SACRAMENTO—Humpty Dumpty almost had a great fall and all the Kings’ men were around to put Humpty back together again, just in case.
But last Monday, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings averted a grievous plunge and a tangle of financial and bureaucratic arrangements elsewhere.
The Maloof family, which owns the team, has decided to stay in Sacramento after agreeing on the pieces of a $387-million plan to build a new arena in the downtown railyard that would keep the franchise in town for the long haul.
The deal was announced by NBA commissioner David Stern, the Maloofs and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson after a series of talks during the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando, Florida. It came three days before a league deadline today (Friday in the Philippines).
Without a new arena, the Kings almost moved to Anaheim, near Los Angeles a year ago before Johnson, a former NBA player, and city leaders convinced the league for one last shot to build a new home for the Kings. The league in turn gave them until March 1 this year to come up with an arena financing plan or bid the team goodbye.
The “term sheet” of the deal is under wraps, but published reports said under the proposed terms, the capital city will chip in $256 million to the estimated price tag of the arena through a ticket surcharge and mostly leasing out parking garages around the new facility.
The Sacramento Bee reported that what sealed the agreement was the Maloofs and their commitment to stay put in Sacramento. They capped their pledge by agreeing to contribute $75 million in up-front cash, including the sale of land around the 24-year old Power Balance Pavilion. The family would also pay off a current $67 million loan to the city and contribute over the course of the deal.
AEG Entertainment Group, owner of the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the LA Galaxy, for which soccer superstar and Azkals supporter David Beckham plays, would also pay almost $60 million for the right to operate the new arena.
“Today is a new day for Sacramento and a defining moment for our community,” Johnson said in a statement.
The fate of the franchise is now in the hands of the Sacramento City Council whose approval of the agreement is required. After identifying and avoiding what the Bee described as “hidden land mines of concealed costs,” the council will vote on the deal next week.
While the arena talks were at crucial stages, Anaheim and Seattle—two NBA-less major cities in bigger markets and with more basketball fans, including Filipinos, than Sacramento—were poised to swoop in and lure the Kings.
Two billionaires and a multimillionaire with links to the two cities also watched from the sidelines, just in case.
Not making any move was Filipino business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, whose basketball brain overflowed last year, finally pushing it over the brim with a bold statement.
“If we proceed (to invest in the Kings) we’ll be seeking a majority stake,” Pangilinan told an Inquirer reporter last May—dousing more fuel to non-stop talk that he would lead investors cobbled together by former Kings superstar Chris Webber for a takeover of the Sacramento franchise.
MVP’s pronouncement after a whirlwind trip to Sacramento to meet with Webber titillated our basketball-crazed nation and became the staple of sports headlines of our newspapers.
Conspiracy theorists will likely emerge from the shadows once more and whisper among themselves whether MVP’s overture for the Kings was genuine.