Stern hopeful, skeptical about Sacramento arena

NBA Commissioner David Stern sees the energy of Sacramento’s

mayor and business community, and it gives him hope of a future

there for the Kings.

He also sees years of failure on a plan for a new arena, so

there’s just as much skepticism.

”I would expect, given the number of failed arena opportunities

that exist here, or that have occurred, I think it would be fair

for many of the people on this call to be skeptical about whether

or not there will finally be a successful path and a critical one

to an arena,” Stern said Monday during a conference call.

”But this may be that special moment where forces join together

for this opportunity, realize what the needs are for a sports and

entertainment complex for greater Sacramento.”

The Maloof family’s decision not to file for relocation to

Anaheim before Monday’s deadline gives Sacramento another year to

come up with a plan for the new building that the Kings and the

league believe is necessary for the team to survive there.

So Sacramento gets another try – and in Stern’s eyes, there

won’t be another.

”If this becomes yet the fifth or sixth or seventh (failure),

it’ll be the last, as far as we’re concerned, effort with respect

to an arena,” Stern said.

The NBA has become so dubious of a new building for California’s

state capital that Stern recently said talk of it was usually an

”eye-roller” among league officials. Yet he saw a renewed reason

for optimism after a presentation by Mayor Kevin Johnson last

month.

Stern said he is sending a team of nine league officials to

Sacramento this week to assist with marketing, tickets and the

arena. But the league has long been assisting the Maloofs in their

quest to find financing for a replacement for the former Arco

Arena, and Stern has the same view as co-owner Joe Maloof, who said

earlier Monday that his family doesn’t ”have the answer.”

The hope is that Johnson does. The former NBA All-Star impressed

league owners with his pitch to them the day after the season

ended, and by leading the drive to arrange $10 million in

sponsorship pledges from the corporate community in just weeks.

And he vowed that Sacramento will have a new sports and

entertainment complex, whether the Kings stay or not.

Stern contrasted the efforts of Johnson and other Sacramento

leaders with those of Seattle in the final hours of the

SuperSonics. Stern personally had traveled to Washington state in

efforts to help arrange funding for a renovation or replacement for

Key Arena, but left believing some politicians weren’t interested

in saving the team, which eventually moved to Oklahoma City.

”I guess what I would say is in Seattle, there was a hostility

by the mayor, who was interested in doing nothing, as opposed to

what Mayor Johnson has, the way Mayor Johnson has put himself out

on this for the people of Sacramento,” Stern said.

”The Speaker of the House was hostile to the NBA and its

players and was not the least bit interested in moving any

legislation even that just authorized the county, King County, to

do that which it might have done to help support an arena. Whereas

here, we have Senator (Darrell) Steinberg calling to say, you know,

‘Any way in which I can be helpful.’ You know, to call it night and

day, it’s absolutely an incredible difference. And it is night and

day. It’s 180 degrees difference.”

Stern said losing the Sacramento market would be a ”grave

failure” given its history of being a supportive fan base. He said

the Maloofs haven’t expressed any concerns to him about the size of

the Sacramento market, but he shares their worries about whether an

arena will ever be built.

”With respect to the issue of an arena, I think anyone who’s

watched this over the last decade or so has the right to say,

‘We’ll see.’ That’s all,” Stern said.