SBD/January 16, 2013/Franchises

Mayor Kevin Johnson To Present Sacramento Group's Kings Bid To NBA BOG

Johnson likely will present an offer to the league's BOG in mid-April
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that he has been “granted an audience” with the NBA BOG to “present a competing bid that would prevent the Maloof family from selling the Kings to a group from Seattle," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson “plans to present at least one ownership group" directly to the BOG, “probably in mid-April in New York.” Johnson spoke with NBA Commissioner David Stern over the weekend and said that he “wants his plan finalized before the March 1 deadline for the Kings to seek relocation.” Meanwhile, a “powerful ally for Sacramento came forward” yesterday when AEG, which pledged $59M to a downtown arena project abandoned by the Maloofs last spring, said that it is “still committed to the idea.” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said of Stern, "To the commissioner's credit, I don't think he ever forgot about Sacramento." He added that Stern “does not like to move franchises.” Leiweke said that AEG will “let the city take the lead on choosing a location for the arena.” Even though AEG has been put up for sale, he said that the company’s “commitment to the Sacramento project hasn't wavered.” Johnson's strategy to match Seattle's bid "isn't just about finding a local group to buy the team.” Johnson said that he “will also try to convince the NBA that Sacramento is the better market for the Kings.” The key to Johnson's plan is “persuading a potential owner to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the Kings and a new downtown arena.” Johnson said the Maloof family "can participate in some way" in the new Sacramento ownership group "if they want to remain a part of this team and this community” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16). 

SLEEPY IN SEATTLE? In Seattle, Gene Balk noted despite this week’s “press frenzy,” market data shows that the Seattle metro area "has one of the nation’s lowest levels of interest in the NBA.” In surveys conducted during ‘11 and ‘12, only 4.1% of people in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area expressed a "very high" level of interest in the NBA. That ranks Seattle 75th out of "the 78 major markets surveyed." The area’s enthusiasm for pro basketball is “lower now than in many cities that never had a team at all.” The percentage of “hardcore NBA fans" in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area is 62% below the national average, which “couldn’t get much worse.” In '05, three seasons before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City, the market "only ranked 27th for the percent of the population with the highest level of interest in the NBA." That number was 10% below "the national average that year” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/15). Also in Seattle, Levi Pulkkinen reported a longtime opponent of new stadiums has “sued the city of Seattle in an effort to stop the city from helping to fund a basketball and hockey arena proposed for the Sodo neighborhood.” Mark Baerwaldt of Citizens For More Important Things and two other Seattle residents contend that a memorandum of understanding, signed by the city, King County and the hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen's investor group, "is illegal and has asked a county judge to nullify the agreement” (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/15). Johnson said, “I hope Seattle gets another team. They deserve another team. They didn’t deserve to lose their team in the first place. It just won’t be the Sacramento Kings if we have anything to do with it” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/16).
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