The Sacramento Kings arena squabble has officially tipped over into farce, with the release of two documents this week that show the team’s owners, the Maloof brothers, pushing back against the draft agreement that everyone thought they’d agreed to a month ago:
- On March 20, the Maloofs sent the city of Sacramento an 11-page “outline of feasibility concerns” (read it yourself here) that included gripes about pretty much everything: whether the city can meet its own construction schedule, whether environmental reviews can be met in time to open an arena in 2015, whether funding can be found for needed traffic and utility improvements, whether there will be enough parking, and that “the City’s funding plan … uses questionable assumptions and does not adequately account for the financial risk that the City is undertaking.”
- Four days before that, the Kings’ lawyer filed a seven-page public records request (read it here) demanding pretty much all communications between city officials and anyone having anything to do with the arena project since last April.
All of which is pretty much what you might expect from a muckraking newspaper or a citizen watchdog group, but not so much from team owners who are supposedly rooting for this thing to get built. One possible theory is that the Maloofs were hoping to build off the excitement of the announcement of an arena deal, then get lots of stuff changed once the plan was considered a fait accompli; another is that they’ve wanted to move all along, but wanted to be able to show the NBA that a deal is unworkable in order to get approval to move to Anaheim or somewhere else. (A third, I guess, is just that they’re incredibly incompetent negotiators, which can never be ruled out.)
The NBA, in any event, seems eager to paper over any problems, with “sources” telling Sacramento’s News10 that the league is likely to pay the $3 million in arena pre-development costs that the Maloofs say they won’t pay, despite it being in the term sheet. NBA Commissioner David Stern said on Wednesday that he’s “more hopeful than confident” about getting a deal done: “In a week, our owners will be coming in for meetings … and we’ll see where it’s going.”
There are clearly many, many ways that this deal can blow up over the next two weeks … but then, plenty of arena and stadium plans have been rescued from the brink of disaster at the last minute. This is all going to depend on whether the Kings owners are really just trying to drive a harder bargain, or whether they’re looking for an excuse to back out entirely. And, of course, whether anybody can actually find enough money to pay for the thing. Details, details…