The Sacramento Kings Arena Saga

Once word broke that the Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings, were negotiating a $500 million sale to Chris Hansen and his group, there was plenty of celebration in Seattle. This was also unbelievable bad news to those who had spent the last 27 seasons supporting the NBA’s version of a mobile home. That being said, there was still some hope in Sacramento; that hope hinged on their ex-NBA superstar mayor (Kevin Johnson), and the fact that the Maloofs would probably Maloof their way out of this deal.

So what exactly does” the Maloofs would probably Maloof their way out of this deal” mean? Well if you have paid any attention to the saga that has been the Sacramento Kings over the last seven years, you would know what that meant. That being said, I know most of my readers are still trying to get over the Sonics departure and haven’t been paying attention to a much, much more twisted story going on in the Capital of California.

Don’t worry, that’s why I am here. Earlier on I asked Nate Hughart to write this piece; unfortunately after he agreed to write that piece, the word of the negotiations between Hansen and the Maloofs broke, so he wrote a timeline instead (and he did a fantastic job). Instead what you guys are getting is a look at a couple of the lowlights in the Maloofs pursuit of a new arena/screwing Sacramento. These lowlights are; the 2004 City Council negotiations; the Anaheim relocation debacle; the Think Big Sacramento project based around a downtown arena; the Maloofs backing out of that deal; and the 2012/2013 relocation saga.

The Sacramento Kings have played in Arco II/Power Balance Pavilion/Sleep Train Arena since 1988. That building was causing the team to lose cash fast in the late 1990s so their previous owner (Jim Thomas) took out a $70 million loan from the city. In 1999 the Maloofs become the majority owners after buying out Thomas, thus began the craziness in Sacramento.

After a couple of exciting playoff runs in 2002 and 2003, the Maloofs begin to make noise about the inadequacy of Arco Arena. The City Council decided to sit down with the Maloofs and work out an arena deal; the idea is to keep the Kings in Sacramento for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for the Kings and their fans, Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo kept making mistakes on potential arena sites. As the negotiations in 2004 continued, it became pretty clear that the City was going to ask the Maloof brothers to put a significant amount of  their cash into the arena. Eventually, they stormed out of a city council meeting and killed any attempt at an arena for the next five years.

The next time a new arena for the Kings would gain any significant political traction was in 2011; after the Maloofs had applied for relocation to Anaheim and the Honda Center. There was major scrambling within the NBA and the City of Sacramento.  Unfortunately for the Maloofs (and fortunately for Sacramento), by trying to move to Anaheim the Maloofs were trying to force their way into the Los Angeles market. That would make the Kings the third NBA team in the LA market, and that was just unacceptable for the two other teams in the market.

The Clippers and Lakers threw a fit at the Board of Governors meeting about the Kings potential relocation to Anaheim. As a result the Maloofs first attempt at relocation fell through. They were stuck in Sacramento; even worse David Stern was going to force them to negotiate an arena deal there too.

Sacramento had to feel secure, they had just received a second chance from the NBA because of the Clippers/Lakers, they have a Mayor who has David Stern’s ear, and they have a City Council committed to redeveloping Sacramento’s downtown.  To help keep the Kings Sacramento went the Oklahoma City route and decided to revamp their downtown area, with an Arena as the center piece.

The NBA helped the City negotiate the deal with the Kings. During the 2011-2012 season All Star game the deal was agreed upon in principal. According to this deal a $391 million arena at the Rail Yards site would be built, here is how the funding broke down;

  • $250 million would be public funds from the City.
  • Entertainment giant AEG would chip in an unknown amount (probably $66 million).
  • The Maloofs (actually the NBA) would chip in $75 million to the new building.

Apparently having a basically free arena was not enough for the Maloofs; they backed out of the deal less than a month later. The Kings future in Sacramento became tenuous, again.

Fast forward to this season; Hansen’s arena deal with Seattle is getting solidified, the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia puts forward its own arena proposal, and the kings are still stuck in a building that is in some dire need of maintenance. Virginia Beach pretty much offered up a free arena to the Maloofs; the City, State, and Comcast Specter would build the arena AND pay the relocation fee for the Kings. Again a free arena proved to not be enticing enough, as the Maloofs apparently refused to sign their names on paper; killing the plans in Virginia Beach, for now.

That leaves us with the rumors that the Maloofs are preparing to sell the club to Hansen and his group for a whopping $525 million price tag. There are also three confirmed potential local buyers that want to keep the Maloofs in Sacramento; one of these groups actually has an arena plan that competes with the Rail Yards Arena plan. Now before you get all excited about the fact that it’s going to be hard for anyone to compete with Hansen-Balmer’s offer, you need to realize a few things;

  • The Kings owe the NBA roughly $200 million, and they owe Sacramento roughly $67 million.
  • Any local buyer would inherit the Kings current payment plans for the debt to the City; Hansen and company would have to completely pay that debt off before moving to Seattle.
    • That means that for the Maloofs to make the same profit off of a local buyer, the local buyer would only have to offer around $425 to $450 million for the team.

Sacramento has done everything in its power to keep the Kings; the Maloofs just keep on Maloofing their way into debt and into the Board of Governors dog house.  It has become crystal clear that the Kings will be sold and sold soon; the only question is; will it be to a local buyer or Hansen-Balmer? Honestly, I hope it’s to a local buyer who keeps the team in Sacramento; look here for my justification.

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