Hansen Confirms Deal To Acquire NBA Team For Seattle

By Amy Radil

After weeks of rumors, it appears Seattle may have a new professional basketball team to replace the SuperSonics. Investor Chris Hansen said his group has entered an agreement to purchase a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings. Seattle sports fans seemed pleased by the deal, but confessed they don’t know much yet about their new home team.

At the Ram sports bar in Seattle’s University Village, retiree Andy Brinckley and his wife said they’re thrilled by the news of a new team, ready to go to games again, and ready to give Chris Hansen some credit. Hansen’s group is buying the team and would pay more than half the costs of building the new arena.

Brinkley: “His ability to come forward with the financial situation was absolutely wonderful. It really erases the bad things we had when the Sonics left the first time.”

Brinkley still remembers the day in 1979 when the Sonics won the national championship. He sayspeople were “screaming all over Seattle” with joy. At the next table, Jason VanSlyke of Shoreline says he was twelve then, and went on to be a Sonics season ticketholder and devoted fan.
VanSlyke: “It’s just one of those things where I got the bug at the right age, I mean, many of those guys are so phenomenally good at what they do.”

But he was bitter when the Sonics left. He boycotted Starbucks to punish team owner Howard Schultz, and quit watching the NBA in favor of college basketball. So VanSlyke says he hasn’t kept too close of tabs on the Sacramento Kings.

VanSlyke: “But I think they’re bad and they’ve been bad….”

Seattle Mayor Mike Mcginn says he doesn’t know much about the new team either.

McGinn: “I’ll be honest, I have not been watching much NBA basketball since the Sonics left town.”

McGinn was at the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. when the news of the team purchase became public. He calls it a good day, but says there’s a lot of work ahead. The city faces a couple lawsuits, one over whether the arena financing violates Initiative 91. That measure passed in Seattle in 2006. It says the city must make a profit on any investment in an arena. McGinn says he believes the arena plan will hold up.

McGinn: “Ultimately, you know, a court will have to look at that, but we did the work on our end to meet it because it wasn’t just the law, it was also important that we do that given where we were financially as a city.”

Environmental studies are underway for the new arena site in Sodo. In the near term, the new NBA team would play at the Sonics’ old home, Key Arena. Standing outside the arena Monday, Seattle city council member Tim Burgess says he welcomes the news of team purchase. He says Hansen has agreed to spend up to $16 million dollars preparing Key Arena to host an NBA team again.

Burgess: ”Key Arena will be improved and refurbished a bit so the Sonic scan play here for two or more likely three seasons while the new arena is being built. And then the city will launch this spring a long-term study for Key Arena and Seattle Center and what its ultimate fate will be.”

Burgess is challenging McGinn in the race for mayor. He declined to say whether news of the Sacramento Kings purchase is a political win for anyone, other than “the city of Seattle, Sonics fans and our economic base.”

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