Tag: Seattle Supersonics


Comparing markets, attendance and ownership in Sacramento and Seattle


We’ve discussed the issues that will determine whether or not the Sacramento Kings stay in California’s capitol or go to Seattle, including the impact of public subsidy support in both cities, the race between the two cities for an arena deal, and what lawsuits pending in Seattle mean to the process.

Next we take a look at markets, attendance, and ownership groups for both locations.

Sources with knowledge of the league’s thinking tell PBT that neither city will have a discernible advantage in these areas heading into meetings with the Board of Governors joint committees on April 3.

Seattle enjoys the nation’s No. 12 television market but shares that market with up to six sports teams, an issue that has come under great scrutiny when comparing Seattle with Sacramento, something the Sacramento side brings up often.  David Stern pointed the issue out at All Star weekend, Chris Hansen’s group reported the same idea in its market analysis, and Sacramento’s group highlighted the same thing this past week when they unveiled their market analysis to the press.

A potential Sonics franchise would share Seattle’s larger market with the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, and University of Washington football, in addition to an NHL team if Hansen’s group can make it happen.

That would reportedly position Seattle closer to Sacramento’s No. 20 television market, where the NBA enjoys 100 percent market share.

Think Big Sacramento, the city’s arena task force, put out a report this week contending that they are a better market than Seattle, which is what they’re supposed to say, but when you look at a similar report put out by Chris Hansen’s group the two sides aren’t necessarily squabbling over the details.

Hansen’s report indicates that Sacramento has 1.4 million TV homes per team (NBA, NFL, NBA, NHL), compared to 937,000 TV Homes for Seattle under the current scenario of two sports teams (Mariners and Seahawks) already in town.

Under this metric, Sacramento ranks No. 2 and Seattle ranks No. 4.  Orlando is ranked No. 1, L.A. is ranked No. 3, New York is No. 5, and from there it goes Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago and Dallas — mostly large markets.

Should Seattle secure both an NBA and NHL team they will fall to No. 15 on Hansen’s report.  If you add the successful Seattle Sounders MLS franchise to the metrics as Hansen’s group does, then Seattle falls to No. 21 assuming they land two new pro sports franchises.

League sources say the TV Homes per team metric is one of the reasons small-to-mid markets like Orlando, Sacramento, and Seattle are coveted by the league.  Networks understand the competitive impact of multiple sports teams in a region that steal away eyeballs and ratings, and they include such analysis in their bids for rights packages and the like.

Otherwise, leagues would contend that ‘TV Homes’ never watched any of the other sporting options available to them, and instead just the games that a particular league is selling to a network.

Still, Hansen’s report states that Seattle (84) has 30 more businesses than Sacramento (54) with 1,000 or more employees, and Seattle’s household median income is ranked No. 6 ($66,500) compared to Sacramento at No. 8 ($63,618). However, if you use the 2011 federal numbers for the counties of these cities (King County and Sacramento County, and work to draw fans outside the city limits) that gap grows to more than $15,000 a household.

Just like other professional teams cut into the NBA’s TV viewership in Seattle, sources say the same issue mitigates the advantage the Emerald City has in terms of potential sponsors.  The issue was summed up by longtime Seattle writer Art Thiel, as he said in a recent roundtable discussion between local pro- and anti-arena groups that competition for sponsorships in Seattle could be a problem.

“Which team in Seattle is the sixth ticket in town? When you consider Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, University of Washington sports and then these two new teams that might occupy Hansen’s arena … the complicated business problem in Seattle is that our major companies here like Amazon and Microsoft are either bit or ‘no’ players in the sports sponsorship scene. They don’t buy the suites, they don’t do the sponsorships at least at the same degree as you find elsewhere with Fortune 500 companies.”

At his State of the City address last week, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson revealed that he had sponsorship commitments of $50 million over five years from local businesses, which is similar to the $10 million Johnson secured when the Maloofs tried to leave for Anaheim in 2011.

It is unclear what Seattle has presented to the league on that front, as Seattle supporters have maintained that Hansen is under a gag order and cannot talk about his proposal to the press.

As for Hansen’s arena task force marketing itself or leaking information to the media about sponsorship support in Seattle, league sources do not expect the group to be public about their position.  As they put it, “when you’re trying to take a team from another city, particularly one that is fighting as hard as Sacramento is, it pays to be quiet.”

Past attendance will likely be a moot point or favor Sacramento, as Kings fans have turned out at the gate more frequently than their Sonics counterparts over the years.

Given the constant relocation threats and substandard ownership over the past five years, sources say the league is impressed that Kings fans continue to show up the way that they did, just as the league was impressed with Sonics fans when they showed up for the last two years under Clay Bennett prior to the team’s move to Oklahoma City.

Sources say the league won’t be overly critical of attendance in either city once public relations became a nightmare.  This was the case starting in 2006 in Sacramento after the Maloofs torched an arena deal and in that same year when Bennett took over ownership of the Sonics.

Ownership groups are another area in which sources tell PBT that the league is likely to conduct itself with some ambivalence.

Steve Ballmer is ranked No. 51 on Forbes’ top billionaires list, while Chris Hansen, Ron Burkle, and Mark Mastrov are not listed.  Each ownership group is “overly qualified” to own an NBA franchise, and the sports connections each group brings to the table are regarded as second-to-none.  Burkle is a finalist to purchase sports and entertainment powerhouse AEG, while Ballmer’s wealth alone is enough to make most owners blush.

Sources with knowledge of the league’s thinking said this is a great problem for the NBA to have, but pointed out that the league is highly unlikely to make this a question about which ownership group is better, instead letting the other factors decide the matter.  “There are only so many yachts these guys can water ski behind, and while Hansen and Ballmer are a dream team when it comes to ownership, it’s doubtful the NBA is going to downgrade Burkle and Mastrov.”

The source added that it didn’t make sense for the league to pit the ownership groups against one another, noting the association still wants to do business with both well into the future.

After David Stern’s press conference on Friday in which he said the Sacramento offer needed to be increased, and subsequent votes of confidence from Mastrov and Johnson that they would be able to deliver, the framework for discussion among owners is all but laid out.

Assuming Sacramento can provide the right offer, with the two cities drawing toward a tie on the issues of markets, attendance and ownership groups, the source said that with the advantage Sacramento has on the public subsidy issue, “Tie should go to the runner.”

Friday And-1 links: Rally in Seattle to support new stadium


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

• Plans for a new arena in Seattle, one that could house an NBA team, got a boost of local support with a rally where thousands of Seattle residents showed up to support the idea. Seattle’s mayor also met with David Stern last week. The process is off to a good start but has a long way to go.

• In a good sign, it was announced Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Peter and Erik Nordstrom will be part of the investment team looking to build the arena and bring an NBA team to the city.

• Detlef Schrempf said that Seattle gave away it’s team.

• Jay-Z is opening a new 40/40 club in the Barclay Center in Brooklyn when the Nets move in next year. No, you won’t be able to get in that one either.

• After Game 1 of the finals in Oklahoma City ‘lil Wayne again thought he was treated poorly by the Thunder organization. My sense is that the people of Oklahoma really don’t care.

• Serge Ibaka is a shot blocking machine — he’s gotten all of Miami’s big three so far in the finals — but it leaves him out of position sometimes.

• Current Lakers/former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown hopes LeBron wins his first ring.

• Soon to be top-5 pick Thomas Robinson loves the idea of playing for the Wizards.

• Sonny Weems played last season in Lithuania this year but is ready to return to the NBA.

• David Stern does an interview without getting in an argument with the host. He talks lockout and playoffs.

• We told you Jeremy Lamb rolled his ankle working out for the Raptors. It caused him to miss his workout with the Blazers.

• Another report that Dwight Howard still wants a trade. This is getting old.

• Dwyane Wade’s personal chef spills the beans. Figuratively.

• Celtics’ restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma wants to stay with the team. Safe bet that happens.

• The Bulls are moving ahead with a plan to move their practice facility into the city near the United Center.

• The Bulls plan to bring back Omer Asik, the restricted free agent other teams are eyeing. The Bulls can match any offer.

• Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley talks about the sale of the team to Robert Pera.

• Don’t expect Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls’ No. 23 overall pick in 2011, to come to the NBA until 2014 at the earliest.
• The 911 call from when Chris Bosh’s masseuse died at his house has been released.
• The best point guard in the draft, Damien Lillard, is putting together the “Licenced to Lillard videos about his runup to the draft.

Seattle groups lay out arena plan: it starts with finding team


It’s a start. A good start.

Details of the NBA arena plan for Seattle were laid out by Seattle’s mayor and the money behind it, hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, in a press conference that sounded more like a pep rally. They bathed the plan in glowing terms as filled with private investment and risk free to the taxpayers.

But the truth is that it has a long way to go. It has a lot of moving parts and any number of things can kill it. That it starts with Hansen taking on the challenge of buying an NBA team.

The Associated Press explains it this way:

Hansen submitted a proposal to (Seattle) on Thursday that calls for $290 million in private investment, plus the cost of acquiring an NBA franchise, to help construct a facility that would cost between $450 million and $500 million.

According to a letter submitted by the Seattle native to the city, the remaining construction and development costs would be financed by the city and King County using taxes and revenues generated by the new facility and rent charged to the teams playing in the arena. City officials are adamant that there will be no new public taxes needed for the building.

Basically it works like this: The city will go through the process — environmental impact reports and the like — and get everything in place. Then all Hansen has to do is buy an NBA team and recruit an NHL team to play in the building. Once he does that, he will put his money in, the city will put its money in and construction will start.

The NBA is not going to expand, so Hansen would have to buy an existing team and move it. That is where Sacramento rumors come in, as there have been rumblings that a new investor (at the least) could come in there and the team almost moved to Anaheim last summer. The league has a team for sale but doesn’t want it moved out of New Orleans. Yet. And other teams do come on the market — it’s usually just not that easy to move them

But Seattle has a start on getting the Sonics back. It’s a long, long road but the first steps have been taken.