Have patience? Seattle arena deal not set to Kings, Coyotes
The Kings and Coyotes have been considered the two teams most able to relocate quickly, but should they stay put, it does not mean the Seattle arena proposal is dead.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Potentially lost in the euphoria felt by Seattle sports fans from the unveiling last week of a plan to build a new arena here that would house NBA and NHL teams was the message that patience will be needed along the way.
Construction on a new arena won't begin until teams in the NBA and NHL agree to come to Seattle. And recent news reports involving some of the teams deemed most likely to relocate have now indicated increased chances of those franchises staying put.
Most notably, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA commissioner David Stern issued a joint statement Wednesday afternoon calling negotiations on a new Sacramento arena "constructive" and setting a new timeline that includes a March 6 date for the city council to vote on a financing proposal.
The Sacramento City Council had previously been set to vote Feb. 28. The statement said Johnson and Stern and their negotiating teams will work through this weekend to finalize a plan by March 1, the date the NBA had given Sacramento to come up with a viable financing strategy or else the team could be allowed to explore relocation options.
That news came on the heels of an interview Stern gave Tuesday night to TNT television in which he said that the owners of the Kings, brothers Joe and Gavin Maloof, "agreed to a substantial contribution" to the cost of building a new arena, which was considered a key component in getting an agreement.
Meanwhile, several reports out of Phoenix in recent days have suggested that a sale of the NHL Coyotes could soon be near, to a local group that would keep the team in Arizona.
The Kings and Coyotes had been considered the two teams most able to relocate quickly.
Should the Kings and Coyotes stay put, however, it does not mean the Seattle arena proposal is dead.
Peter McCollum, a spokesman for Chris Hansen — who made the proposal to help finance an arena in Seattle's Sodo District — wrote in an email to the Times that there is no deadline for securing teams.
"To my knowledge no deadline has been set, but Chris plans to initiate a serious discussion with the NBA as soon as an agreement is reached with the City and County," he wrote.
That agreement would be in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding with the city and county that Hansen would be able to take to the NBA in attempts to secure a team (he will not be involved in bringing an NHL team here). What happens first is an arena advisory panel, appointed by the mayor and the county executive, will examine the proposal from Hansen. After that, it will go to the city council and county council for consideration.
If the MOU is agreed upon at that point, Hansen would be able to take that to the NBA ownership meetings in April.
Frank Abe, the director of communications for King County Executive Dow Constantine, said Wednesday that "the timeline ultimately hinges on the ability of Mr. Hansen and the investors to secure the franchises."
He reiterated that the Seattle City Council and the King County Council are not involved in the process of helping bring teams to the arena, saying that part of the equation resides with Hansen and the investors.
"This will take time is the basic message," he said.
While some of the recent reports might have elicited optimism in Sacramento and Phoenix that their teams will stay put, matters are far from official.
Sacramento's city council still must approve a proposal to lease out the rights to parking garages in exchange for roughly $200 million that would go toward the arena. Some NBA observers noted that Stern's answer about the contribution by the Sacramento owners (perhaps $75 million to $100 million) included the statement that he considered money put in by AEG, the potential operator of the arena, to be part of the team's contribution.
Speculation in Sacramento had been that AEG would pony up $50 million up front.
Stern also left open the possibility that the contribution from the Maloofs might not be enough to seal the deal.
"Whether it ultimately closes all the gaps, we'll know as we negotiate," he said.
As for Phoenix, while there have been reports from several media outlets in recent days that a sale of the team is near — the team currently is owned by the NHL — league officials said nothing is imminent. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that he would be "very surprised" if there was any announcement this week and that "everything remains the same on the potential ownership front."
Stern seemed more clear about the future of another NBA team that some had speculated could also be a candidate to relocate, the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets currently are owned by the NBA. Stern said in an interview with USA Today that he is "optimistic and hopeful" that a sale will be completed "by the end of the month" to an unidentified group that would keep the team in New Orleans.
In the TNT interview, Stern also was asked about Seattle's proposal and said: "It isn't like, 'If you build it, they will come.' Because I wouldn't recommend to the NBA owners that they consider expansion. So you have to have an available team. And that involves, sort of, what's going on in individual cities, and I'd rather not be engaged in that. But I am always encouraging of cities that can put plans together for arenas."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @bcondotta