We have seen it all before, Emperor Stern lures an unsuspecting city into his clutches with promises of support and security only to betray them and everything they love. That is the way of the Dark Side. We reported in August about the Pacers’ sticky situation and now it looks as though another team has fallen prey to the commissioner and his bag of tricks. It seems that in today’s NBA the only parity that the league champions it that of the arenas and not the teams themselves. After all, the money is made in the arena and the team is just the attraction. Where there is money is where the greatest interest lies.
The Sacramento Bee is reporting that Kings and ARCO Arena are in trouble. David Stern, himself, promised that he would be at the forefront of brokering an arrangement to help the Kings find the funding for a new arena. That brings us to today, four years later, where the league and the commissioner have essentially washed their hands of the entire situation because they are not happy with the decisions of certain parties involved in the proposal. It cannot be that the league would ever jump ship so suddenly, when they do not get their way, on one of its franchises, right? (See: Seattle Supersonics)
The plan that the league had backed would have moved the California State Fair to the location of ARCO Arena from its present location at Cal Expo. Then Cal Expo would have been sold to help leverage the costs of the State Fair at Arco and the building of a new arena in the downtown Sacramento area near their rail yards. However, the Cal Expo board found that the existing Arco Arena site and the surrounding area would not be large enough to suit the needs of the State Fair. This is where the impasse occurred. From there, however, the proposed plan for the State Fair on the Arco grounds morphed into the idea of an all year entertainment venue. Anyone who lives in a city that hosts a state fair should be familiar with this concept as it is thrown around at least once a year. This proposal, too, was rejected by the Cal Expo board on the grounds that it was too speculative.
Sacramento’s mayor, former NBA All Star and point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns, Kevin Johnson, stepped into the fray to try and convince the NBA to continue to support any attempt in the city to build a new arena for the Kings. Johnson called Stern to discuss matters only to discover that the emperor…err, commissioner was “not enthused” about Cal Expo’s decision. Obviously, Stern does not like to be rebuffed especially by the tax payers who choose whether to attend NBA games or not. Despite all this, Stern told Johnson that the NBA “loves [Sacramento’s] market.” A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf.
What about making improvements to ARCO Arena? Surely, that would fix the perceived problem that the league has created. (See: KeyArena, Seattle Supersonics) “Refurbishing the current ARCO Arena is not an option,” Sacramento Kings President of Business Operations Matina Kolokotronis wrote. “We need a new facility that can compete within the NBA. Our facility is one of the oldest in the league. We will continue to look at alternative arena solutions in Sacramento.” This has an all too familiar ring to it.
What about Joe and Gavin Maloof, the billionaire owners of the Kings? Certainly the two of them can help foot the bill for a new arena for the Kings. Why would they though? Yes, it is their team but the idea of any owner anteing up the money to help build a building for their team to play in is not a common one. Jerry Jones covered the cost overruns of the new Cowboys Stadium himself, but this is quite a rare thing for an owner to do. The Kings probably will not get their own “Death Star” with the Maloof’s fronting much of the bill. No, the bill is the burden of the taxpayers and if they will not pay then the Kings likely will not play in Sacramento for much longer. Most of the Maloof’s business interests lie in Las Vegas where they own and operate the Palms hotel and casino. It has been well publicized that Las Vegas is in the market to acquire an NBA franchise and it appears that the Maloof’s have one handy. Chris Milam, CEO of International Development Management LLC, the group who looks to bring a team to Las Vegas, has said that they have “an NBA team under contract” to move to the city. Could this team be the Kings? IDM LLC is actively trying to work out a funding deal that would build the Silver State Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. A glitzy new arena in Las Vegas would surely suit the Kings better than aging ARCO, which opened in 1988.
For now, though, the NBA wants nothing to do with Sacramento and its plans for an arena. “The NBA has ceased its activities on the Sacramento arena front,” league representative John Moag said in an e-mail to The Sacramento Bee. “However, we will continue to monitor and respond to the activities and options of others that might reasonably ensure the competitiveness and viability of the Kings’ franchise.” The league will pay attention to the Kings like a lion does to a straggling gazelle. They are simply waiting to pounce. It is not right that the burden of a city having a sports franchise be completely levied on the taxpayers. However, as unfortunate as it is, that is the way it goes. Taxpayers have the right to vote down any proposal before them. Yet what they strike down may be part of the essence of their city. Stern knows this. It is his Force choke (that mind choke thing that Darth Vader does). If the city cannot find a way to resolve their arena issues then the Kings will be relocated plain and simple. Do not think for one second that Stern will lose sleep over it either. (See: Seattle Supersonics) October 26, 2010 has been set as the date which the City Council of Sacramento will decide whether they want to move forward with any of the proposed arena plans. All Sacramento can do until then is wait.