Sentiment for a future Seattle NBA team is running high, but it could take years for the league to make its full-time return to the city.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. The possible return of the league is receiving more discussion of late because of an upcoming major overhaul of KeyArena, which will be led by the Oak View Group and is expected to be completed in 2020. The project (rendering shown above) will raise the venue to modern NBA and NHL standards, and the ongoing bid to bring an NHL expansion team to the facility continues to gather momentum.
However, there are plenty of questions about if/when the NBA will eventually place a team in Seattle. There are no immediate plans for expansion, as it could be years before the league seeks to add additional clubs to its current slate of 30. In addition, there are seemingly no obvious prospects for relocation among existing NBA franchises which–when combined with other factors–raises plenty of questions about Seattle’s chances of landing an NBA team in the relatively near future. More from ESPN:
The NBA doesn’t have expansion anywhere on its timeline, and Seattle’s arena developments weren’t discussed for a moment at the fall board of governors meeting two weeks ago, league sources said. Some prospective ownership groups that have met with NBA officials have been told expansion may not happen until 2025 at the earliest, when a new TV deal can be negotiated, sources said.
Beyond that, the complexities of the so-called New Arena at Seattle Center, the building’s working title, may make it challenging for Seattle to compete for a team if and when the time comes. The situation could even require Seattle to have a second new arena with the NBA team as the main tenant if the city wants to outbid other markets to attract a team, multiple ownership sources told ESPN….
Other than expansion, the wild card for Seattle would be for a current NBA team to relocate. Several prospective ownership groups are watching the Memphis Grizzlies. The city of Memphis has some protections built into the Grizzlies’ long-term lease with FedEx Forum, however lawyers who have reviewed the lease believe there is a possible window for the team to leave in 2021, multiple league sources said.
However, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera would have to sell the team in order to move it under the terms of the lease, and Pera has given no indication he plans to do so. Quite the opposite, actually. Earlier this year, Pera agreed to buy out some of his minority owners at a price that valued the team at nearly $1.3 billion, league sources said. At the time, Pera told season-ticket holders in a statement that “I am committed to Memphis as an NBA market and as the home of the Grizzlies.”
Another Seattle arena plan that has been discussed for the past several years comes from Chris Hansen, who has proposed the construction of a new facility in the city’s Sodo neighborhood. The upcoming KeyArena project has not completely shut the door on Hansen’s concept, but the plan–which has been viewed in some circles as a potential option for the NBA should it be reluctant to share KeyArena with an existing NHL franchise–has not gained much traction to this point.
Still, despite the uncertainty, look for there to be plenty of speculation about the NBA’s future place in Seattle. Desire for the league’s return runs high among fans, as evidenced by the strong turnout for Friday’s exhibition game between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors at KeyArena, and Oak View Group’s plans for the facility should give the city at least one intriguing option for the NBA.
Rendering courtesy Oak View Group.