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The Holding Pattern: The Current Situation for the NBA and the NHL in Seattle

We continue to watch and wait in our quest to land NBA and NHL franchises.

Edited by Joanna Nesgoda

Landing soon?
Landing soon?
Mark Nolan

There was an episode of the West Wing where President Bartlett and his minions were on an Air Force One flight that had already lasted too long. It was made longer when they thought something was wrong with the landing gear, and they spent the whole episode trying to solve national problems during the frustration of being in a constant holding pattern.

When they resolved the landing gear situation and it looked like they were finally about to land, the pilot announced that the delay would continue due to weather conditions. The episode ended with Jed Bartlett returning to his cabin and slamming his door in frustration.

We can all relate to that frustration in our long quest to return the Supersonics to Seattle. Whether we like it or not, we are in a holding pattern right now and it's hard to not slam the occasional door.


We had our hopes raised during the Olympics with a series of Geoff Baker tweets and articles. It sounded like we could hear an expansion announcement by this summer with some kind of "letter of intent" that would lay out a requirement for an arena solution.

It has become very clear in recent weeks that this isn't going to happen, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently clarified why in some comments before a playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

"Well, there's good major junior tradition [in Seattle], there's a lot of interest. There's potential of a good west coast rivalry with Vancouver," said Bettman. "But the threshold issue, before we can really seriously consider Seattle, would be whether or not there's a building coming out of the ground. Key Arena is inadequate, and Chris Hansen, who's the one controls the rights to build a building, is focused on an NBA team."

That's about as clear as Bettman can make it. Our NHL hopes are unavoidably pinned to our NBA hopes. The good news is that all signs indicate that the NHL wants to come to Seattle, once our arena situation is resolved.


Managing editor Kevin Nesgoda issued the following reminder, as well as numerous others of the same nature on both Twitter and Facebook. Reminding is one of his favorite hobbies.

Kevin is wrong about Russell Wilson, but he's right about this. Not only is the Clippers story about something more important than returning the NBA to Seattle, but L.A. is too strong of a market for the NBA to leave behind, even if it is a second team.


Herb Kohl sold the team to people not named Hansen or Ballmer. The buyers, along with Kohl, have pledged money toward construction of a new arena.

There have been reports that the NBA will have the option to purchase the team and sell it if an arena deal isn't done by November of 2017, and there are some who feel that Milwaukee has a tough row to hoe. However, that scenario is both in the distance and just a possibility. Even if the idea materializes, it may not turn out the way some would hope. The NBA could extend the deadline or choose not to enforce it or buy the team and sell it to someone else in Milwaukee who thinks they can get it done.

I continue to hope that Milwaukee gets its arena done and that we get expansion some day.


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said in no uncertain terms that expansion isn't on the radar right now. He recently indicated that there are eight NBA franchises that are in trouble and that those situations need to be resolved before expansion is even a discussion point. Many believe that the upcoming TV deal will increase the revenue pie enough to resolve those situations.

Chris Daniels seems to be one of them.

That last point can't be disputed. There are differing points of view on this. Our own Steve Stearns holds one of them.

"Regarding expansion, $600-800 million does not make the owners whole. It pays off what they'd lose just over the next TV deal, not in perpetuity. Plus, Clippers haven't sold yet which would raise values even higher. Also, you have an owner that would probably look at expansion most favorably saying it's going to take a billion plus to even get the conversation started."


We all hope so. It's been a really long flight and we are tired of having stewardesses crash into our elbows with dining carts as we try to sleep through it.

Mr. Nesgoda has been dropping cryptic hints recently about us having a team by 2017, based on what he's being told. He does have access to sources that you and I don't have access to, so this is nothing to dismiss. Nor is it something to blindly embrace.

I badly want him to be right. Like President Bartlett, I want my feet to touch land again. In the meantime, I have to remind myself that a slammed door only loosens hinges.