A year after keeping the Sacramento Kings for at least one more season, the California capital will apparently hold on to its NBA team for much longer under a deal for financing a new arena approved by the city council Tuesday.
By a 7-2 vote, the council approved a plan that would privatize city parking garages and lots to help fund a $391 million downtown facility for the Kings, who have been in Sacramento since arriving from Kansas City in 1985. A ticket surcharge is also part of the financing.
The Maloof brothers, owners of the team since 1999, city officials, including Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who grew up in Sacramento, and arena operator AEG reached a tentative agreement on the deal last week after wrapping up talks at the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. The league had given the city a March 1 deadline to come up with an arena plan.
Under the deal, the Kings are making a 30-year commitment to Sacramento. Construction in the downtown rail yards is expected to begin by next spring with an opening of the facility tentatively scheduled for the 2015-16 season.
The Kings now play at 17,317-seat Power Balance Pavilion, formerly ARCO Arena. That facility, built in 1988, has the smallest capacity in the NBA. The Maloofs are expected to contribute $73 million and AEG $58 million toward the new arena.
The Kings are 24th in the 30-team NBA in attendance, averaging 14,893 a game after 14 home dates this season. The Kings have an average ticket price of $48.17, which is just about at the league average of $48.48.
“I think this community did everything it could to put us in position for this historic Sacramento moment,” Johnson told the media after the council vote. “A year ago, this was the longest of long shots. That’s one heck of a comeback.”
Last April, many observers thought the Kings had played their last game in Sacramento. Brothers Gavin and Joseph Maloof were ready to move the team to Anaheim, Calif. Johnson and other city officials convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to keep the team. The NBA’s relocation committee granted the request and issued the March 1 deadline.
Coincidentally, that NBA relocation committee is headed by Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, who after the 2007-08 season, moved his team from Seattle, where they were the known as the SuperSonics. Last month, with an eye on developments in Sacramento, hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, a Seattle native, unveiled a plan to contribute $290 million of his money for a new downtown arena in Seattle, near Safeco Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners.
Hansen expressed his desire to lure an NBA and NHL team to the facility. There was talk of the Kings moving 750 miles north and, at least temporarily, into the Sonics’ old home, Key Arena. With Sacramento now apparently out of the mix, the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets are another relocation candidate. In the NHL, the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes could be a possibility in Seattle.
Seattle is wary of providing public funding for an arena after being burned by the Sonics’ departure four years ago. According to the Seattle Times, public funding would be limited to $200 million. Taxes — including a ticket surcharge — and rent on the arena would help repay the public contribution.