Hurdles abound in effort to bring NBA back to Seattle

Hurdles abound in effort to bring NBA back to Seattle »Play Video
In this aerial photo taken Aug. 21, 2012, Safeco Field is shown near downtown Seattle and the Port of Seattle. The new arena would be built just south of Safeco Field. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
SEATTLE -- There are two big hurdles that have to be cleared before NBA basketball can return to Seattle -- getting a team to move here, and the completion of an environmental impact study about the proposed arena in SoDo.

That puts basketball in the hands of the bureaucrats.

Thursday night began months of meetings, studies and discussion about site evaluations, traffic mitigation and more. It is the core of the EIS.

"It's going to be a very thorough process," said John Shaw of the city's Planning and Development department.

Green and gold faithful in attendance lack patience.

"Us Sonics fans, we've been going through this process for a year. It felt really long," said Joseph Chong.

Environmental attorney Peter Goldman has plenty of patience to spare them. Goldman represents the longshoreman's union ILWU, Local 19, now suing over the EIS. He says the year-long process is actually too fast.

"This is light speed in my world. I've never seen anything move so quickly," Goldman said.

Goldman and the longshoreman are upset the requirements to review a Seattle Center site in addition to SoDo will be given lip service. He said there is precedent that the project could be jammed through, based on Problem Solvers investigations into the deal's secret no-bid contracts.

"Can a project like this be kind of cooked and hatched behind closed doors and then rolled out with a promise that we're still going to keep an open mind?" Goldman asked.

There may be a larger problem: Virginia Beach.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper cited sources that say city officials and even the state's governor are involved in wooing the Sacramento kings out east. Cable giant Comcast is already connected to the deal and those deep pockets could be attractive. That arena deal doesn't have the same environmental hurdles and legal challenges either.

In a statement, Kings spokesperson Troy Hanson said:

"We have been contacted over the years by several cities and parties interested in the Kings organization. However, we are not going to comment on rumors regarding relocation of the franchise. Our sole focus over the last several months has been to improve the team, and coming off a thrilling victory before a sold out crowd in the home opener, provides a glimpse into what we feel will be a very exciting 2012-13 NBA season. The future of the Kings franchise is very bright as ownership has made a strong financial investment in the organization by adding nearly $135 million in potential future player payroll over the past two off-seasons." - Troy Hanson, Sacramento Kings Vice President of Basketball Media Relations.