SEATTLE -- OK, Commissioner. Seattle got your latest message about a new arena. You're right. It isn't the league's fault you allowed a team with a proud and very successful 40-year history in this city to be sold to an out-of-town group which has publicly admitted it always intended to move the franchise.
Fine. But before we sign off on a deal for a $500 million arena that no one other than the new owner feels the slightest need for, I have just a few questions.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
Probably not Mr. Popular in Seattle right now.
2. How much should Seattle expect the next arena to cost? I don't mean this one: Cash-Us Clay Bennett has already carved that $500 million price in stone. I'm talking about the next arena after this one. The last rebuild cost more than $100 million. That means the price tag for Sonics arenas rose more than four times in less than a dozen years. So how much will the next one cost? A billion dollars? Two billion dollars? I'm not being flip here. It's just that we need to figure these things into the budget to see how much will be left over for, you know, nonessential items such as schools, police, fire departments and transportation.
3. Exactly what percentage of player salaries and owner profits is the state required to subsidize? Because clearly that's what this is all about. No one who walks into Key Arena can honestly say the place is inadequate, so that's clearly not the problem. The issue is guaranteed salaries and profits. So cut to the chase. Are taxpayers responsible for 25 percent? A third? Half? More? Again, it will make the budgeting process easier when the state legislature determines the proper tax rates for our citizens.
Of course, you and I both know that you weren't serious with your recent declaration. Just between us boys, we know it was simply part of the standard arena blackmail process -- tightening the thumbnails on the powers that be so they will approve the arena. Because you can't seriously mean that a city which rebuilt an arena about a decade ago is obliged to build yet another one for a carpetbagger who has done absolutely nothing for this community other than issue threats during his 15 months as owner.
But just in case you are serious, please pass this message on to the citizens of Oklahoma City. They should know exactly what they're getting into.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans," is on sale now.