NBA, Kings reach tentative arena deal
Building a new arena for the Sacramento Kings has never been closer to reality.
The city, the Sacramento Kings and the NBA announced a tentative deal Monday to finance a new arena that would keep the team in California's capital for the long haul. The City Council will vote on the plan March 6.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, NBA Commissioner David Stern and the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, emerged from three days of talks in Orlando, Fla., where they had been negotiating during All-Star weekend, to announce that the framework of a deal had been reached, giving fans some 3,000 miles away in the Central Valley reason to cheer for a comeback story that fittingly came straight out of Fantasyland.
''When we left Sacramento and came to Orlando, you guys asked me how close were we. I thought it was a free throw — and you need to make two free throws,'' Johnson told reporters at a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria at Walt Disney World. ''I think the city made the first free throw, and the Maloof family made the second free throw.
''It's game over.''
Well, almost. Under the proposed terms of the deal, the city will contribute $200 million to $250 million of the estimated $387 million for the arena, mostly by leasing out parking garages around the facility, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the full financing plan will not be made public until at least Thursday, said Sacramento also will create revenue through a ticket surcharge.
The Maloofs have agreed to contribute $75 million in upfront cash, which includes the sale of land around the team's current suburban arena, along with paying off a current $67 million loan to the city and contributing more over the course of the deal. Arena operator AEG also agreed to pay almost $60 million.
''It's great for our community,'' a tearful Gavin Maloof said. ''I'm glad it's finally coming to an end after 13 years. It's been a long road.''
The Kings almost moved to Anaheim, Calif., a year ago before Johnson and city leaders convinced the league to give Sacramento one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson, a former NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns, even called the process a ''slow death'' and likened the city's efforts to a ''Hail Mary.''
Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors last April to give the city a final chance to come up with an arena plan. He also bought time by presenting more than $10 million in commitments for new advertising, ticket purchases and other financial support from regional businesses for this season.
The NBA's relocation committee, headed by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett, who moved the team now known as the Thunder from Seattle in 2008, recommended that the league give the city a shot to follow through, and handed down a March 1 deadline to come up with a plan to help finance an arena.
In the end, the deal was strong enough to convince the Maloofs to stay — pending the City Council's approval.
''This is a great day for Sacramento, a great day for the Maloof family, a great day for the NBA'' Joe Maloof said. ''I'd like to thank the mayor for all of his hard work and efforts throughout the years and, of course, the commissioner for all of his support and everything he's done for the NBA. Our family is just so excited that we have the framework for a deal. We've always said we wanted to stay in Sacramento and now here's our opportunity.''
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, whose city nearly landed the Kings last year and remains the most likely option to lure the team if the deal crumbles, congratulated Sacramento while also reminding the league that Anaheim is a viable option in the future.
''Anaheim remains NBA-ready and I look forward to the day we will have our own NBA team, but today I offer my best wishes to Sacramento. Well done,'' Tait said.
Despite attempts by Anaheim and Seattle to swoop in and lure the Kings, the fate of the franchise is in the hands of the Sacramento City Council, which has approved every arena measure to date under the current project. The arena, which would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown Sacramento rail yards, is a vote away from breaking ground.
''I've had the great pleasure ... of opening up two arenas and I'm looking forward to opening up a third in Sacramento,'' Stern said. ''I want the Maloof family to get back to Sacramento fast because I've asked them to get those renewals out for next season.''