LAS VEGAS — It’s a little off topic here at CES, but since I ran into Paul Allen and we talked a bit about sports, I asked what he thought about the Sonics situation and whether he might get involved, perhaps with some sort of franchise swap or relocation to keep the team in Seattle.
“It’s not in the cards at all,” he said.
As the owner of both the Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, Allen’s pretty familiar with the bare-knuckles lobbying for new facilities the Sonics have been doing. Allen said he’d be sad if the team left, but “these things do happen in sports.”
Really, they’ve got a few years left on their lease and then either something will have to be put together to make the economics work in Seattle — just like I had to commit a lot of money to get the Rose Garden [in Portland] back. You have to have something to make the economics work because otherwise you know you just lose money year after year. In a medium and small market, unless you have a great facility, which we do have in the Rose Garden in Portland, it’s a tough situation for ownership there. You’ve got to have a better facility.
I mentioned speculation that another local billionaire such as Steve Ballmer will step in to save the Sonics, but Allen’s perspective makes that sound like a longshot.
I’m not going to speak for Steve … but it’s an economic issue. Seattle’s a fantastic city — that’s my main residence, I’ve been in Seattle all my life except in the early days of Microsoft when I was in Albuquerque for a couple of years, and Boston for a year and college at Washington State. It’s a fantastic city and it would be a shame to lose a professional sports franchise, but these things do happen in sports. Until then, if you’re ownership, you have to say, well, can I make something [there], after all the political things that have happened, is there a chance for a solution to keep going forward, or do you have to look at alternatives? I’m sure they’re probably doing both things.