And here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s plan to keep the Kings in Sacramento:
- As expected, the so-called “whales” who will be bidding to buy the team are Pittsburgh Penguins minority owner and supermarket baron Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who, according to Johnson, are preparing a “very strong and competitive” bid for the Kings. That bid will be sent to the NBA today, and then forwarded to the team’s current owners, the Maloof brothers, at which point … pretty much anything can happen, depending on whether the league and/or the Maloofs like the bid.
- At the same time, Burkle is reportedly moving ahead on a plan to build a new arena at the site of the Downtown Plaza mall, which is a switch from last year’s proposed arena site. A “source close to the deal” (jeez, again?) claimed that this could be done for only $400 million (not clear whether or not this includes land costs), and that it would be paid for by… by…
- Nobody actually knows how it would be paid for. And by “nobody,” that apparently includes both Johnson and Burkle: The Sacramento Bee reports that “City Manager John Shirey said that city officials have not yet launched formal negotiations with Burkle and Mastrov over a financing term sheet for an arena, but that those talks are expected to begin soon.” There’s the usual talk about sale of future parking rights, development of extra land on the site (Johnson alluded yesterday to “a mini-L.A. Live”), ticket taxes, and other assorted stuff, but given that this wasn’t enough to adequately fund an arena plan last year, resolving this is more than just a matter of crossing a few t’s — they still need to find actual money.
- Because no announcement is worth announcing unless there are some surprises, Johnson said that Mastrov wants to revive the Sacramento Monarchs WNBA team, and that former Kings guard Mitch Richmond would be a minority investor.
So, there we are. There are so many wild cards still in play right now — will Burkle and the city be able to come up with an arena plan that makes any sense? will the NBA reject the Seattle bid to buy the team if there’s a viable plan to keep them in town? what about an only half-viable bid? if the Seattle bid is rejected, will the Maloofs agree to sell to Burkle and Mastrov or insist on keeping the team themselves? — that it’s really tough to predict anything at the moment. The key right now, it appears, remains the arena money: If KJ and the whales can somehow figure out how to come up with enough cash in a way that makes any sense, then this whole crazy plan might just work. If not, the NBA will have plenty of grounds to take the bird in the hand, approving the Seattle sale and telling Sacramento, “Sorry, maybe you can have the next franchise to move. See how it worked for Seattle?”