When a franchise becomes available, or is rumored to be available, it becomes incredibly easy to automatically associate the city of Seattle and the name of Chris Hansen with it. The rumors will start flying that Hansen has made calls, kicked the tires if you will. The rumors are exciting; they keep Seattle relevant in the national picture in our quest to get an NBA franchise back. Despite the fervor for the Seahawks and their recent Super Bowl win, this has first and foremost, and will always be, a basketball town.
When the news that Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson had informed the league that he would be selling his shares of the team because of an ill-worded and racially regressed email that he had sent back in 2012, our Twitter and Facebook were alive with comments, wanting the Hawks to come here to Seattle. Even star Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was calling for it on Twitter. His tweet was retweeted and favorited a couple thousand times each as of writing this. The passion for the return of the Supersonics is huge. This site would not exist if it were not for the passion for basketball or the 100,000+ NBA fans that come to this site every month.
Today, Hawks co-owner and CEO Steve Koonin said he received numerous calls from billionaires and mega, ultra-millionaires in regards to the Hawks. My sources and other national reporters have made it known that the Hawks can be moved. It's going to be incredibly expensive to do so, however. The alleged asking price for the Hawks is starting around $750 million. Then you have to factor in the $75 million to get out of the 15 year old Philips Arena and paying off the $120 million in bonds that the Atlanta Spirit group needs to pay back to Atlanta. A potential owner is now $945 million into the investment before they even pay the relocation fee.
Outside of being a top 10 television market, the financial hub of the south, home to 16 Fortune 500 companies (Seattle has eight), and the busiest airport in the world, one of the main reasons the NBA will not allow the Hawks to abandon Atlanta is less than a five minute walk away from the Philips Arena. Turner Broadcasting, an NBA partner and home of NBATV, is right next-door. The NBA is not going to pull out of the market when Turner is going to help push through a $2 billion a year television deal. That is not good business practice.
Though one could argue that moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City was also not a good business practice, we have to quit living in the past and dwelling. It does us no good in obtaining a future franchise or working in the here and now on the task at hand.
With the television contract pushing over the $2 billion annual mark, Disney (ABC/ESPN) and Turner are going to want the largest possible markets available in this contract. They are not going to want to leave Atlanta who held a 12.4 average rating during the NBA Finals, above the national average and above the average NBA market. The NBA could, however, expand their presence to two more top 20 markets by also expanding to Seattle and Louisville (with Cincinnati and Lexington included), as was first reported by this site back in July.
Please continue to be patient, Sonics fans. Things are going to work out in the very near future either by expansion or some other circumstance. The Sonics are coming back soon.
For more on the saga in Atlanta head to Peachtree Hoops. They have you covered.