Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov are in "serious discussions to team up on a bid to buy the Sacramento Kings and partner with the city of Sacramento on a plan to help finance a new downtown sports arena," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. A source said that Burkle and Mastrov are "both committed to keeping the team in Sacramento and building the Kings into a contender." The source added that the teaming of Burkle and Mastrov is "seen by city officials as a 'dream team' counteroffer to the group that this week reached a deal with the Maloof family to buy the Kings and move the franchise to Seattle." The news that Burkle was "back in the hunt for the Kings" capped an earlier announcement by city Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday that "20 prominent Sacramentans had agreed to invest $1 million apiece for a minority stake in the team." Johnson in a press conference said that "ultrawealthy people with ties to California had expressed interest in buying the Kings, and that he hoped to unveil at least one as early as this week." The purchase offer would be "combined with a concrete plan to finance a new downtown sports arena when Johnson makes his pitch to reject the Seattle deal directly to the NBA's board of governors." Sources said that the Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has "agreed to buy the 65 percent of the Kings owned by the Maloofs and their Oklahoma business partner, Bob Hernreich." The agreement "values the Kings franchise at $525 million, meaning the Seattle group is willing to pay $341 million for the Maloof and Hernreich shares." Johnson's "wealthy investors would be expected to cover the majority of the $341 million offered by the Hansen group." Johnson said that he was "confident that his message would resonate with the NBA" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis listed the 20 local investors who have agreed to contribute $1M each to keep the Kings in Sacramento (SACBEE.com, 1/22).
SACRAMENTO'S SHOT: In Seattle, Bob Condotta reports the proposed Sacramento ownership group of Burkle and Mastrov also would "help finalize an arena deal as part of Johnson's four-point 'Playing to Win' plan to keep the team in Sacramento." Johnson said that he is "basing the plan on a similar approach used by San Francisco in 1992 to prevent the [MLB] Giants from moving to Tampa Bay" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/23). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states the attempt to keep the team in Sacramento "might seem like a half court heave at the buzzer," but those shots "sometimes go in, right?" That is why Sacramento "needs to fight hard to keep the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes, "It's long shots and Hail Marys now. ... But until you see those moving vans drive up? It's not over" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). Also in Sacramento, Jason Jones notes tonight's game against the Suns is the "first at Sleep Train Arena since the Maloofs, Hansen and the NBA confirmed the agreement." When reports of the negotiations surfaced this month, signs that were "pro-Sacramento and anti-Seattle and anti-Maloof could be seen sprinkled throughout the arena." With an agreement in place, there "figures to be a bigger statement made by fans tonight." Kings G Tyreke Evans said, "We go out and people ask us are we staying, are we leaving, but we're just like them. We have no clue. We just go out there and play. Nobody wants to see the Kings leave, so it's a tough situation for the fans" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23).
SEATTLE'S SITUATION: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson writes the latest designs for the proposed arena in the city's Sodo neighborhood "show shimmering walls of water along the west facade and on the stepped plaza to the main entryway." Hansen's architectural team yesterday "outlined ideas to make the facility environmentally sustainable, from capturing and reusing rainwater to solar heating and generating energy for the surrounding neighborhood." Meanwhile, the Mariners yesterday "again questioned whether South Massachusetts Street, at the north end of the arena site, and Occidental Avenue South, which approaches the site from the north, could realistically be closed during arena events." Hansen's design team has said that it would "like to close those streets on game days to create a pedestrian concourse." Mariners attorney Melody McCutcheon said that Hansen's reps had "preliminary conversations with Mariners management to address the street-use issues as well as whether the Mariners parking garage could be shared with the new arena" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/23).