Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s self-imposed March 1 deadline to have a plan in place for local buyers to purchase the Kings — and to get a new arena built for them — is just a week away. So how are things going, KJ?
“We as a community are going to deliver a brand new downtown arena,” he said.
Okay, that’s nice. But really how are things going, CBS13 news?
High-ranking sources inside city hall tell CBS13 an initial meeting between the mayor’s possible investor group and the city was “rocky” when it came to the arena. The investment group initially asked for more public funding than the city had anticipated.
Last year’s city council agreed to spend $255 million in taxpayer money on an arena, but that plan expired when the Maloofs walked out on that agreement. Johnson told ESPN the public contribution for the arena this time around could be lower.
“Essentially we’re going to commit a public investment of $200 to 250 million to build that arena. Again, we know that’s a competitive advantage,” he said.
So what sounds like is going on here is that the buyers the mayor is talking to want more money than the city offered last year — which is understandable, given that last year’s plan was kind of a mess, and now the city is under the gun of a threat of the team moving to Seattle. Johnson, meanwhile, figures that offering $200 million in subsidies is still more than the Kings would get Seattle — also sort of understandable if you squint just right, though of course prospective Sacramento buyers can’t be expected to care what harebrained arena scheme Chris Hansen has up his sleeve, they’ll just want a guarantee that they won’t be on the hook for building one in Sacramento.
Really, we’re back to the same problem that Johnson has been facing for years now: Nobody wants to own the Kings unless somebody builds them a new arena, and there’s no way to come up with city money to build one without busting the budget. The difference now is that there’s a deadline in place — not the March 1 made-up deadline Johnson set for himself, but the April 18 NBA board of governors meeting where the Kings’ sale is almost certainly going to be voted on. Right now it doesn’t look like Sacramento is willing or able to sweeten its arena offer enough to throw a roadblock in the way of the Seattle move — but a lot can happen in seven weeks.