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The driving force behind the renewed Seattle Sonics expansion talk


Bringing the Sonics back to Seattle has long been a priority for local sports fans, to say the least. Brian Robinson started a Save our Sonics blog back in the day, and is now currently a community commissioner at the Seattle Center.

He joined the Dori Monson Show to discuss what’s new in the drive to bring the Sonics back as, for the first time in a while, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he is thinking about expansion.

“I think where we’ve been through, people know we had a gut wrenching loss of our team. We have fought, and we have fought, and we have fought, we have been kicked down a lot of times, and I think a lot of Sonics fans just felt lack of control over the situation,” Robinson said.

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“But where we are today is that we have this beautiful new arena coming online, right at the moment where the NBA is facing a need. We know COVID has hurt their revenue, … and recently the commissioner opened up the door to expansion,” he continued. “In a notable change from prior conversations, he described expansion as inevitable. He describes Seattle as the first choice. And I think a lot of people who are close to the situation understand that the commissioner doesn’t make these comments lightly.”

Robinson believes that costs are much of the driving force in the renewed Sonics talk, taking into account expansion costs as well as the collective bargaining agreement.

“I think that it’s the driving force. I mean, the dollars were the reason that it was unable to move to the forefront until now,” he said. “And there’s this concept of the collective bargain agreement that expansion dollars are not shared with the players. Every other dollar that comes into the NBA is shared — 52% to the players and 48% of the owners. But expansion dollars go directly to the ownership.”

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“Oddly enough, in relocation — relocation dollars and arena revenues — are something that led directly to ownership, that kind of drove the loss of our team,” Robinson said. “So I think at the end of the day, in these big billion dollar deals, multibillion dollar deals here, dollars do drive the ship.”

Is there a potential timeline for an expansion?

“I don’t want to get people overly excited,” Robinson said. “As Tim Leiweke always says, you don’t get ahead of the commissioner. But Brian Windhorst on ESPN recently speculated, and there’s speculation that they felt fairly strongly about a potential for a relocation process by March, with a big process to go in around November and have teams awarded this year, opening the doors in 2023 or 2024.”

“So there is a real chance that over the next several months we could see a bid emerged, similar to what we saw for the Kraken, where there is an active, visible, or more than one active, visible groups working hard,” he added. “And we might have on opening night in Climate Pledge Arena at the Kraken, and simultaneously have a Sonics season ticket drive going on by an ownership group there — that would be a lot.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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