In December hedge fund manager Christopher Hansen, 44, of Valiant Capital Mgt. in San Francisco acquired 3 acres of property in the Sodo district of Seattle, just south of Century Link Stadium and Safeco Stadium, with a plan to invest $290 million in private capital towards the construction of a new $500 million arena and luring an NBA and NHL franchise to Seattle. However, moving forward with arena construction won’t occur until an NBA and NHL team is re-located to Seattle.
Seattle is slowly healing from the loss of its 40 year old NBA team, the Seattle Sonics, which was sold in 2006 by Sonics CEO Howard Schultz to Oklahoma investors committed to re-locating the team to Oklahoma City and renaming the team the Oklahoma Thunder.
Speculation has grown intense in recent days concerning the future of the Sacramento Kings, an NBA team that was given a March 1st deadline by the NBA to secure financing for the construction of a new downtown arena or else face the prospect of re-locating to a city such as Seattle or Anaheim.
The other NBA team that was mentioned in the media about a possible re-location is the New Orleans Hornets, a team currently owned by the NBA and operates in a small market. New Orleans only has the 52nd largest T.V market in the U.S. according to Nielsen, slightly higher than Providence, Rhode Island.
Today the prospect of the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets re-locating to Seattle is looking less promising. The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA Commissioner David Stern said they have agreed to a “work plan” in hopes of reaching a new deal to finance a new Sacramento arena by the March 1 deadline. Mayor Kevin Johnson, NBA Commissioner Stern and the Maloof family, who owns the Kings, will meet this weekend in Orlando, Fla.
Stern said the league is making every attempt to keep the franchise in Sacramento. When interviewed yesterday on Bloomberg’s Sportfolio, Stern sounded optimistic about the league working out a new arena deal with Sacramento. “With respect to Sacramento, we’re in very detailed and intense negotiations with all parties over a new arena for the team. We hope to resolve that in the next two weeks” Stern said.
When asked about the New Orleans Hornets, Stern explained that negotiations are currently underway. “We are in negotiations with two potential purchases right now. We are in negotiations over an improved lease for the team” he said. He described how the negotiations are focused on a renewed lease for 10 more years which still has to be approved by state politicians in Louisiana.
Sportfolio host Rick Harrow questioned Stern about the complications involved with Seattle trying to acquire an NBA team while Sacramento works to secure a new arena and keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Stern said, “We don’t want to discourage teams or buildings or cities that are building new buildings but all we do is tell them what we are trying to do and leave it at that.”
After viewing Sterns interview on Sportfolio, it appears that the NBA and NBA Commissioner Stern are making efforts to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento and the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans.
Still, realizing that the NBA is a for profit sports business with a focus on remaining profitable in the future, it would be misguided for the NBA to turn its back to Seattle-Tacoma, the 12th largest U.S. T.V. market, according to Designated Market Area or the 13th largest according to Nielsen, with a proven track record of successfully supporting an NBA team for 40 years with 2 trips to the NBA Finals and a future owner in Christopher Hansen who is committed to supporting a future team in Seattle.