Tip-off in Olympia for Sonics return?

OLYMPIA, Wash. – There’s room in the hearts of Washingtonians for one more professional sport’s team, and room in Seattle for their stadium, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner said Thursday.

The Republican from Spokane led a work session Thursday afternoon in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee. They’re looking at the reasons why the Sonics left, what can be done to bring an NBA team back and where the team’s stadium would go.

Finally, Baumgartner said he will ask the committee to look at what the Legislature can do to encourage the Sonics return, including any bills that could be passed to speed up the process.

“We want to have a strong, bipartisan statewide message to the NBA that this state really wants the Sonics back and we are willing to take steps to make that happen,” said Baumgartner.

A central point of contention for the Sonics' return would be where their stadium would go. Representatives for the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Maritime Unions spoke out against a Sodo location. They said there isn’t room for three stadiums and the Port of Seattle.

“The addition of an arena that is estimated to bring as many as 250 events per year is just too much to expect of this congested infrastructure area,” said Kurt Beckett, of the Northwest Seaport Alliance. “It’s like encouraging a heart patient to have another fried Twinkie.”

Beckett urged the commission to focus their attention on renovating KeyArena, the Sonics old stadium. The idea is a cheaper option that the city of Seattle is currently seeking bids for.

However, transportation and parking have been highlighted as major factors against KeyArena’s renovation.

Two more hearings are set to take place in Olympia by the Senate committee on bringing the Sonics back to Washington.