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Clay Bennett Bailed Out By Washington State Politicians

Apr 27, 2009 – 6:54 PM
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Tom Ziller

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Even though the Oklahoma City Thunder just wrapped up its inaugural season, some old Sonics fans maintained hope in a return of the NBA to Seattle. If Seattle could find a way to get a new gym or refurbish KeyArena, the league has left open the potential for future expansion or relocation back to the city.

But a bill in the state legislature that would have secured a quarter of the costs for KeyArena renovation died last night. Local businessmen (led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer) had pledged to augment the funds, which would have come from an otherwise expiring hotel/car rental tax, with enough to get Key up to snuff. The other portion of the funds, if the bill had passed, would have come from Seattle's Public Enemy No. 1: Clay Bennett.

Last July's settlement between Bennett and the city featured $45 million for Seattle straight away, along with the promise of $30 million in 2013 if the state legislature passed a funding plan for KeyArena or a new gym by the end of 2009 and if the city had not already procured a replacement NBA team. The bill's death with the end of the session basically put that $30 million back in Bennett's pocket.

Of course, it's unlikely Bennett -- or David Stern -- ever realistically believed that money to be at risk. For the guff we've given Bennett (trust me, there has been plenty), the legislature is really showing its culpability on this issue. Bennett went about things in a completely devious, destructive fashion. But in the end, he has basically been shown to be correct in terms of Washington's lack of will in keeping these Sonics fans happy, and in keeping Seattle an NBA town. It's sad, all around.
Filed under: Sports