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SBD/March 17, 2011/Franchises
Royal Flush: NBA Kings Appear To Be Laying Groundwork For Name Change
Published March 17, 2011
ADVICE FROM THE EXPERIENCED: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that he “has arranged to speak with the former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., about how that city dealt with losing an NBA franchise -- then getting a team back.” In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis noted Johnson's request is “yet another sign he is operating under the assumption the Kings are leaving.” Johnson: "There are things that we can do to prepare for life after the Kings, if they do in fact go to Anaheim." Johnson wants to talk with former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory "about how Sacramento can ‘keep our spirits up’ and get a new arena built should the Kings leave.” After the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans in '02, the Bobcats joined the NBA in '05 to open Time Warner Cable Arena, which “cost an estimated $260 million and was built with the help of public funding.” Johnson: "That could be a telling city for us to study when it comes to our potential predicament in Sacramento" (SACBEE.com, 3/15).
WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG: In Sacramento, Dale Kasler noted "barely a decade ago, the Kings were an elite NBA contender, with a packed arena and a richer payroll" than their rival Lakers. So then "how did they become a bargain-basement franchise, possibly headed to Anaheim?" The answer "lies in an almost seismic shift in the NBA landscape. The economic recession "widened the gap between the NBA's haves and have-nots,” and a “new breed of mega-wealthy owners outspent their competitors, including the Kings.” Kasler noted the “financial trouble for the Kings began in 2005, when a handful of sponsors pulled out, including Southwest Airlines.” Among those “defecting was Quest, a Sacramento tech firm, which gave up its luxury suite and sponsorship worth a total of $500,000 a year.” Quest CEO Tim Burke said, "The enthusiasm for the team was dramatically waning, and we could see that coming down the road." The Kings' 354-game home sellout streak “ended Nov. 6, 2007, a month before the recession started.” Kasler noted the “decline of the Kings has coincided with troubles for their owners." The Maloofs were "labeled billionaires by Forbes in 2003, but they've been hit hard in recent years” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/16).