HANG TIME WEST – Making official what had been obvious all along, leaders in Virginia Beach, Va., said Tuesday they had no hope of luring the Kings this year and at least temporarily ended the attempt to get the team to relocate from Sacramento.
Mayor Will Sessoms told the Virginian-Pilot that “The city is kind of withdrawing…” and “The city doesn’t see a clear opportunity at this point and as such it’s not something we’re aggressively going after.” He told the Sacramento Bee that “This just ain’t gonna work at this point in time.”
What Sessoms apparently did not tell anyone but should have: “We didn’t ever have anything close to a concrete deal to offer the Kings. We wanted a firm commitment from them when we could not offer the same in return.”
It was questionable whether the Kings would have jumped coasts even under the best of circumstances – Virginia Beach would have been a small market with no recent history of major-league sports, no local ownership, and looking to energize a fan base long-term with a team that has been rowing in circles for years. Under these circumstances, though, it was the equivalent of trying to buy a house without any idea of how much the bank was willing to lend.
The deal called for the city to contribute $241 million, the state to add $150 million, and another $35 million in corporate backing from Comcast-Spectacor. One small problem: Virginia wasn’t in for the $150 million. Gov. Bob McDonnell said in December he would not request the funding in his 2013 budget.
Virginia Beach officials dismissed that setback and said they could re-apply for the money when the state General Assembly reconvenes, but that never happened. Local government leaders say they needed a commitment from the Kings to move forward – the team was never specifically named, but the identity was no secret – while the Kings understandably would not sign on without knowing all the specifics. They already had buyer’s remorse on a deal with Sacramento and the NBA to stay in California and backed out after agreeing to a new arena plan in their current home, so they weren’t going to go far down this road with so many unknowns.
In truth, the team’s owners, the Maloof family, were never emotionally invested in Virginia Beach as much as listening to offers in the never-ending search for a solution to the stalemate in Sacramento. It was the Maloofs’ idea to not have the Kings identified as the potential tenant, a silly game that played out while Team X was named in reports most every step of the way. Virginia Beach officials were disappointed in the insistence on secrecy on a secret that didn’t exist, knowing that making the idea of the NBA in town more tangible could have generated important enthusiasm.
The Virginia Beach offer that included a new 18,500-seat arena and $80 million for the Maloofs to offset relocation costs had the credibility boost of backing from Comcast-Spectacor, but was too much a swiss cheese of an offer. In the end, Sessoms said he called off the chase because of time demands at the state level to have any hope of securing the $150 million for Some Mysterious Team to apply for relocation before the NBA’s March 1 deadline.
It was true in the logistical sense, but also a fine bit of political spinning by the mayor to say the city is suspending efforts when the inability of local government to arrange financing was a major holdup. The other being that the Maloofs may never have wanted to go there anyway, but, either way, they had no way of making a decision without knowing the full details of the deal.
Tuesday’s announcement only means Virginia Beach is backing off for now. It can try again in the future, when the Kings will likely still be in a state of uncertainty with signs stronger than ever after this development that the team will be in the same place next season despite the lack of progress on a Sacramento arena.