KC in mix for Sonics

Kansas City wants in on the Seattle Super Sonics.

Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which will manage the new downtown Sprint Center, said he was encouraged by comments made by Super Sonics chairman Clay Bennett in Monday’s editions of The Kansas City Star that he plans to consider the Kansas City market if his club moves from Seattle.

“We’re talking to Clay, I’ll leave it at that,” Leiweke said after addressing the International Economic Development Council’s conference Tuesday at the Westin Crown Center.

“But let’s be honest, here. If that franchise does move, the odds-on favorite is Oklahoma City. That said, Kansas City is in that mix.”

Bennett, who is an Oklahoma City businessman, has been frustrated at Seattle’s inability to come up with a plan for a new arena to replace outdated Key Arena, the second-smallest facility in the NBA. The Sonics’ lease does not expire until 2010, but the franchise could opt out for $75 million after the 2007-08 season. Bennett established an Oct. 31 deadline for another arena plan or he will move the team, and he has NBA Commissioner David Stern’s blessing to do. Oklahoma City enthusiastically supported the New Orleans Hornets during the past two seasons, but its Ford Center, a $90 million facility, will not produce the revenue streams the $276 million Sprint Center will provide.

“You have a commissioner who is on the record (supporting a move),” Leiweke said. “I believe that team is in play (for Kansas City), and I believe Clay is going to keep the ownership.

“You heard from Clay (on Monday), that wasn’t bull. Clay is one of the more honorable men I’ve ever met. He’s a true gentleman. He’s not using this is as leverage, and he is not putting gasoline on the fire.”