The city of Seattle will be paid $45 million in exchange for letting the Sonics move to Oklahoma City this year as part of last-minute settlement announced this afternoon.
Sonics owner Clay Bennett may have to pay an additional $30 million in five years if the city is unable to secure another NBA team, under the terms of the settlement announced at simultaneous press conferences in Seattle and Oklahoma City.
The $30 million requires that state legislation be passed next year to finance renovation of KeyArena. Politics can be strange, but the $30 million (present value more like $24 million) from Clay Bennett presumably would tilt the balance in favor of a bill. One downside of this feature of the settlement is that it puts a non-trivial sum of Bennett's money at work to preserve public financing of a basketball arena in Seattle.
I infer from the following that the commish was at work behind the scenes:
Nickels said the settlement preserves the possibility of NBA basketball in Seattle in the future — noting that NBA Commissioner David Stern agreed as part of the deal that a renovated KeyArena could be suitable for basketball.
In a statement, Stern said he was "pleased" with the settlement and said the NBA still regards "Seattle as a first-class NBA city that is capable of serving as home for another NBA team."
Pleased as punch, I'm sure. Seattle fans feel hosed by the process (do read Horsey's fine piece and check out the comments below it). But once they get their jones going for basketball, which won't take long, Seattle will jump to the head of the queue for the next relocation.
The Sonics name and "history of the team" were transferred to the city of Seattle. I'll put the over/under for the NBA's return at four seasons. If there is a team with happy feet, it could be shorter.