Sacramento Considering Public-Private Funding Partnership For Proposed Kings Arena
Sacramento City Manager John Shirey tomorrow will ask the City Council “for the OK to enter into arena financing negotiations with a private investment group as early as Wednesday,” a sign that Sacramento's effort to build a new arena for the NBA Kings “is gaining urgency,” according to Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's Press Secretary Ben Sosenko on Saturday said that Johnson is “confident the private group would have a ‘competitive’ bid finalized to buy the Sacramento Kings by the end of the week.” That offer “would then be submitted” to the NBA. Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler noted city officials “continue to decline to reveal the names of the group they've been talking with during their effort in recent weeks to keep the team from being sold to a Seattle group.” Both Shirey and Johnson have “had recent informal talks with the group." Johnson's reps said that those talks "are going well after an initial hiccup two weeks ago" when the group asked if the city could provide more than the $255M it "was prepared to put into an arena project last year." Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said that Shirey's goal is “to bring a preliminary arena financing term sheet to the council for vote sometime before April 18.” Shirey on Friday “disclosed that the new investors had asked whether the city would go beyond" the $255M (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24). Meanwhile, a judge on Friday “tossed out a lawsuit that could have seriously disrupted Seattle's plan for a new NBA-ready arena.” But Sacramento officials “weren't putting much stock in the lawsuit and are relying instead on their own proposal to secure the Kings.” Shirey hours after the judge's decision said that he was “encouraged by preliminary talks last week on arena financing with a group of wealthy investors who want to keep the Kings in town” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23).
ONE MAN'S OPINION: In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak noted Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty “voted against the mayor's arena deal last year, and voted no again last week on Johnson's latest arena resolution.” He also sent an open letter to Shirey and the news media "asking whether public money should be used for an arena, whether the city would get a return on its investment and who would be responsible if revenues don't meet expenses.” But McCarty on Friday said that he "isn't opposed to the city helping finance a downtown arena.” McCarty: “I'd like to see a downtown arena. It's that I have a different vision of what an arena (financing) plan would look like, different than what has been put forward so far” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24).
STERN SITTING THIS ONE OUT? In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the decision on the Kings “could come down to sentiment.” NBA Commissioner David Stern “regrets yanking” the Sonics from Seattle in ’08, as he was “uncomfortable with moving a team from a city that had been loyal to the NBA for 41 years.” But he also “doesn’t want to penalize Sacramento for having financially struggling owners who have wanted to move the team for years.” Stern’s approach is to “mostly remain neutral and shift the decision-making responsibility to the Board of Governors” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24).
THE HERE AND NOW: The Kings on Thursday traded F Thomas Robinson, their top pick in last year's NBA Draft, to the Rockets for three players and cash, and ESPN's Bill Simmons called the trade an "embarrassment.” He said it “brought us back to 1978” when the “league was a mess.” Simmons: “They basically traded the fifth pick in the draft to make $2.2 million. You shouldn’t have to make trades for money in the NBA in 2013. It’s an embarrassment” ("NBA Countdown," ESPN, 2/22).