In 2008 when the Sonics were threatening to leave Seattle, the people of the emerald city were going insane over the loss, but three years later, they have moved on.
In 2007, Oklahoma City native Clay Bennett bought the Seattle Sonics for an estimated $350 million dollars from Starbucks CEO and Sonics owner Howard Schultz. The Sonics head owner was convinced that Bennett was going to keep the team in Seattle.
“I think it’s presumptuous to assume that Clay Bennett and his ownership group won’t own that Seattle team for a long, long time in Seattle or somewhere else,” said Schultz, “it’s presumptuous to assume they’re going to move that franchise to Oklahoma City.”
As time passed Bennett was upset that the local government would not provide an estimated $500 million for an overhaul of Key Arena (the Sonics home court), so the team took flight.
Since the move, the team has flourished. They have posted a win-loss percentage of over .620, gone to the conference finals and posted average attendance numbers of around 18,000 fans per game, selling out nearly every game. Chesapeake Energy Arena, the new home of the team, boasts upscale restaurants, Kids zone, updated scoring and video from Daktronics, upgraded flooring and new view suites. The whole renovation from the original state of the arena cost $156 million, $350 million less than the proposed cost of Key Arena.
Since that time, the Seattle based company Casual Industries has started manufacturing a line of shirts that features the 1995 Sonics logo featuring the word “Robbed” instead of the usual team name and city. Although it is evident that feeling of deceit and some sorrow is felt when the subject is brought up, the matter has mostly faded to the background for northwest basketball fans.
The Seattle Storm have also been a powerhouse in women’s professional basketball, winning two WNBA finals in the past seven years, accumulating around 8,500 fans per game, only 2,500 fans less than the meager 11,000 fans posted by the Sonics in 2007.
Other sports have also appeared in the spotlight. Last year, the Seahawks went to the second round of the NFL playoffs, and the Mariners have acquired their own TV channel, ROOT sports.
Although Key Arena is an arena worthy of R&B singer Usher, the Seattle Thunderbirds and countless other acts and events, the arena is in fact aging. Although it was renovated in 1995, the original structure was built in 1962, two years before ex-Mets ballpark Shea Stadium was built, and it has since been torn down and the New York team has gotten a new field. Why shouldn’t the Sonics get one?