SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The comeback bid to keep the Kings cleared another benchmark Tuesday as the city council approved a deal with private investors to build a downtown arena as a centerpiece of hopes to convince NBA owners to vote down the sale and relocation of the only major-league franchise in town.
The outcome, by a 7-2 margin at a City Hall meeting with several hundred people in attendance in the council chamber and an overflow area, had been expected. Once the predictable became official, Sacramento had the final major piece to present to the league at an April 3 meeting in New York: a deep-pocket ownership group and agreement on a $448-million dollar arena.
A group from Seattle has a purchase agreement with the current Kings owners, the Maloof family, with the intention of moving the team to Washington state next season, probably as the second coming of the SuperSonics. Sacramento, trying to close the deficit on the proactive and organized Seattle effort ever since being caught flat-footed with news the Maloofs were close to selling, has put together a package that local leaders believe shows the city will continue to support the NBA at a high level. The choice between two attractive bids will be made when the Board of Governors gathers April 18-19 in New York.
“We’ve done our part,” an energized Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said afterward. “What we did today by making a 7-2 vote, our audience was the Sacramento community, A, because we protected the tax payer and stayed true to our core tenant. Our other audience were NBA owners. They ultimately are the ones who make the decision. We didn’t want a 5-4 vote. We didn’t want a 6-3 vote. We wanted a minimum 7-2 vote because that would send a very strong message that this community is going to do whatever it takes, elected and otherwise, to build a brand new arena downtown. That’s our competitive advantage. That’s certainty. It is in their hands right now …
“The NBA has never, ever in the history of the NBA – it would be unprecedented to rip a team out from a city who’ve done everything that was expected of them. We’ve done everything possible. They need to know that you cannot take our team away from us. We did our part and we did it in a responsible way, and I’m really proud of our community.”
This is the second time in as many seasons the Sacramento city council has approved a non-binding arena deal. The nine-member body voted in favor in 2012, shortly after league executives brokered a compromise between Johnson and the Maloofs at All-Star weekend in Orlando, only to have the owners back out in a shocking development. The proposed arena in the 2013 plan is in a different location than before, though very close to the 2012 agreement.
Johnson said he e-mailed commissioner David Stern from the dais immediately after the 7-2 vote.