Thursday, June 07, 2007

Key Arena Lease Performance Clause

SonicsCentral has been a haven for the Sonic's fan side of the arena argument and until recently had been very much in the support of Bennett and the current ownership of the Sonics & Storm. Last week the man who runs SonicsCentral and leads Save Our Sonics & Storm, Brian Robinson, had finally had enough. He had been pushing to be more active in the media and with a very visible presence since the sale was announced. His intent was to be a loud voice of the fan in SUPPORT of the ownership team and keeping the Sonics and Storm local.

Early on he was asked by the organization to tone down his message and his presence while the team got their side of things organized. When they finally asked for help they had already essentially bungled things with the city and the state. While he felt Bennett was amazingly sincere in person about his desire to keep the teams in the area, the sudden blitz of Bennett courting Las Vegas, Oklahoma City and Kansas City in a manner which effectively killed the every glimmer of buzz about the teams locally, Brian decided that keeping the teams in the area was more important than working with the teams' owners. He came out in a Seattle Times interview last week and yesterday went on the attack.

Save Our Sonics & Storm posted a press release yesterday indicating a clause in the Key Arena lease between the city of Seattle and the Sonics and Storm organization which could allow the city to FORCE the teams to play all regularly scheduled games in Key Arena until 2010.

Lawyers from the city have agreed, "in general terms," that the Specific Performance Clause in the lease is indeed binding and enforceable should the mayor instruct them to pursue enforcing the clause. Additionally, the city's lawyers have identified a precedent in Minnesota where a similar clause required the MLB's Minnesota Twins club to fulfill their contract and play all games as anticipated at contract signing.

This gives the city a potentially significant position of power in the negotiations with the teams' ownership with regard to the breaking of the lease required to relocate the franchises by 2008 as desired by Clay Bennett.

It is disappointing that the relationship has become adversarial. I must agree that I have swung to the opinion of late that Bennett is either extraordinarial naive AND inept, or that he is not genuine in his public statements. He never attempted a negotiation with the city or the state. He put together a worst case scenario of $500 million at the last minute and then when he was told he needed to retune, he cried foul and ran loudly and publicly to other cities. He claims that there has been no public outcry (letter to the editor, etc.) or new ideas.

I have seen MANY letters to the editor and written a number myself, as well I have seen and heard this topic in the media regularly for a year now. It turns out that there have been at least two serious offers brought to Bennett which he has quietly rebuffed offering potentially viable alternatives, and a third group may be quietly waiting in the wings. His timing has either been DESIGNED to kill momentum locally or the man is oblivious to the impact of his decisions. Within days of a tremendous upswing in local buzz after the Sonics landed the number 2 pick in the NBA draft Bennett killed the buzz telling Kansas City that Seattle didn't love him and he thinks the Kansas City Sonics and Storm would be a great idea. They sign a hot new General Manager and they have yet to make a statement.

I want the teams to stay. I want to like the owners of the teams and I want them to be excited about the product they are bringing to the fans. I don't see either of those things happening with the Clay Bennett we had seen thus far remaining at the helm of the organization.

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