After months of speculation, a deal has been reached to build a new arena in Seattle.
According to the Seattle Times, the Seattle City Council has overcome potential infrastructure hangups to reach a deal with an investment team led by Chris Hansen, a Bay Area hedge fund manager who grew up a SuperSonics fan in Seattle. The new $490 million arena is planned for the Sodo area just south of Safeco Field, though other locations around the city could also be in play.
It is no secret that Hansen's group hopes to bring professional basketball back to the Emerald City, which has been without an NBA team since the original Sonics left the city for Oklahoma City following the 2008 season. This could happen via expansion or relocation, with the Sacramento Kings considered a prime candidate to move to the city. The New Orleans Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks are also considered potential candidates for a move.
Seattle residents, however, are weary about acquiring a team at the expense of another city and would almost certainly prefer expansion. But the NBA has not shown much interest in adding more teams in the near-future, so relocation could be the only realistic option.
Regardless, Seattle's next NBA team is expected to adopt the Sonics' legacy, including the franchise's logos and uniform colors and much of the franchise's history. Expect some debate over the Sonics' 1979 championship banner, which is still considered property of the Oklahoma City franchise.
The new arena will also have the ability to work as an NHL arena. Any hockey franchise that moves to the city would likely adopt the history of the Metropolitans, which in 1917 became the first American hockey club ever to win the Stanley Cup.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has long been interested in Seattle as a hockey town, believing that a franchise could strike up a natural rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks in much the same fashion as the Pacific Northwest's three MLS teams.
The Phoenix Coyotes, which are currently owned by the NHL, would be the most logical candidate for relocation.
Yesterday's announcement makes it clear that Seattle is serious about bringing pro basketball and hockey back to the city. Once ground is broken on the arena, the only real question will be which sport gets there first.