SEATTLE – Multiple sources confirm to KING 5 there are active efforts in Bellevue and Seattle to finance and build an arena to house an NBA franchise.
But finding a team may have just become more difficult.
The New Orleans Hornets, who have suffered through financial problems this season and were recently taken over by the NBA, passed an important test Monday night. The team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder had a big enough crowd to push the season average past a certain threshold. The franchise needed to average 14,735 fans a game to avoid the voiding of the team’s lease at the New Orleans Arena.
Speculation in Seattle had swirled that if the attendance threshold was not met, the team could be moved to Puget Sound.
“Today is a great day,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, “The Mayor and I challenged the fans, and the fans responded.”
The news comes the day before a Sacramento developer is set to unveil his latest plans for a new arena in that city. The Maloof Family, the owners of the Sacramento Kings, have been claiming the current suburban Sacramento arena is outdated and makes it tough for them to survive in the capitol city. Joe Maloof even recently suggested the family may be open to moving the team if a new arena deal can’t be reached.
“I feel it’s an asset,” says developer David Taylor, who plans to talk to the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday night about his next step. Taylor’s plan was recently selected by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Arena Task Force as the best prospect for keeping the franchise in town.
But Taylor admits it will likely take public money to make it happen.
“We may come to the conclusion at the end of 90 days that it really isn’t doable in this market at this time, and we’ll tell them that," said Taylor.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is often mentioned as a potential owner for a Seattle-based team. He offered up millions for a KeyArena remodel prior to the Sonics departure, and recently sold millions in company stock.
However, sources say Ballmer has recently been approached and, right now, has shown little interest in financing an arena or purchasing a team.