Sonics must make their case

Professional sports may be the most trivial of pursuits, but the civic pride they arouse shouldn’t be undervalued. Witness how the entire region united behind the Seahawks during their Super Bowl run, or how Snohomish County continually cheers its AquaSox and Silvertips.

So the Seattle Sonics’ request for public funds to renovate KeyArena shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. But before the Legislature gives King County the option of extending taxes that helped pay for the Mariners’ Safeco Field, lawmakers should press Sonics ownership on a few matters:

* What’s with the pricetag? The Sonics are seeking at least $200 million to upgrade an arena that underwent a complete renovation in 1995. The Everett Events Center, complete with an arena, a convention center and an extra ice rink, only cost $71.5 million.

* What’s the business case? How long with these upgrades be sufficient? Do we need to build a new NBA arena every 15 years?

We suspect most Puget Sound taxpayers don’t want to see the Sonics leave town. But they’re not fond of writing blank checks, either. Lawmakers should take the Sonics’ request seriously, but they also must insist on some serious answers from the team.

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