No high resolution image exists...
Think Big Sacramento Executive Director Chris Lehane said Monday that Friday’s spat with the Maloof family does not spell the end for an arena deal in downtown Sacramento, but that it was a setback that can be overcome.
“First of all, we’ve continued to believe that a downtown-based entertainment and sports complex makes tremendous sense for the city and the region for jobs creation and economic development,” Lehane said. “All of that continues to exist, and I think we need to explore alternative ways to move forward.”
Lehane said one option would be to follow the model of Kansas City, in which an arena was built without having a professional sports team as a partner. Another way could be to present the National Basketball Association with an alternate ownership group to replace the Maloofs.
“From the perspective of how we deal with the Kings right now, ultimately they are owned by the Maloofs, and that is what it is,” he said.
In a letter sent to Think Big Sacramento members on Sunday, Lehane outlined the arena effort over the past year, from initial talks of moving the team to Anaheim to exuberant collaboration with the city to Friday’s dissolution of the Feb. 27 handshake deal that provided the framework for an arena financing plan.
“The letter was a very straightforward effort to explain to people in layman’s terms how (the whole process) went down,” Lehane said.
In the four-page letter, Lehane wrote that the Maloofs attempted to renegotiate a deal that had been struck, then falsely claimed they sent a reworked term sheet to the city before the City Council approved the original term sheet March 6.
“One of the many reasons in a series of different reasons (the Maloofs) gave for backing out was that the deal was financially bad for the city,” Lehane said. “Then they offered a marked-up term sheet that would have been worse for the city.”
Think Big Project Manager Jeremiah Jackson told The Sacramento Press on Monday that Lehane’s letter clearly lays out the process, and he agreed with Lehane’s remarks about the Maloofs’ changes to the term sheet. Both Lehane and Jackson said the changes to the term sheet were not revealed before the City Council vote on March 6.
“On the one hand, they say the deal will be bad for the city financially, and they’re worried,” Jackson said. “On the other hand, their problems with the current deal are that the city is requiring collateral (for the loan), and they didn’t want to do a 30-year lease (on the facility) or pay predevelopment costs. Those are all things that put the taxpayers in a worse position.”
In one of the more strongly worded sections of the letter, Lehane took on the Maloofs’ financial concerns for the city.
“And then, on top of all of this, they asserted that the proposed deal was not in the best interest of the city, which coming from the Maloofs is a little like getting weight loss advice from Fat Albert,” Lehane said in the letter.
Downtown Sacramento Partnership Executive Director and Think Big Committee Member Michael Ault said Monday that the letter shows frustration with the current state of the deal.
“Chris obviously has been the driving force behind the leadership of the Think Big efforts,” Ault said. “I think what you’re reading is in large part based on personal frustration with the way this has transpired, but I think a lot of people are disappointed.”
Ault added that the local business community felt a sense of momentum generated by the process, and the death of the proposed deal is a setback, but not an end to efforts to build a downtown arena.
“From day one this has not been about the Kings or the Maloofs,” Ault said, echoing Lehane’s sentiments. “While they were an important piece, this is about the region’s desire, and building a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports complex is still a priority.”
Representatives for the Maloof family did not return phone calls on Monday.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.