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Sacramento Kings reach arena deal that may kill Anaheim's hopes

The team reaches a tentative financing agreement with the NBA and Sacramento for a new arena. Honda Center was ready to take the Kings if the Sacramento deal had fallen apart.

February 27, 2012|By Lance Pugmire

The Sacramento Kings' owners have struck a deal with the city and the NBA to pursue financing for a new downtown arena near the Sacramento rail yards that could open as soon as fall 2015, officials announced Monday in Orlando, Fla., following a weekend of meetings.

"It's a new day in Sacramento, a new day for this franchise and the NBA," said Jeremiah Jackson, project manager of the Think Big task force assigned by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to help keep the Kings in California's capital even as Anaheim and Seattle were positioning themselves as possible new homes for the franchise.

But Monday's development appears to be taking such a move off the table.

Jackson said Kings owners Joe, Gavin and George Maloof will contribute $75 million in "upfront" money to help pay for the estimated $387-million new arena. Staples Center operator AEG will also "provide more than we thought they'd do," said Jackson, a figure that last week was placed at $53 million by insiders.

Sacramento City Council members will be briefed on the key deal points Monday, Jackson said, and the full council will publicly "document everything" at Tuesday's planned meeting in advance of a March 6 meeting to "approve the terms of the deal."

The city has offered to provide $200 million through a parking deal.

"The team has delivered on its end, and now the city will have to deliver on its end, and everyone figures they will approve this public-private partnership," Jackson said.

Jackson said he "absolutely" believes Monday's development ensures the Kings will remain in Sacramento.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait saluted the Kings and Sacramento for reaching a deal.

“Congratulations to the Maloof family, Mayor Kevin Johnson and the city of Sacramento, and the Sacramento Kings organization and fans," Tait said in a statement. "As a sports fan, I know the value a professional sports team adds to a region. Anaheim remains NBA-ready and I look forward to the day we will have our own NBA team, but today I offer my best wishes to Sacramento. Well done.”

The Kings were poised to become the Anaheim Royals last year until NBA Commissioner David Stern urged the Maloofs to wait for specifics of a stronger financing deal for a new arena in Sacramento.

Stern, his deputy Adam Silver and attorneys sat in meetings with the Maloofs and Kevin Johnson through All-Star weekend in Orlando.

Jackson said a "big part" of the deal was establishing what the Maloofs -- saddled by financial trouble with their Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas -- could contribute toward the arena construction. George Maloof has been stoic about the team's future, given that Anaheim was offering a shiny arena that would be upgraded at no ownership expense, with a loan being promised by arena operator and Ducks owner Henry Samueli.

"Everyone knew there was a gap [in financing]. The Maloofs stepped up beyond our wildest imagination," said Jackson, adding that Gavin Maloof broke down in tears over his happiness at keeping the team in Sacramento.

George Maloof told the Sacramento Bee on Monday that his family would put in "close to $75 million upfront, probably another $75 million over the term of the agreement."

"We got something worked out, tentative. We're all very excited about it," he said. "We were skeptical about whether or not something could happen. ... We can finance that. ... We kind of bridged the gap of where we needed to be."

George Maloof told the Bee that the $75 million in future payments will partially be generated by extra ticket charges.

Mayor Johnson released a statement about the talks Monday:

"Today is a new day for Sacramento and a defining moment for our community. We came to Orlando needing to convert both ends of a one-and-one free throw. Over the weekend, the city hit the front end of the free throw by making clear it had delivered on its promises and, today, the Maloof family hit the second free throw by stepping up and increasing their contribution. The deal represents a true partnership with the Maloof family, the NBA, AEG, the city and the entire region that will generate more than 4,000 jobs and will transform our city. 

"It represents a new model for how arenas can be developed that will serve as economic engines for a community while protecting the taxpayers and making sure the economics work for the team. None of this would be possible without support across the board -- from the council to city staff to the entire community -- and that's what we've got in Sacramento.  I am as proud as I have ever been to be from Sacramento."

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