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$100 Million in OKC? Lets Play Poker

So amongst a lot of other things going on right now I find myself wondering about the recent proposal from the mayor of Oklahoma City.

I know that my silence, and that of SOS&S has been pretty deafening lately. A number of people are interpreting that as a sign that we are either a) giving up or b) simply out of ideas.

Not the case.

A couple of months ago we started being pretty public about our desire to meet with league officials, the governor, and others regarding this issue. The papers, blogs, etc. picked it up and I got a lot of scrutiny. Around that same time we had a new ownership group emerge, Slade Gorton brought onto the legal team, and litigation step up the point where lawyers started calling the shots.

It was very obvious to me at that time that new players had stepped to the table and that the stakes were significantly higher.

Several parties began to be skeptical about meeting with us specifically because of my blog and media presence. Several people in the media began grabbing past quotes from this Sonicscentral into newspaper articles. In short things were getting a bit loose and out of control.

Over the past months things have, if anything escalated. I will not comment on specific meetings, who they are with, and I struggle with which rumors to report. Therefore I have kept things really quiet and close to the vest. It's really gone against my nature and been pretty tough. As a result I've just stayed off the internet.

Th is $100 million renovation is interesting. I have a couple of theories about it:

The first is that the number is simply too low. While some people will have you believing that Clay owns the team and he can do whatever he wants I think that this is a really innaccurate. In order to not face severe backlash from a variety of sources it is really important that they sell this as something other than a complete and total loss. They certainly don't want the perception to emerge that Clay suckered them and that he intended to move the team all along.

I have trouble with the concept that they can sell the fact that Clay won't talk about a $300 million renovation to a $180 million facility in the 12th largest market, but he is willing to take a $100 million renovation of a $90 million building in the 53rd largest market. There is something inherently wrong with that.

What I have been told and told clearly, over and over again is that, in the end this thing will come down to revenue streams. The ownership committee will have to see that one financial package is better than the other in order to approve a move out of a 40 year market. This move, they say, is different than Memphis or Charlotte because of the legacy involved.

I wonder if the NBA is manipulating things here to try to give Seattle a shot. I wonder if they specifically wanted a deal that was "matchable" such that Seattle gets "one last shot". If Seattle doesn't match it then they get to full league support on the move, if Seattle does match then they get taken care of otherwise for their discretion.

I don't want to comment on the city proposal out of line. I can say that when the deputy mayor was on the radio several weeks ago he was accurate in his comments. A proposal was ready as scheduled and the presentation of that proposal is what dragged things out.

I think it is fair to say that people do not expect Clay Bennett to take the package although I personally hope it is offered to him. The poker game involved is to get a deal together that is good enough that a local buyer will take it and have the revenue streams and that local buyer be strong enough that the NBA cannot come up with a reason to approve Clays move. If there becomes any doubt that he will be approved in relocation and/or a chance that the NBA will find a way to make him whole via expansion or the Hornets then the chances of a sale go up dramatically.

The strong desire is to find a local buyer with name recognition. Steve Balmer and John Stanton are going to be tough for anyone to turn down. These guys are being solicited hard and there is reason to believe that they are warming to the idea and/or may have signed on. If not don't discount Dennis Daugs. The Daugs group has more money behind it than people tend to think and remains actively in the game. I don't know if they will wind up owning the team but they will certainly be part of the process. They are willing to engage in a public/private partnership at a level much greater than current ownership.

A source in New Orleans yesterday called to talk SOS&S to about the situation. They advised that the Hornets are nearing crisis. The feeling in Louisiana government is that the city right now is in danger of being too small to protect professional sports in general and that they need to ensure that they keep enough money to retain the Saints. Throwing money behind the Hornets could result in a shortfall such that they lose their most beloved team. According to this source the amount that will have to be paid by the state to the Hornets to offset low attendance is being bandied about in the range of $14 million for this single season and they simply cannot handle that. He expects the Hornets to have 1 year after this one tops before the state arranges a move-out.

This thing is starting to make its way through legislature and all the various lobby groups etc. are getting it on their radar. Now would be a good time to call state legislators. and remind them that this is important. Probably the best argument against skeptical politicians is that this will provide a clean answer for the remaining Key Arena debt. If not addressed this debt will be paid out of the general fund and that is a terrible answer. Even anti-stadium people should understand that having a plan is better than no plan. The deal they are talking about is incredibly fair to the taxpayers and would really be considered a win/win for all parties including the city.

Gotta run. Keep the faith and happy holidays!