Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012: No. 9 – Kings’ Arena Saga


January 18, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22), guard Marcus Thornton (23), point guard Tyreke Evans (13), shooting guard Francisco Garcia (32), and power forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) walk onto the court after a timeout during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Power Balance Pavilion. The Kings defeated the Pacers 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This is No. 9 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 10

If you collected tears from every Kings fan on April 14, 2012, you would have enough liquid to raise the Sacramento River by 3 inches.  The spring morning will live in infamy as the day hope was crushed to microscopic levels.  Disappointment is nothing new to the Kings faithful, as playoff collapses and 6 straight lottery appearances have come to define them.  But the evaporation of an arena plan in downtown Sacramento has induced nausea in the region as the team continues to flirt with relocation.

Despite recent news, the Kings’ future in the capital has been in question since the turn of the century.  The Maloof family, majority owners since 1999, expressed desire for a new building in the early 2000’s, but efforts led by Mayor Heather Fargo appeared half-hearted as proposals were shot down time and time again.

The closest effort came in 2006, when Measures Q and R allowed the public to vote on increasing the local sales tax to fund a new arena.

The propositions lost by an embarrassing margin.

Involved parties buried their heads in the sand until the 2010-11 season, when the Maloofs decided to move the franchise to Anaheim.  A frantic, desperate grassroots movement aided by Mayor Kevin Johnson achieved the impossible and pressured the NBA to block such a maneuver.  An agreement was made that Sacramento had until March 1, 2012 to orchestrate a financial blueprint for an arena or allow the Kings to file for relocation.

Making the most of 2nd opportunities, Johnson traveled to Orlando in February to make his case why the Kings deserve better.

As All Star weekend commenced, Johnson, David Stern and the Maloof brothers negotiated as fans nervously chewed their fingernails.  On Monday, an agreement was struck and Sacramento danced in celebration.

The future was bright, and rightfully so.  A state-of-the-art ballpark in 2015 would provide economic stimulus to a region burdened by the housing crisis.  Loyal ticket holders could anchor their seats as a Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins core reached its basketball prime.  A new roof could even attract half-decent free agents.

April 15, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings fan wears a bag over his head during the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

These dreams were abruptly halted when the Maloofs cried foul a month later.  Claiming the deal they agreed to was unfair for themselves and the city, the brothers suggested instead renovating 24 year old Sleep Train Arena, a gesture akin to giving Betty White breast implants.  Cold reality set in.

And with that reality, so returned the endless relocation rumors.

In August, gossip swirled that Virginia Beach attempted a serious pitch to recruit the Kings.  While moving the squad to a smaller market would make little sense, the same could be said in regard to the whole story line.

Almost simultaneously, radio personality Carmichael Dave reported that Seattle Billionaire Chris Hanson offered the Maloof family $400 million ($100 million more than the franchise’s estimated worth, according to to acquire the team and settle closer to Santa.  The Maloofs rejected his generous offer, affirming their stance to remain NBA owners.

For Kings’ fans who hadn’t fallen victim to psychosis, emotions were mixed and reality was numbing.  Was there someone to blame?

Mayor Johnson has seemed to be a hero throughout the ordeal, flying across the country and essentially begging NBA owners to preserve his hometown.  Most criticism has been voiced by fiscal conservatives, who believe his projected public spending for an arena is irresponsible.

Commissioner Stern has also avoided tar and feathers for his scripted words in support of the Kings, and allowing the club to move to Sacramento in the first place.  While Stern’s final say will be influenced by large piles of money, he surely recognizes the negative publicity which comes with relocation.

It leaves the Maloof family, the same individuals who propelled Sacramento’s best seasons, as the guilty party.  Once regarded as the best owners in the NBA, their countless contradictions and backhanded insults have caught up to destroy their once-glorious reputation.  Their recent greed may be tied to poor business choices in the last decade (like selling the Coors Brewing Company), but their current vision is pessimistic and short-sighted.  Sellout streaks or not, Sacramento is the 20th largest television market in the nation, so there are dollars to be earned.  The Maloofs need to create an entertaining product.

Until then, the city, roster and fans will remain bumbling losers.

The downtown rail yards, the proposed stadium location, is an unpopulated wasteland.

The team is 7-17 this season, good for 2nd worst in the Western Conference, due to selfish offensive possessions and disciplinary breakdowns on defense.

The cowbell banging, beer throwing purple-clad fanatics are overwhelmingly demoralized and spending their earnings elsewhere, such as the local dive bar.

The excitement of the Kings in their heyday feels as distant as a quality Eddy Murphy film.  For a wrinkle in time, the same energy and positivity reclaimed Sacramento as its residents looked to a new beginning, but the common man was cheated once again.  All the faithful can do is support their players and hope for the best, a regular theme for the last 28 years.  Unfortunately, saving the Sacramento Kings will require more than hope.

Stay tuned as we continue our countdown on December 19 with No. 8 on our Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012