The city of Sacramento moved a step closer to a showdown with Seattle by reaching agreement Saturday with private investors to build a downtown arena, mayor Kevin Johnson announced, an important part of the bid to keep the Kings.
The deal with Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, the original lead investors of the comeback bid, and now joined by Vivek Ranadive, a Warriors minority owner, had long been expected. Putting a group together that will attempt to buy the team if NBA owners deny the Seattle bid had been expected. And, today’s deal is expected to be approved by the Sacramento city council on Tuesday. These have all been predictable layers to a process of key unpredictable moments.
The news of Saturday and the near-certain upcoming news on Tuesday set the stage for the real developments next month. On April 3, officials from both cities and each group trying to buy the Kings from the Maloof family will be in New York for presentations to owners in advance of the Board of Governors meeting. It is at the Board of Governors gathering April 18-19, after the final certain game in Sacramento on April 17, that a vote will be taken on the agreement the Maloofs reached with the Seattle interest led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.
If the board – one representative from each team, usually an owner – approves the sale to Hansen-Ballmer, the Kings will be in Seattle next season, likely as the SuperSonics, and the efforts in Sacramento will be moot. But if the work of Johnson and the Ranadive-Mastrov-Burkle bid convinces the board to turn down Seattle, Sacramento would have a plan in place to buy the team and build an arena.
The deal announced Saturday is for a $448-million downtown arena close to where the city planned to build when it reached an agreement with the Maloofs about a year ago, only to have the family back out of the non-binding agreement after approval by the city council. The vote Tuesday is also non-binding, but with no indication the package would fall apart down the line after the new investors have been involved in negotiations.