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Sonics not likely to play in Seattle beyond 2008 season

SEATTLE -- Seattle SuperSonics majority owner Clay Bennett
said Tuesday that the NBA team likely will not play in Seattle
beyond the 2007-08 season.

Bennett said Gov. Chris Gregoire won't call lawmakers into
special session so the team can continue to push for taxpayer money
for a new $500 million arena. And he said the Sonics will honor
their KeyArena lease that runs through 2010 -- but most likely only
through "a legal exercise."

"That may or may not mean the team will play there," Bennett
said, knowing Seattle's NBA team for the last 40 years is obligated
to stay in the city only for one more season.

"I'm not sure it makes sense to play there if relocation [is
imminent]."

Bennett, whose investor group bought the team last year from a
local group headed by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, is a
prominent Oklahoma City businessman, and the sale prompted
widespread fear among Sonics fans that the team would be moved to
Oklahoma. Bennett promised to keep the team in the Seattle area if
a deal could be struck for a new arena.

On Monday, legislative leaders decided not to consider the plan
for a new arena in suburban Renton during the regular session,
which is due to end by Sunday, saying it lacks enough support to
pass.

Bennett said he had no hope that Gregoire would call lawmakers
back.

"I have asked her opinion of that and she said the special
session is not [going to] happen," Bennett said.

When asked by The Associated Press on Tuesday morning about a
special session, Gregoire replied: "No discussion about that."
Her spokeswoman later disputed Bennett's account of his
conversation with Gregoire.

"The governor has no recollection of any mention of a special
session during her phone call with Clay Bennett," said Holly
Armstrong, Gregoire's spokeswoman.

Bennett also said he would not bring the arena plan before
lawmakers when the next regular session begins in January because
he will by then be exploring his contractual right to move the
Sonics and the WNBA's Storm. That right, from his $350 million
purchase of the teams last summer, takes effect after Oct. 31.

The Sonics did not file a relocation application with the NBA
before a March 1 deadline, so they are obligated to play in Seattle
for one more season.

When asked about lawmakers' claims Monday night that the
proposal to use $278 million in King County tax revenues toward a
new arena did not have enough support in the Legislature, Bennett
scoffed and said, "That sounds like politics to me."