<
>

Report: Former Sen. Gorton to join effort to keep Sonics, Storm in Seattle

SEATTLE -- The mayor has enlisted former U.S. Sen. Slade
Gorton to help keep the Seattle SuperSonics and Storm in town.


Gorton, a Republican who represented Washington for 18 years, has experience with this sort of thing: He sued the American League
to land the Mariners and later brokered an ownership change to keep
them here.


It's not clear exactly what role he'll play, and he hasn't been
formally hired, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis told The Seattle Times for a
report published Thursday. But at a lunch Tuesday with Mayor Greg
Nickels and City Attorney Tom Carr, Gorton agreed to add his
political and legal weight to the city's efforts to keep the Sonics
at KeyArena through the end of the team's lease in 2010.


"We're lawyering up," Ceis said.


Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett has set an Oct. 31 deadline for a new arena deal. If he doesn't get it, Bennett has said his
Oklahoma City-based ownership group will seek NBA permission to
move the Sonics and Storm as early as next season.


"We start with ensuring we are prepared to hold the Sonics
organization to the lease. From there I think a lot of
opportunities emerge," Ceis said.


Nickels next week plans to propose setting aside $1 million of
the 2008 budget for legal fees related to KeyArena. Ceis said no
decision has been made on whether to hire Gorton's firm, K&L Gates.


Gorton has continued to do high-profile work since narrowly
losing his seat to Maria Cantwell in 2000. That included a stint on
the 9/11 Commission. The Times reported that he declined to comment
for the story.


As Washington state attorney general, Gorton sued the American League on behalf of local governments for breach of contract when the Seattle Pilots baseball team, after just one season, moved to
Milwaukee to become the Brewers. Seattle received the Mariners
expansion franchise in 1977 as compensation.


Then in 1991, when Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan reportedly wanted to move the team to Florida, Gorton stepped in and persuaded
Hiroshi Yamauchi, the founder of Nintendo of Japan, to purchase the
Mariners in a partnership with several Seattle-area business
executives.


Later that decade, Gorton brokered a deal that resulted in the
Mariners signing a 20-year lease and agreeing to pay for
construction cost overruns on Safeco Field. He urged Seattle
officials to share costs of traffic control and cleanup around the
ballpark, saying they would otherwise run the Mariners out of town.