL side, Bettman also has a greater understanding of this market now, and if potential Seattle NHL investors Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza are serious about bringing a team here, there are now real people attached to that effort.
If Seattle can keep this arena deal together, which is a concern the longer Hansen goes without securing an NBA team, then the pieces are in place for an amazing story of redemption, rebirth and reinvention.
Of course, if there’s one thing we’ve learned through these processes, it’s this: We want no part of being the aspirant thief anymore.
There’s no such thing as a frank robber. Seattle can’t play the devious game. It cares too much about integrity, and many of us love this city for its moral code.
If Seattle is going to get the NBA and NHL here, there are two routes now: 1. Expansion. 2. If the leagues presented a relocation opportunity in which it was an absolute that the franchise would move.
Over the next 6-12 months, my prediction is that expansion will become a legitimate hot topic. Why? Because money talks. And the NBA knows how badly Hansen wants an NBA team. His bidding led to a ridiculous $550 million sale price of the Kings. And the NHL knows that Bartoszek and Lanza were willing to pay $50 million over the asking price for the Coyotes.
The needle is moving, and it looks like a mini-Space Needle. Yeah, we’re awful thieves, but Seattle is a haven for good businessmen. Now that they’re in the door, there’s a better chance to advance the conversation beyond the gamesmanship of the past half year.
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