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Capital gains as Kings stay put

The NBA team, which had explored move to Anaheim, will remain in Sacramento, at least for one more year.

May 03, 2011|Lance Pugmire

The Sacramento Kings on Monday granted their loyal fans a one-season reprieve from losing the city's only major league franchise to Anaheim but made it clear there is still work remaining to keep the NBA team in the state capital beyond next season.

"They have to show us a plan and how the [new] arena will be financed," said George Maloof, a partner with his brothers Joe and Gavin in the Kings' ownership group. "We've been down this road before, but we have respect for the community. . . . We're going in with blind faith."

The Maloofs faced a Monday afternoon deadline by the NBA to decide whether to apply to the league's Board of Governors for relocation to Anaheim.

NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters in a conference call Monday that "a vigorous effort" had begun to "engage Sacramento in a campaign for a new building," and that the Maloofs agree "it was really worth a final herculean effort to get this arena on track in Sacramento."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, May 05, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Sacramento Kings: In the May 3 Sports section, an article about the decision by the Kings NBA franchise to remain in Sacramento misspelled the last name of Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait as Taut.

Sacramento's incentive is the NBA-ready Honda Center in Anaheim.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Taut said Monday "the final chapter has not been written" in his city's efforts to bring an NBA franchise to the arena.

"Anaheim made a great pitch as a stand-alone market," Stern said. "Anaheim is in the future of the NBA. This process only moved it along, rather than detracted from it."

Kings ownership made that clear, closing its prepared statement by saying, "If an arena plan cannot be finalized in a timely fashion, the NBA's relocation committee has assured [us] it will support an application to move the franchise to another market starting in 2012-13."

The Maloofs' plan to bring a third NBA team to Southern California was proceeding smoothly until April 14, when Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-Star guard for the Phoenix Suns, presented an offer that impressed the Board of Governors.

Johnson told the NBA in New York that he'd mobilized corporate support, which has since escalated beyond $10 million for sponsorship and tickets for the Kings, and that Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burke had joined the effort to either invest in the Kings or help construct a downtown Sacramento sports and entertainment complex, or both.

The NBA then extended the relocation deadline to Monday, and The Times reported April 22 that league executives wanted the Kings to play another season in Sacramento, their home since 1985.

The Maloofs are now afforded some time to let Johnson try to sustain his rally to fund an arena, with minimal assistance from owners who have been hit hard by the economic downturn as proprietors of the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. "Quite frankly," George Maloof told the Sacramento Bee, "we are not going into this with a big checkbook."

And they don't need to fight a pricey antitrust battle against the league, either. League officials said before Johnson's impressive pitch that Lakers owner Jerry Buss had a resistance group in place that included mega-market owners Donald T. Sterling of the Clippers, Jerry Reinsdorf of Chicago and James Dolan of New York, as well as Lawrence Tanenbaum of Toronto.

With the Sacramento momentum growing after a relocation committee tour of the city swayed Stern, the Maloofs "looked at all our options," George Maloof said, and reasoned that giving the faithful citizens another year was "a fair deal."

Sacramento's plan was prepared by the ICON Venue Group and locally based David Taylor, who were hired by the city after the last arena plan fell through. ICON is partly owned by AEG, which owns the NHL's L.A. Kings, built Staples Center and is Buss and Sterling's landlord.

With far-flung interests including an NBA-ready arena in Kansas City, Mo., and unmistakable clout -- its newest project is Los Angeles' proposed downtown NFL-ready football stadium -- AEG liked the NBA Kings better where they were.

"There was no arm twisting," Stern said. "It'd be fair to be skeptical" about Sacramento's ability to build an arena. "This may be that special moment. . . . We're feeling pretty good about the prospects. If we're wrong, we're wrong."

George Maloof said his brothers have yet to review the presentation Johnson made to the NBA.

"The mayor represented he can get it done, that he had the plan, and now we're coming back to listen," Maloof said. "We all got on board to give Sacramento another shot, even though we've tried and tried again in the past."

Maloof declined to comment when asked what his family's financial commitment to a new Sacramento arena would be but made it clear public dollars and other private support are necessary: "As hard as it is to ask the community for something -- we know these are hard times -- we're interested in hearing what the mayor has to say."

Stern said he expects arena designs, concept, funding and a construction timeline to emerge this year.

Otherwise, the Maloofs have the option to apply for relocation by March 1, 2012.


Times staff writer Mark Heisler contributed to this report.

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