Seahawks Reopen Suburban Headquarters; Behring Says Move Still On
KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) _ While Seattle Seahawks coaches and scouts were back at work at team headquarters, owner Ken Behring says he hasn’t changed his mind about moving the team to California.
Behring closed the Kirkland offices Feb. 2 and two days later began moving equipment to Anaheim, Calif. He announced plans to use Rams Park in Anaheim as a training facility.
He said Tuesday he reopened the Kirkland facility temporarily to prepare for the NFL draft.
``Since renovations at Rams Park are not yet complete and we had previously scheduled a meeting with coaches, scouts and staff members, we will continue to temporarily utilize the Kirkland facility,″ Behring said in a statement from Los Angeles.
``Once the Anaheim renovations are complete and we can shift the remainder of our operations to Southern California without interfering with our draft preparations, the move will be completed.″
And he added, `` There is no change. We moved the franchise headquarters to Southern California and our plans will not be reversed.″
The gates at the Kirkland facility remain locked to reporters and outsiders and the main phone line rang unanswered. Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson was seen driving away from the facility Tuesday night.
Behring has 10 years remaining on his Kingdome lease, but contends he can break it and move to Southern California because the dome isn’t a ``first-class facility″ as required by the lease. He also contends the stadium could fall apart in an earthquake.
King County is suing Behring to prevent the Seahawks from playing games elsewhere and won a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court.
Behring filed a countersuit in Kittitas County. The Washington Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide in which jurisdiction that battle will be fought. The high court scheduled a hearing March 27.
Tuesday’s Seattle Times quoted a source as saying Behring and his son David, the club president, ordered moving vans to return equipment from Anaheim.
Alan Elias, Ken Behring’s spokesman, told the newspaper it was his understanding that David Behring decided to return the equipment to Kirkland because of the pending litigation.
The Behrings ``are still committed to relocating in California, but they have an organization to run and have a lease on the building in Kirkland,″ Elias said from Los Angeles.
But today’s editions of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quote David Behring as saying that the office reopening has nothing to do with litigation.
``The coaches and the scouts will be working in our draft room just going over all the information on the players. It will be that way for about two weeks,″ David Behring told the P-I. ``This was scheduled. Do not read anything into the office being reopened.″
In London on Monday, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he told Behring at the NFL owners meeting last week that it is ``inappropriate″ for him to operate the Seahawks in Southern California while the Kingdome lease issue still is in court and that there may be a way ``to stop them.″
Behring responded with a statement through Elias in Los Angeles: ``We have not heard any such statements directly from commissioner Tagliabue or any other league official.″
The P-I reports that several sources close to the Seahawks say Tagliabue and the elder Behring had an angry encounter during the NFL owners meeting n Chicago last week regarding the team’s decision to move equipment.
``Tagliabue had ordered him to send the stuff back. Behring said he wouldn’t,″ one source told the P-I on Tuesday. Tagliabue threatened to fine Behring an undisclosed sum.
Local leaders said they hoped Tagliabue’s stance on the matter indicates that the NFL owners are willing to vote against Behring’s move during their next meeting in March.
``Tagliabue wouldn’t do what he is doing without the encouragement and support of a significant number of owners,″ said Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.
On Tuesday, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce wrote Tagliabue, urging the league to take action to restrict unwarranted movement of NFL franchises.