The owners of the Sacramento KIngs have backed out of a deal to build a new arena, raising hopes for a relocation to Seattle. The NBA would much rather find the Kings a new owner.
Despite an agreement that three weeks earlier had all parties celebrating, the deal to build a new arena in downtown Sacramento has collapsed, according to the NBA and Mayor Kevin Johnson. Blame for the failure is being laid upon the Kings’ ownership, the Maloof family, which backed out of the tentative deal.
NBA commissioner David Stern was unusually blunt in his assessment.
“It’s not going to happen, but I can say the city has stepped up,” he said Friday after an owners meeting in New York. “We have nothing further to give, to cajole, to yell, or all the various ways I’ve tried to keep the parties on track to get what we thought was a win-win in Sacramento.
“We had an agreement in principle, a framework, a deal. In my view, it was always subject to any party saying they didn’t want to do it. It was always nonbinding. And I think it’s fair for the Maloofs to say they don’t want to do that. If they had done that a little simpler, a littler earlier, and a little more directly, it could have saved a lot of angst and trouble.”
Speculation immediately focused on chances to draw the Kings to Seattle behind the $290 million committed to a proposed arena in SoDo by Seattle native and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen.
Through a spokesman, Hansen issued a statement Friday reiterating his hands-off posture regarding potential relocation candidates, but also used the moment as leverage to push city and county approval of the deal.
I believe our attention and efforts should instead be focused on finalizing our deal
to build the type of world-class sports arena that can host both the NBA and NHL,” the statement read. However, these developments are a reminder that franchise opportunities may arise quickly and in an unpredictable fashion, and so we should continue with our joint efforts to find an Arena Solution that best works for our City, County and the various constituents of our community and in as timely a fashion as is feasible to ensure we are in a position to take advantage of an inevitable opportunity when it arises.
A year ago, another arena deal in Sacramento collapsed, and the team seemed headed for a move to an arena in Anaheim. But Stern granted a one-year reprieve, which seemed to have produced a better deal.
But Stern’s desire is to find a buyer to get the Kings out of the Maloofs’ hands and into an ownership committed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento. The Maloofs have been steadfast in their desire to keep the team. In unrelated but influential NBA news, the NBA announced Friday that the New Orleans Hornets, owned by the league for two years, had been sold to Tom Benson, owner of the NFL Saints, for $338 million.
A similar price may be influential with the Maloofs, particularly if they know they are unwanted by the league or Sacramento.
If a relocation is necessary, Seattle’s biggest drawback is that KeyArena, judged inadequate by the NBA in 2006 when the Sonics were sold to Clay Bennett, who moved the team, would have to house the Kings for at least three seasons, assuring millions in operating losses before an arena could be opened.
The Hansen deal is still in its infancy, and its location in SoDo has drawn fire from the Mariners, the Port of Seattle and the industrial council.