Sacramento deal doesn't put an end to Seattle's NBA hopes
Owners of the Sacramento Kings have reportedly agreed to a deal for a new arena with the city of Sacramento and the NBA, a move that will keep the team in Sacramento. But Seattle politicians and potential NBA team owner Christopher Hansen say they're pushing on with their efforts to build a new arena and bring NBA and NHL teams to Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Cheers from Sacramento on Monday don't necessarily silence Seattle's hopes of again hosting an NBA basketball team.
That was the message from Seattle-area politicians and Christopher Hansen, the man behind the plan to build a new arena in the Sodo District that would potentially house NBA and NHL franchises. The reaction came in the wake of news that the Sacramento Kings might be staying put.
Sacramento city leaders and the owners of the Kings announced Monday morning they had reached the framework of a deal to build an arena that would keep the Kings in Sacramento. The Kings have been regarded as the NBA team most likely to relocate to Seattle should plans proceed on a new arena here.
However, a spokesman for Hansen's group, Peter McCollum, told The Seattle Times on Monday that the news about the Kings will not deter Hansen.
"The Sacramento announcement doesn't change Chris' proposal or his commitment to build an arena in Seattle," McCollum said in an email. "He has already purchased the land and put a serious offer in front of the City (of Seattle) and (King) County. It's up to the City and County now to evaluate that proposal and decide how they want to proceed."
A spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said the city's focus remains on the arena proposal from Hansen, whose pledge of $290 million provides the foundation of a project estimated at $490 million. The public contribution from the city and county would be capped at $200 million and come from taxes generated directly from the arena and from rent paid by the teams.
"Our focus is on the proposal we have before us and the public review, which is under way," said Aaron Pickus, a McGinn spokesman. "Any talk about a team is between Chris Hansen and the league."
City Council President Sally Clark said she was happy for Sacramento, knowing how hard it was for Seattle to lose the Sonics. But she said her conversations with Hansen suggested that the Kings weren't the only team that might be lured to Seattle.
"I take Chris Hansen at his word. He said the arena deal wasn't about Sacramento," she said.
The deal to keep the Kings in Sacramento is not yet official. The Sacramento City Council will be given a proposal by Thursday and is scheduled to vote on it March 6. A major item the council will consider is a proposal to lease or sell parking rights in the city for up to 50 years for roughly $200 million, which would be contributed to the arena. At issue is how the city will make up for roughly $9 million a year it currently earns from those parking rights.
But the overwhelming feeling in Sacramento on Monday was one of celebration at the news of the proposed deal.
The Maloof family, which owns the team, plus Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA officials led by Commissioner David Stern met the past three days in Orlando, Fla., site of the NBA All-Star Game.
The sticking point in negotiations was reported to be the amount of the commitment to a $387 million arena plan that would be made by the Maloofs. The Maloofs have agreed to pledge $75 million up front and another $75 million in future revenue based largely off a ticket surcharge to events at the new arena, according to media reports. The surcharge is also expected to help cover the $9 million parking-revenue shortfall. And as part of the deal, arena operator AEG would contribute $60 million, up from a reported $53 million, according to The Sacramento Bee. The Bee also reported that the NBA will contribute to the deal, though that amount is unclear.
The Monday announcement apparently satisfied a provision that Sacramento deliver a financing plan to the NBA by March 1 and appeared to have the blessing of Stern, who was quoted by the league's official site, NBA.com, saying, "From an NBA perspective, the owners ... authorized me to be as supportive as we can possibly be in this process so that we could cement the future of the NBA in Sacramento."
The Bee reported that one of the team's owners, Gavin Maloof, left the negotiations in tears before announcing the deal.
"It's game over," said Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard with the Phoenix Suns.
Sacramento hopes to keep the Kings by building a new arena to replace Power Balance Pavilion, which was built in 1988 and now is the smallest arena in the league. Hansen's group is trying to build a new arena in the Sodo District south of Safeco Field and return the NBA to the city. The Sonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City in 2008.
The news out of Sacramento only added to what has been a stream of sobering news in the days since the city and county went public — amid much fanfare — with Hansen's proposal to build a new arena in Seattle. The proposal appears to be contingent on luring both NBA and NHL teams to give it enough dates to make it financially viable.
Stern also said last weekend that he expects to announce soon a buyer for the New Orleans Hornets, owned by the NBA, in a move that will keep the team in New Orleans. The Kings and Hornets had been regarded as the two most likely candidates for immediate relocation.
The commissioner also reiterated that the NBA has no plans to expand in North America.
Recent media reports also said the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL team deemed most likely to relocate, could soon have a new owner that will keep the team in Arizona.
For now, however, the Seattle arena effort will continue.
"Chris' proposal does not involve any public financing until a team is secured," said McCollum, Hansen's spokesman. "But getting an agreement with the City and County is a critical first step. Once that is in place, Chris will initiate a serious conversation with the NBA and show that he, along with the City of Seattle and King County are committed to building a world-class arena."
An Arena Advisory Panel appointed by McGinn and King County Council Executive Dow Constantine will meet for the first time Wednesday. The group will review financing and other details of Hansen's proposal to ensure that it protects the city from financial risk and complies with Initiative 91, which says the city must make a profit from any public financing of a sports facility.
The public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Bertha Knight Landes Room of Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave. The advisory panel will be led by former Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago, former Seattle Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon and former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens. A report is due back to the mayor and county executive in March.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta; staff reporters Steve Miletich and Lynn Thompson contributed to this article.