Cautious optimism. That is the way most of us have been trying to approach our situation ever since Chris Hansen's arena proposal first surfaced a year ago.
At first, 'optimism' was the challenge of that phrase. We had been beaten down for four years and had no reason to truly believe that our local government would step up the way they needed to, no matter how good of a deal Hansen presented them. We really had no reason to believe at the time that Hansen could come through either.
We forced ourselves to be optimistic.
After we went through a very stressful several months and the arena was finally approved (pending EIS, SEPA, and a confirmation vote by the councils), and as we went through a couple months of silence followed by the jubilant news that Hansen had reached a binding sales agreement with the Maloofs, 'cautious' became the challenge.
We continue to force ourselves to be cautious, but I gotta say that it is getting harder and harder. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am running out of reasons to be afraid.
Why do I say that? Let's do a comparison of our situations. Seattle and Sacramento.
How do our ownership groups compare?
They have Mastrov and Burkle, which is a pretty good group, except that Mastrov is only worth $350 million and Burkle isn't really even part of the ownership group. He is focusing solely on the arena, unless the news of the AEG sale not happening causes him to be more willing to spend money on the ownership side.
We have Hansen, Ballmer, and the Nordstroms, every one of which is wealthier than Mastrov and Ballmer is wealthier than Burkle.
How do our ownership bids compare?
The Sacramento group has made an offer for the NBA to consider. However, Stern said last week that it won't be considered until the money is increased enough to be comparable to Seattle's offer. There have been reports of that bid being any where from $75 million to $100 million short. They say they will up their offer. We shall see if they do and, if so, by how much.
Funny thing. Since Stern's announcement, I don't hear anyone in Sacramento beating the relocation fee drum or the loan repayment drum. As Stern said, the bid values are fairly straight forward.
The Seattle group has a signed purchase agreement for a much higher dollar figure as stated above. For Sacramento to even have a chance to talk to the Maloofs, the NBA has to say no to an ownership group that is, according to Stern's numerous statements, very strong and that is offering much more money.
How do our markets compare?
From a television point of view, Sacramento ranks as the 20th largest, depending on who you ask. From a corporate support point of view, Sacramento has a total of zero Fortune 500 companies.
Seattle's TV market ranks 13th or 14th and has a total of eight Fortune 500's, according to the "biased" Chris Daniels.
Some say that the fact that Seattle has several competing pro teams compared to Sacramento's none offsets the TV and corporate advantages on our side. I don't buy it.
How do our relationships with the NBA compare?
This is the one area where I think Sacramento has an edge.
Kevin Johnson loves the NBA and the NBA loves Kevin Johnson. In addition to his history as a player, KJ has worked his butt off to come up with a solution for the NBA and Stern has gone out of his way to help. Imagine if we had someone like that leading the way for us five years ago.
Seattle, on the other hand, is still dealing with scar tissue from the past. I think Stern would like to put a team here, but is still pridefully miffed about being publicly scolded by Frank Chopp. Then there is the lingering resentment by many in Seattle toward the NBA.
That said, things have undeniably improved in Seattle since the disaster of 2008. We have different political leadership that found a way to say yes. We have a proactive ownership group that is well organized and is willing to jump through all of the NBA's hoops. We also have Ballmer, about whom Stern has publicly salivated.
Things are getting better and the gap is rapidly closing, but there are still issues to work out between Seattle and the NBA.
How do our fan bases compare?
Their fans are great. Our fans are great. Both cities have a proud history of supporting their teams and both cities saw that support diminish due to long stretches of really bad ownership decisions. I don't know how @sonicarena's ticket commitment effort will compare to the one Sacramento did a month or so ago and I don't care.
No advantage either way.
How do our arena situations compare?
To be frank, this one isn't even close.
Burkle is in negotiations with Sacramento to build an arena in a different location than the one that was approved by local officials last year. We don't know what public/private ratio is being negotiated. We don't know how willing Burkle is to be reasonable.
According to the link below, several different entities own many different parcels of land on the proposed site. In other words, they don't have the land acquired that they need. It can be done, but real estate purchase and development takes time (as does negotiating with government entities).
And April 3 approaches rapidly.
On the Seattle side? Hansen already owns all the land he needs. The city and county have both approved their MOU's. The finances are set. A couple of weeks ago, Hansen got the go ahead from the arena architectural review panel to pursue a Master Use Permit. While Sacramento negotiates an arena deal on land that none of the significant parties own yet, Hansen continues to generate AMAZING arena renderings he has been working on for over a year.
The only things - and I do mean the only things - we are waiting for are the results of EIS and SEPA, as well as the confirmation votes by both councils after both studies come back.
Yes there are lawsuits to resolve, but they aren't really a threat and Sacramento is starting to hear from citizen groups of its own now.
Advantage Seattle. Check that. HUGE advantage Seattle.
I really feel like the Sonics will be playing at Key Arena this fall. Our advantages are numerous. Even if the Sacramento group increases its offer to match Hansen's, Seattle's real estate ownership advantage alone would likely be enough to convince the BOG.
I still encourage cautious optimism, but it's getting harder and harder to follow my own advice.
NOTE: I am aware of the latest reports involving Kehriotis, but I am not going to add this as a "reason to be afraid" until I actually hear what this plan of his is. I need to know things like...
Where does he plan to build the arena? Does he need to acquire land? Who is the financial muscle behind him? How much does he plan to finance through debt? Why didn't KJ latch on to this idea?