A King County judge today threw out a suit by the Longshore workers that argued that an environmental review should have been completed before a deal was reached to build a new arena in Seattle. The arena would house the Sonics should a sale of the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle group be approved by the NBA Board of Governors when it meets in April.
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Michael McCann, an on-air legal analyst for NBA-TV, said the ruling “clears one hurdle for Seattle to get the Kings. I never expected this lawsuit to be the difference in whether the Kings stay in Sacramento or move to Seattle, but it facilitates that (a move) and I think it raises the stakes for (Sacramento mayor) Kevin Johnson to really put together a decisively better package.”
Johnson is attempting to assemble an ownership group and arena deal to counter the offer made by the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Micrsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with the hope the NBA would not approve the sale to the Seattle group, potentially forcing a sale to a Sacramento group.
McCann elaborated to say the ruling will force Johnson to need a better offer than that of the Seattle group because “if you match, then people will say ‘which owner has the greater financial wherewithal and how much is based on borrowed money versus Hansen and Ballmer’s offer?’ I think the NBA, from everything I can tell, has reacted very favorably to Hansen and Ballmer and so I think the response by KJ has to be really airtight and persuasive.”
The arena plan also faces another lawsuit that it violates Seattle Initiative 91, which requires the city to make a profit on any public financing of a sports facility. McCann said he did not see that as being a big factor in the NBA’s decision.
“I can’t recall a time when a lawsuit of that nature has prevented a team from relocating,” he said. “Lawsuits of that extent are more likely to be settled out of court and I would be surprised if that lawsuit changes the dynamics of the situation. The situation is much more likely to be affected by whether Kevin Johnson can offer an alternative to Hansen.”