While Sacramento continues to argue with the NBA Kings over an arena deal to keep that franchise up north, Anaheim continues to prepare its arena for an NBA team. On Tuesday night, the City Council will consider an environmental-impact report that would allow the Honda Center to hold 222 events per year, up from the current 162.
Working with the National Basketball Association to bring a new team to Anaheim to further benefit the city’s businesses will be one way to achieve the goal, he said. Tait wants to make Anaheim the central hub of Orange County, believing there is room for more than two professional sports teams in Anaheim. “We have our own unique identity and population.? A county of 3 million people can easily support an NBA franchise,” he said. “There is no doubt Anaheim is NBA ready.? I’m confident that we will get a team.”
There still are numerous unanswered questions and details to hammer out before the NBA’s March 1 deadline for having an arena financing plan in place, including whether city or government bonds will have to be issued to finance construction. March 1 is also the NBA relocation deadline, so Johnson wants the plan in place by the end of the calendar year. If progress is slow, it’s anybody’s guess how long the Maloofs will wait before they start talking to Anaheim officials again. Officials from Anaheim Arena Management, the Henry Samueli-owned company that runs Honda Center for the City of Anaheim, are staying out of this one. They won’t even say they’re still interested if the Sacramento arena plan falls through, but it’s safe to assume that, with planned arena upgrades scheduled to begin in the next month. The Nexus Report will be delivered to the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday.
Is Anaheim still a threat to Sacramento? Kevin Johnson: All this did was buy us one year. What we have to accomplish before March is we need to have a critical path on where we’re going to finance a new entertainment sports complex. If we do that, Sacramento will be the final resting place for the Sacramento Kings. If we don’t do that, then if I’m the Kings and the NBA, I’m going to say Anaheim is still in play When I went and spoke to the NBA governing board I said there’s three scenarios. I’m not going to tell you guys how to run your business. I’m not going to say anything about the Kings, because they’ve been good partners in Sacramento. And I’m not going to criticize the Anaheim deal. With that said, I’m going to fight for my city, and any of these three scenarios would allow Sacramento to be an NBA city: •Same team, same owners: That was our preferred option but we couldn’t control that. •Same team, new owners: Meaning, if the Kings decided to sell, then I had someone to buy the team and keep them in Sacramento. •New team, new owners: Meaning, if the team left for Anaheim, that we had a new owner who would try buy another team and bring them to Sacramento. My choice, the optimal outcome, was to keep the Kings and the owners in Sacramento.
What about your relationship with NBA commissioner David Stern? Kevin Johnson: I’m 45 years old. I was in the NBA at 21 so I’ve known him more than half my life. That relationship is something I was able to drawn on. His trust and confidence in me as a mayor, and certainly the respect I have for him, created a very unique dynamic. That if it’s going to happen, now is the time to make it happen. How often to you talk with Stern? We communiciate regularly. We talk as frequently as a couple times a week. … There’s some sort of communication between us. I think he’s doing an unbelievable job of sending out his top lieutenants to make sure this project is working. My team and his team talk two or three times a day, in many cases. We’re 100% in sync. … Somebody who is as shrewd as the Commissioner who has seen this thing happen for 28 years, he knows where the pitfalls are. He knows where the optimism should be. … We have a great partnership with the NBA.
If you’re able to get this new complex approved, what’s the timetable on it opening? Kevin Johnson: We think the worst-case scenario is 2015. If we can get the financing of all this stuff lined up as we think we can, before 2012, we’ve already got a design team, architects and contractors starting to work on real numbers, starting to think about schematics and renderings and all that. It’s going to an intermodal, which is very similar to Madison Square Garden (New York) and Boston, where you have a transportation hub connected to a venue that deals with green and transit-oriented development, all those “Smart” things. It goes back to us only having one team. Our market can probably support something that’s 600,000 or 700,000 square feet and not something that’s humongous, because we just don’t have the market to do that. Our footprint will be a little bit smaller. That’s why we think we can keep our cost under $400 million.
What are their roles in this? KJ: Joe and Gavin Maloof are going to focus on the basketball operations for the 2011-2012 season. They’re going to get out there in the community, talk up the team, sell season tickets, become part of this community in a more intensified way than they’ve done in the past The other brother, George Maloof, he’s the one going to be the point on the entertainment sports complex. He is working with the NBA.
The Anaheim Ducks team store on the east side of the arena will expand from 1,800 square feet to 4,200, which the press release notes will allow “space for an additional team.” “Honda Center is one of Anaheim’s world-class facilities, and the planned improvements will ensure it continues to be recognized as one of the finest sports and entertainment facilities in this country and abroad,” Anaheim mayor Tom Tait said. “Not only will the improvements enhance the guest experience, but more than ever, Honda Center itself will be NBA-ready.”
The Honda Center won’t have a new tenant this fall but it will start to have a new look. Anaheim Arena Management, the company which operates the city-owned arena, announced Thursday they will break ground on the most extensive improvement project in the venue’s 18-year history this fall. The improvements include a 12,000-square-foot Grand Terrace, which will be an exclusive indoor/outdoor entertainment space located on the arena’s Premium Level. There will be a 250-seat full service restaurant located on the main level, which will be open to the public for all events. The arena will also complete the final phase of suite renovations, which will see upgrades to all 84 luxury boxes.
The Amway Center in Orlando, the league’s newest arena, was completed at a cost of $480 million last year. If Sacramento doesn’t build its arena on the cheap as it did with Arco Arena, which was built for $40 million, then it is looking at a similar price tag. What are the chances of getting such an arena publicly and privately financed in Sacramento in today’s economy? “I say it’s a long shot,” Maloof said. “I’ve said it before and I still think it’s a long shot.” So if the Maloofs don’t get an arena deal they are happy with in Sacramento, would they go back to the deal they had to move the team to Anaheim? “Oh yeah,” Maloof said. “We felt very comfortable with Anaheim. We felt very comfortable with our partners. Absolutely. Absolutely.”
By the time it was all done, Johnson had secured pledges – which later became checks – for more than $10 million in Kings sponsorship and ticket sales, essentially buying Sacramento one more season to approve a plan to finance a new arena. “The infusion of corporate dollars and the mayor’s ability to rein them in was the tipping point,” Mahood said. The NBA’s relocation committee, already skeptical of three teams sharing the Southern California market, recommended the Kings stay in Sacramento at least one more season. Following that recommendation, the Maloofs decided not to put a vote before owners. “Sacramento won because it was united, and the mayor was a huge part of that,” said Chris Lehan, chairman of Johnson’s arena task force and a consultant for past arena and stadium projects across the country. “He really was the point guard – he distributed the ball and got everybody involved.”
Johnson promised the Kings millions of dollars in sponsorship pledges from the corporate community to give the city one last chance to finance a new facility. He closed with a speech about what the team meant to Sacramento, tugging at the heart strings of even the most dollars-and-cents-minded billionaires. “I’ve been around governors and presidents, and what I saw was an unbelievable, almost Hollywood-type moment,” said Darius Anderson, partner in a group headed by Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle, in attendance to propose a plan to buy the Kings or another franchise and move it to Sacramento. “To a person in that room, one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. “The momentum shifted right then and there for Sacramento.”
The Sacramento Kings were determined to relocate to Anaheim: no longer selling season tickets, applying for new federal trademark names and embracing the Anaheim City Council’s vote to issue $75 million in bonds to entice the team. Even for a guy who once dunked over 7-footer Hakeem Olajuwon, that was a tall hurdle to overcome. “It was one thing after another. All signs pointed to them being gone,” Johnson said. “The chances of them staying? I would’ve said slim to none at that time.” Slim was good enough. The culmination of his efforts comes Tuesday night when Johnson represents the team at the NBA draft lottery in a sign of goodwill from Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, capping a remarkable turnaround for Sacramento that only a point guard-turned-politician might’ve been able to make happen.
Despite offering the Maloof family $145 million worth of incentives, including a huge personal loan, Anaheim’s 18-year quest for an NBA franchise resulted in more frustration Monday. “People don’t like being the bridesmaid,” said Charles Ahlers, head of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.
Ahlers and others said the region demonstrated ample evidence that Southern California can support a third NBA team, but it got bested by a last-minute charge led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. “Sacramento puffed up their chest and made … a really good closing argument,” Ahlers said. At one time, a Kings move looked like a slam dunk. The team took steps to trademark the name “Anaheim Royals,” to avoid confusion with hockey’s Los Angeles Kings. A lease was negotiated with Anaheim’s Honda Center, and the Maloofs were offered $75 million in incentives.
Mark Kreidler: Mayor Johnson said no discussion of plans today. A day to celebrate. (Me, I’d love to see some plans.)
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof confirmed at 8:30 a.m. that he informed the NBA of the team’s plans not to move. “We’re going to stay in Sacramento,” Maloof told the Register. “We appreciate everything the Samuelis, Anaheim Arena Management and the City of Anaheim did for us, but we decided to give Sacramento one more opportunity. “Kevin Johnson, Sacramento mayor, has made a lot of promises and we’re going to hold him to his word to see if they can come up with a new arena plan.”
The Kings will remain in the city of Sacramento for at least another season after exploring a move to Anaheim. A formal request to relocate had to be filed with the NBA by Monday afternoon, a deadline that had twice been delayed. The Maloof family has been the club’s majority owners since 1999 and had been considering a move to Anaheim’s Honda Center because of financial issues in the city and with the building now known as Power Balance Pavilion. “Out of respect to Kings fans and the regional business community, we have decided to remain in Sacramento for the 2011-12 season,” the Maloof family said in a statement on Monday. “The fans’ spirit and energy, specifically our season ticket holders, has been remarkable and we are truly thankful for their loyalty. We also are greatly appreciative of the support from our corporate sponsors as well as other local businesses that have come forward in recent weeks.”
After weeks of political drama and speculation, team officials said this morning they are dropping plans to move to Anaheim this year, co-owner George Maloof told The Bee. “We are heading back to Sacramento. It was a tough decision. Ticket holders were reaching out to us, and it was the right thing to do to give it a shot at one more season,” Maloof said during an interview in his office in the Palms casino in Las Vegas.