SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The lengthy and sometimes-futile effort by the Kings, the NBA and local leaders to build a new arena and keep the team in town cleared its final major hurdle Tuesday night as the City Council voted 7-2 to approve the term sheet on a $391-million building scheduled to open in September 2015.
The decision, with approximately 250 fans and Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof and point guard Isaiah Thomas in attendance, effectively ends the 2011 bid by Anaheim to lure the team to Southern California and recent hopes in Seattle that renewed plans for an arena there could lead to a replacement for the SuperSonics. Anaheim’s pursuit the second half of last season had been so close to completion that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson sounded resigned to defeat in March and the final home game of the regular season felt more like a wake as thousands from the passionate fan base stayed in Power Balance Pavilion long after the final buzzer.
Nearly 11 months later, the greatest off-court comeback in NBA history is virtually complete. The council vote, while non-binding until an environmental report is finalized, clears the way for the city to move forward on several key fronts and essentially ends any serious threat of the Kings moving. The project to build the 18,500-seat arena downtown, a few miles south of the current location, is scheduled to begin within 30 days.
“A year ago,” Johnson said near the end of the debate and vote that lasted nearly four hours, “this was the longest of long shots.”
Afterward, addressing reporters and fans in the lobby of City Hall in a combination press conference-pep rally, the former Suns All-Star point guard said, “This is the culmination of a journey that started a long time ago” and called getting the fifth vote from the council to secure the majority “like we won a championship in Sacramento.”
As part of the agreement the team, the league and the city brokered during All-Star weekend in Orlando, the Kings are required to stay in Sacramento for 30 years.
“Tonight’s vote was an important next step in the process to construct a new entertainment and sports complex in Sacramento,” the Maloofs said in a statement released moments after the vote. “On behalf of our entire family and the Kings organization, we want to thank everyone who helped move this forward, especially the NBA, City Council, Mayor Kevin Johnson, the Think Big Sacramento Committee [formed to help get an arena deal], and most importantly, our dedicated employess and loyal fans. We’re all excited.”
In a related development, local hopes that a new arena in place of Power Balance Pavilion will lead to Sacramento landing an All-Star weekend are very premature with the city still believed to be far short of the necessary upscale hotel rooms and perhaps convention space as well. That has always been the primary holdup, not an outdated building.