The future of the Kings gained only a little momentum this weekend during the All-Star break as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson met with as many of the leagues officials as he could. While Johnson met with several NBA owners, David Stern said he and the league are still awaiting Johnson’s official offer.
Johnson has vowed to deliver on his offer of new ownership, as well as a deal for a new arena by March 1. Stern has made it clear he does not have a say in whether or not the Kings stay in Sacramento or move to Seattle. He did add however that he “expect(s) the owners have a very open mind on this.”
The Hansen-Ballmer group has run into two major obstacles that could potentially be factors in derailing the Seattle groups efforts to buy and move the team. The Longshoremen’s union, as well as a taxpayer’s challenge of the funding plan for the proposed arena, already stand in the way of the groups pending sale. Stern has stated on several occasions that one of the major factors in the decision will be the plans for a new arena to be developed.
Mayor Johnson as well as the city still stand behind the plan approved by the City Council last spring. The deal would include $255 million in public subsidies. Stern personally played a role in negotiating the arena deal,committing $7 million in equity funding from the league. Johnson has stated several times that the Sacramento deal is far stronger then the Seattle groups deal.
While Johnson hasn’t publicly identified the potential investor team, it is very well known that the Bay Area financier Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle are putting together a competitive bid to buy the Kings. The city is still unsure whether or not the Downtown Plaza could serve as a potential arena site, as it would take away a substantial amount of the downtown parking.
One things is certain, though. In the wake of the Maloofs sale of the team to the Seattle based Hansen-Balmer group, the Kings have only won three of 13 games. The Maloofs continue to hurt the Kings, as well as damage the reputation of the NBA.
While speculation continues, the Kings season will be shadowed by the Maloof’s attempts to relocate the team. The City of Sacramento received very little comforting news this weekend, but may rest easy knowing that several NBA owners who have spoken with Mayor Johnson have stated that they do not favor the relocation of NBA teams.