A day before National Basketball Association representatives arrive in Sacramento, regional leaders gathered in the state capital Wednesday to show their support for what has until now been the city’s effort to keep the Kings and build a new arena.
Kings fans and business leaders have launched a campaign called "Here We Purple" in anticipation of the NBA’s arrival. The movement grew on Facebook and Twitter, where organizers are encouraging everyone in the city to paint the town purple and wear purple clothes Thursday and/or Friday.
Elected officials from as far away as Loomis, Yuba City and Yolo County joined Mayor Kevin Johnson for an hour-long meeting and press conference he held to drum up support for the team.
Johnson will meet with Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, who chairs the NBA Board of Governor’s Relocation Committee, and NBA Executive Counsel Harvey Benjamin on their two-day fact-finding mission here Thursday and Friday.
The Kings and the arena where they play have been regional assets that have brought jobs, business, marketing opportunities and a national identity to the six-county region – which includes Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Yuba and Sutter counties, several leaders said.
"The NBA and the Kings span the entire region. They are not simply part of the city of Sacramento. They are one of the region’s most important assets," West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said during the press conference.
"We want to make it clear to the NBA that the entire region is standing behind Mayor Johnson, the city of Sacramento and the Kings to assure that the NBA remains a critical part of this community and this region," he said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Kings fans and businesses used social media to get the word out on efforts to swathe Sacramento and its residents in purple.
Grange Restaurant and Bar will put the "Kings Preservation" cocktail on the menu Thursday. The Midtown bar Alley Katz is offering $1 purple beers Thursday. Restaurants, bars and a movie theater are offering freebies and special deals for customers dressed in purple. The Esquire IMAX Theatre will give away free popcorn to anyone wearing that color.
On Wednesday morning, about 36 people representing all six counties, six to eight cities and four chambers of commerce met with Johnson at the headquarters for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, across from the Capitol. City Councilmen Steve Cohn and Jay Schenirer took part. Representatives were also sent by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, state Sen. Ted Gaines and U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui.
Yolo County Supervisor Jimmie Yee said he wants to work with leaders from throughout the region to figure out how to build a new arena to replace Power Balance Pavilion and keep the Kings in Sacramento.
"An entertainment center, not just for NBA basketball, but for all entertainment, is a regional asset," Yee said.
On Wednesday, Johnson did not mention another option he raised before the NBA team owners last week: that a group led by billionaire Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle buy the Kings to keep them here or bring in another team.
Neither Burkle nor his investment partner, San Francisco political strategist Darius Anderson, have been available for more comment on their plan since the NBA meeting.
On Friday, NBA Commissioner David Stern indicated Johnson’s "businesslike" approach and presentation to team owners were critical in getting the league to postpone the team’s relocation request deadline to May 2.
No details were available on the NBA’s visit or meeting with the mayor.
Several at the press conference outside Meridian Plaza, 1415 L St., credited Johnson with turning the conversation around in the last two weeks to refocus on a desire to keep the Kings and continuing the efforts to stop the team from moving to Anaheim.
In that time, Johnson has led a drive that’s raised at least $8 million in pledges of financial support for the team in the form of corporate sponsorships, luxury suite sales or next season tickets. He made a pitch to stop the Kings from leaving the city or at least protect Sacramento’s reputation as a viable NBA market when he appeared before NBA Board of Governors committees last week.
"It’s really critical and I think it’s phenomenal that we have been able to turn around that sentiment that, two weeks ago, felt like it was a done deal," Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Steve Gándola said. "Today, I really feel we have a strong shot at keeping them here."
The Sacramento Press will turn its website purple Thursday. Kings supporters can post photos of people dressed in purple and other creative ways people show support for this effort at www.sacramentopress.com.