Sac's effort to keep Kings headed for overtime

Sac's effort to keep Kings headed for overtime
February 23, 2012, 1:31 am
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Sacramento's last shot to remain an NBA city appears headed for another overtime.

NBA Commissioner David Stern and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday they have agreed to a "work plan" in hopes of reaching a deal to finance a new arena by the March 1 deadline. Johnson, Stern and the Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, will meet during this weekend's All-Star festivities in Orlando, Fla.

If a plan can been hammered out in time, a term sheet will be announced March 1 and the Sacramento City Council will vote on the plan at its March 6 meeting, possibly avoiding the relocation talk that surrounded the team last year when it almost moved to Anaheim.

"Sacramento stands ready to meet the March 1 deadline," Johnson said in a statement. "Our approach makes good on the principles that have guided us throughout this process: protecting the taxpayers, creating jobs, and pursuing an open and transparent process."

The major sticking point in negotiations remains how much the Kings will contribute.

Under the proposed agreement, the city of Sacramento will raise about 190-230 million by leasing out parking garages to private investors, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, said another 75-100 million is expected from the Kings and 40-60 million from arena operator AEG.

The remaining gap will be covered by some combination of a ticket surcharge, advertising around the arena, allocating a portion of the city's existing transient occupancy tax or a sale of three or four parcels of city land.

The final price tag for AEG depends largely on the team's contribution.

The Kings' portion would include upfront cash - the city had initially asked for 60 million - and donating back the land around the franchise's current suburban Sacramento arena, estimated at about 25 million. AEG's contribution will be impacted by the splits with the team in arena-related revenue.

The two sides are making progress and hope to bridge the gap to finance the estimated 406 million arena, which would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown Sacramento rail yards. The Kings nearly moved south to Anaheim last year, twice extending the relocation deadline and struggling to gain approval from league owners.

Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors last April to give the city a final chance to come up with an arena plan. 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.

Despite attempts by Anaheim and Seattle to swoop in and lure the Kings, Stern said the league is making every attempt to keep the franchise in California's capital.

"We appreciate the work of the City of Sacramento and (our) discussions have been constructive," Stern said in a statement. "Our hope is that current momentum continues in a way that we're able to reach a deal by March 1 that makes sense for all parties."

Word of the extended arena talks also reached the Kings before the team's game at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

"It's good for the team and the city, the positive news of today," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "But for the basketball players, their focus is on the game."

Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof haven't been involved in negotiations. The league is bargaining with Sacramento officials on the franchise's behalf and will present the final proposal to the team.

Joel Litvin, president of league operations, and Harvey Benjamin, executive counsel for business and finance, are the NBA's lead negotiators. Stern also has been receiving updates.

The NBA could force the Maloofs into bringing in investment partners or - as a last resort - even sell the team if the owners walk away from a plan that has the league's approval.

Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle remains interested in buying the Kings. And Christopher Hansen, a hedge-fund manager based in San Francisco and a Seattle native, is also making proposals to bring an NBA team to Seattle - with eyes on the Kings if Sacramento's latest plan collapses.

The Maloofs insist they're not selling the team. A Kings spokesman said the team is refraining from comment until the NBA and the city complete a proposed plan.