It all started with a tweet. Local radio station KUOW dropped a bombshell without even realizing it.
As it is wont to do, the internet freaked out. What did he mean by “Chris Hansen is not going to do it?” It’s very hard to get full context of a quote in 140 characters and this one left us all asking questions. KJR’s Kevin Shockey finally got a hold of the audio and was able to pull this quote from the Mayor’s interview:
Admittedly, having the full context of the quote may have provided more questions than answers. Since day one, Chris Hansen has stated that his intention was to return the SuperSonics to the city of Seattle. The arena was always a means to an end, not the end itself. So why, now, is Murray saying that he wouldn’t be the one to bring us a team?
Well, it’s possible he was discussing the NHL. It’s been no secret that the NHL is open to adding a second expansion team after the Vegas Golden Knights joined the club, and it’s been even less of a secret that they get a special kind of sparkle in their eye when they look at the Emerald City. It’s also been no secret that Chris Hansen has no desire to own an NHL team, despite having a desire to have one share his arena. He has said so himself. This isn’t news, this isn’t a secret. So maybe, just maybe, that’s what Murray was talking about?
If not, this quote gets much, much heavier. He’s basically saying that Hansen is not going to own an NBA team in this city. Does he know something we don’t know? Is he completely giving up on putting an arena in Sodo? Quite frankly, I don’t know. No one at Sonics Rising knows. No one at KJR seems to know. We’re all scrambling for answers.
Even OVG President Tim Leiweke, in his interview with Brock and Salk yesterday, said that Chris Hansen would be the likely owner of an NBA team, even if it’s in a renovated KeyArena.
"And if, at that point, Chris wants an NBA team, he’s more likely to get one and he can take it. Not only will we not stand in his way, we will do everything humanly possible to make it work economically.”
Another strange line from the quote above is Murray calling KeyArena “a resource that the taxpayer is going to pay for one way or another.” Wasn’t KeyArena paid off by Clay Bennett’s settlement? Wasn’t the whole reason they were finally turning a profit because there was no debt left on it? What is the taxpayer paying for if KeyArena isn’t renovated? It is a city-owned asset, so is he saying that something will have to be done with it - either razing it or refurbishing it - and that the taxpayers, as owners, would be covering that cost?
He goes on to say that “the idea that it might happen is probably not going to be enough to get council there.” Well, it’s a good thing Hansen’s 100% privately financed arena, and the preceding street vacation, would be contingent on getting a team, be it NBA or NHL. They would only have to approve a conditional street vacation, meaning nothing changes if no team comes.
It sure sounds like Mayor Murray is throwing his support behind KeyArena, based on the fact that it would be built on spec. He also alludes to Sodo not being an option until after KeyArena is ruled out. It’s hard to say for sure, even having the full quote leaves so many unanswered questions. Time will tell what happens next, unless Mayor Murray decides to do so himself.