Sacramento approves arena plan to keep Kings

Sacramento approves arena plan to keep Kings
March 7, 2012, 6:26 am
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SACRAMENTO -- The only place the Sacramento Kings are moving to is a new downtown home in California's capital.A year after almost being wiped off the NBA map, Sacramento cleared the most critical political hurdle late Tuesday night when the City Council approved a plan to help finance an estimated 391 million arena. The non-binding term sheet, signed off by the Kings and the NBA last week, will keep the team in Sacramento for at least another 30 years.Cheers rang out from supporters who cramped the council's chambers when the plan passed by a 7-2 vote and pushed the city's portion of the agreement forward. Binding contracts from all sides, which are expected to be a formality, could be signed as soon as April.
"This is a culmination of a journey that started many, many years ago," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who spearheaded the project. "I think this community did everything it could to put us in this position for this historic Sacramento moment."Tonights vote was an important next step in the process to construct a new entertainment and sports complex in Sacramento," the Maloof family said in a statement. "On behalf of our entire family and the Kings organization, we want to thank everyone who has helped move this forward, especially the NBA, City Council, Mayor Kevin Johnson, the Think Big Sacramento Committee, and most importantly, our dedicated employees and loyal fans. Were all excited.
Under the agreement, the city will contribute 255.5 million to the project, mostly by leasing out parking garages around the facility. The city is also exploring an option to establish a parking authority instead.The Kings have agreed to pay 73.25 million and arena operator AEG will contribute 58.75 million. The remaining gap will be covered by a ticket surcharge, advertising around the facility, the sale of public lands and a sponsorship campaign to sell bricks and plaques around the complex. Construction is expected to begin in the late spring or early summer next year on the arena, which would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown rail yards.The meeting packed the council chambers to its capacity of about 500 and residents on both sides clogged downtown with signs, shirts and even songs.
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Kevin JohnsonWe scored one for the home team! Thank you Sacramento! No one thought we would be here but us!
Mar 07 via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply
City Manager John Shirey told the council that the decision would be "one of the toughest votes of your career" and implored members to approve the plan for the economic benefit, job creation and immeasurable notoriety of remaining a major professional sports city, saying "there are only 30 of those (NBA) franchises in all the world and we happen to have one of them.""The status quo is not really an option before you this evening," Shirey said. "If we do nothing, the Kings will likely leave Sacramento."Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof walked into the chamber just before the meeting to a light standing ovation. He was later joined by rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, who also drew light cheers.A line of residents snaked around City Hall and seemingly every TV truck and radio station in the Central Valley was broadcasting outside. One fan wore Johnson's old Phoenix Suns jersey among the scores of Kings signs and jerseys in the crowd. A group of about 120 supporters of the plan wore white T-shirts with black letters that read "5 Votes.""This is bigger than basketball," said Michael Tavares, one of the leaders of the group called (hash)Fans, which stands for Fund Arena Now Sacramento. "It's about making Sacramento a destination."Opponents and proponents of the plan were allowed to speak for 2 minutes. Each side was granted 45 minutes, and those who couldn't reach the lectern in the allotted time were allowed to stand in acknowledgement of their support afterward.The four-hour plus meeting brought out some animated speakers, including a man who wore a hard hat and sang a song to start construction soon, one young woman who started to cry while arguing other public works such as schools and parks were being ignored, and others who raised their voices and pounded their fists. Most, however, remained civilized.Those against the plan argued it steers public money toward a private company, that sports arenas don't produce enough - or any - economic benefit and that the project is being rushed. Some also asked for the plan to be put to a public vote."This city is on the verge of insolvency. As far as I know, we still technically qualify for bankruptcy under federal law," said Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who opposed the plan. She added the project "will scoop up every nickel and dime" left in the city's budget.Proponents echoed the mayor and city manager's stances, trumpeting job creation and saying the economic loss if the Kings left would be even worse. In the end, those voices spoke to the majority.The passage of the plan highlighted a turnaround for a town that once seemed assured of losing its only major professional sports team.The Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim last year before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a "slow death" and compared the city's efforts to keep the Kings a "Hail Mary."Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors last April, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team's current outdated suburban facility. He also bought time by presenting more than 10 million in commitments for new advertising, ticket purchases and other financial support from regional businesses for this season.The NBA's relocation committee, headed by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett - who moved the team now known as the Thunder from Seattle in 2008 - recommended that the league give the city a shot to follow through and handed down a March 1 deadline to come up with a plan to help finance an arena. Johnson delivered the agreement last Thursday - on March 1, no less - to send the plan to the City Council."A year ago, this was the longest of long shots," Johnson said. "That's one heck of a comeback."The Associated Press contributed to this report

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