Sonics consider downtown Memorial Stadium

SEATTLE -- Memorial Stadium keeps popping up in discussions about the future of the SuperSonics as a Seattle team.

"I can tell you that the Memorial Stadium site has been suggested," confirmed Jim Kneeland, a Seattle-based public affairs consultant hired by the Sonics' and Storm's new owners. "Staying in the Seattle Center would contribute a lot to the Sonics' legacy.

"Your existing season ticket holders are used to that area. That's big," he told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Sonics' new majority owner, Clay Bennett, first floated the idea while meeting with various Seattle officials to discuss the team's future.

Memorial Stadium has been characterized as an appealing, midtown alternative to proposals in suburban Bellevue or a move out of state. For years, city leaders have wanted to redevelop the underused, 12,000-seat arena, home to occasional concerts and sporting events such as high school football games.

Officials close to the discussions between the Sonics and municipal leaders said Memorial Stadium -- which is co-owned with the Seattle School District -- would be razed for a new, larger basketball arena.

The site's advantages include the city's support, publicly owned land, a central city location near existing parking garages and a rapidly developing surrounding neighborhood, including the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters across the street.

The team's new Oklahoma-based ownership group has said KeyArena's size and unfavorable lease terms will make it difficult to pay team salaries and cover operating costs. Bennett has implied that if he doesn't get a new arena, he'll likely move the team to Oklahoma City, although he has also said he wants to keep the Sonics in Seattle if possible.

"We will look at [Memorial Stadium] like we will look at the other projects and see if it can work," Kneeland cautioned. "It's too early to say any proposal is a front-runner."

Other possible arena sites include locations in Bellevue, but many questions would need to be resolved, including who would pay for a new arena.