Go Time: Sacramento vs. Anaheim at NBA meeting
In the world of professional basketball, Northern California is set to take on Southern California in two heated matchups over the next 24 hours. Only one of the competitions will take place on a basketball court.
Representatives from Sacramento and Anaheim are expected to appear before the National Basketball Association Board of Governors Thursday to discuss a Kings move to Anaheim and the future of basketball in Sacramento – just hours after the Sacramento Kings are set to go up against the Los Angeles Lakers at Power Balance Pavilion Wednesday night.
At the same time, different groups are working on efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento or form an ownership group for a new team if the Kings leave. The Kings must file a request to move by April 18.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson planned to attend the Kings’ last game of the regular 2010/2011 season, mayoral spokesman Joaquin McPeek said.
That could also be their last home game in Sacramento if the team moves to Anaheim before next season.
After the game, Johnson will fly to New York for a pivotal meeting involving the fate of the Kings. Johnson and Tim Romani, president of Colorado arena builder ICON Venue Group, are scheduled to address the board Thursday, McPeek said.
The mayor will stress the city’s commitment to the Kings and construction of a new arena, as well as a move to find financial backers to bring a new team here if needed. Romani will update other NBA team owners on the effort to build a new arena, according to McPeek and the mayor’s blog.
"The message will be brief, simple and honest: Sacramento has been a terrific NBA city," Johnson wrote in his blog Tuesday night. "We deserve a chance to maintain our place among other elite cities, if not with the Kings, then with another franchise."
The Maloofs, who own a majority share of the Kings, will also address the board. But whether they will formally request to move the team remained unclear Wednesday. The Maloofs won’t comment on their plans, said Troy Hanson, vice president of media relations for the Kings.
"They’re making a presentation to the board of governors tomorrow," Hanson said. "That doesn’t (necessarily) mean that they file for relocation."
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and City Manager Tom Wood will focus on Anaheim in their comments to the board. They will likely tell the NBA the city is ready for a pro basketball team, and its Honda Center was built for two professional teams, said Ruth Ruiz, spokeswoman for the Anaheim city manager’s office.
Billionaire Henry Samueli, president of Anaheim Arena Management, and other company representatives are also expected to attend.
A group called the Committee to Save the Kings has collected more than half of the roughly 10,000 signatures needed from Anaheim residents to possibly block $75 million in bonds to help the Kings move to Anaheim.
The Anaheim City Council agreed to issue the bonds on March 29. But a successful signature collection drive could force the issue to be decided by voters in June 2012 – which might block the Kings’ relocation.
Tuesday night, former Kings player Chris Webber announced on TNT’s postgame show he’s involved in a separate effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Others involved in that effort include Greg Van Dusen, who helped bring the Kings to Sacramento and later served as the team’s executive vice president; Arco Arena architect Rann Haight; Tom Peterson, the Kings’ former food and beverage vice president later put in charge of strategy and quality control for Maloof Sports and Entertainment; banker John Cassidy of Yuba City; and investment specialist Roger Stewart of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
Stewart represents an investment group that’s attempting to acquire the $77 million bond debt the Maloofs owe the city, in exchange for control or ownership of Power Balance Pavilion and surrounding land. However, the details of such an acquisition would still need to be worked out with the city, the county and the Maloofs, Van Dusen said Wednesday.
The arena and land is currently owned by Sacramento taxpayers.
Webber surprised the group Tuesday night after he discussed the ongoing effort on national TV. Webber has told them he’s willing to help lead a move to keep the Kings, Van Dusen said.
"He has the kind of charisma" needed to garner support, Van Dusen said. "The most spectacular years of his tremendous career were here in Sacramento. He has great passion for our community. He’s willing to put his money where his heart is – which is a blessing for us."
Stewart is still reaching out to more potential investors. The Kings have indicated they’re not interested in playing in a renovated arena. But the group believes one option could be to renovate the old Arco Arena, at least until a new arena can be built, Van Dusen said.
"If they have the chance to pull this off, it has the opportunity to buy us some time and be a real game-changer," he said.
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.