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Columnist: Seattle has 70-30 chance to land NBA team

By Michael Simeona

As speculation increases about the potential of the NBA returning to Seattle, one columnist thinks it will happen sooner rather than later.

Steve Kelley of The Seattle Times wrote on Saturday that the financially strapped Sacramento Kings could become the Seattle SuperSonics as soon as this fall. Kelley joined the “Bob and Groz” on Monday to discuss why he’s so optimistic about the return of professional basketball and hockey to the Puget Sound.

“I would say right now, the Kings are 70-30 coming here,” Kelley said. “The [Phoenix] Coyotes are probably 50-50.”

L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles is an example of how a sports arena could make a profit in Seattle. (AP)

Kelley’s optimism is spurred by recent developments regarding a behind-the-scenes effort to build a multi-purpose arena south of the Safeco Field parking garage. In recent months, a group led by Christopher Hansen — a wealthy San Francisco hedge-fund manager — has been purchasing property in order to build a facility that could house both an NBA and NHL team.

“The people who are in charge here aren’t glory hounds,” Kelley said. “They want this done right and they want teams and they want an arena here. They understand the need for a big time arena in this city.”

Another person involved in the effort is none other than former Sonics executive Wally Walker. While he may be one of the most polarizing figures for Sonics fans, bringing a franchise back to Seattle might make people forget about Walker’s past.

“Wally doesn’t want anything to do with the NBA team once it gets here,” Kelley said. “He just feels kind of an obligation to this city to bring back a franchise.”

Building a new arena seems simple enough if the group is willing to put up most of the funding privately, but any new facility constructed in Seattle must make a profit after an initiative was approved in 2006. One way to make a profit is by surrounding the property with apartments, restaurants, hotels and condominiums, similar to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already,” Kelley said. “You go down there for a Mariners game and there are very few places to eat, very few places to hang. I think they need more of that anyway.”

While a proposal still hasn’t been made, the simple fact that city leaders are talking about bringing a professional basketball franchise back to Seattle is progress after four years of frustration over the loss of the Sonics. As Sacramento figures out whether they’ll be able to keep the Kings in town, Kelley thinks the city will take advantage of the new arena plan.

“I think the Seattle stuff will be worked out quickly and if the Kings thing doesn’t go through, than it could happen easily by April 1.”