All or almost all of the 1994-95 Seattle SuperSonics basketball home games will be played at the Tacoma Dome while the Seattle Center Coliseum is being remodeled, a city of Seattle source said today.
"The Sonics thought it was very important to the team that they play all their home games in one location, that they needed to have a true home court," said the source, a highly placed city official familiar with the negotiations.
John Dresel, the Sonics' executive vice president, said today, "We're close with the Tacoma Dome, but no papers have been signed . . . The door is still open with the Kingdome. We're still talking to both arenas."
Rod Thorn, NBA vice president of operations, confirmed today that no deal had been struck. Thorn said the deadline to present scheduling dates to the NBA was still two weeks away.
The source said, however, that the Tacoma Dome option was the choice of Sonic Coach George Karl.
"He wanted a place where every time they walked in they were familiar with it, that they knew the backboards, the whole nine yards," the source said.
The Sonics attempted to secure other facilities for next season but ran into scheduling problems. They had difficulty getting dates at the Kingdome in November because of conflicts with Seattle Seahawk football. There also were conflicts in April and May because of the Seattle Mariners baseball schedule. The team also checked other locations, including Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington, but without success.
However, Kingdome officials believe scheduling conflicts could be ironed out. "They could play their full season here," said Joyce Williams, Kingdome marketing manager, adding she was not aware the Sonics had made a decision to move.
Sonics' owner Bill Ackerley, president of Ackerley Communications, could not be reached for comment this morning. However, he had previously said "the Kingdome is not a very good building for basketball. In terms of sight lines and comfort, the Tacoma Dome is better."
The team was on its way to Minnesota today for a game tomorrow night. The Sonics' captain already had made the players' preference known, however.
"You want to play in one building," Nate McMillan said, "and I'd hope that one building would be the Kingdome. You don't look forward to driving to Tacoma. I've played in both buildings, and the Kingdome has a better atmosphere for basketball. We should play there as much as we can."
The possibility remained that a few games still might be played in the Kingdome.
The Sonics last played in the Tacoma Dome in 1991, competing in three games with an average attendance of 12,673. The capacity for basketball is 17,000.
Dan Voelpel, community-relations manager for Tacoma, said details are still being worked out, such as seating configurations and locker-room facilities. Improving the locker rooms could be more extensive than just adding a few lockers, he said.
The Seattle City Council last month approved a 15-year lease with the Sonics and the sale of $73.4 million in bonds to pay for the Coliseum renovations. Seattle Times' reporters Himanee Gupta and Peyton Whitely contributed to this report.