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
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.