As time is winding down on the NBA Board of Governors meeting, to take place April 18-19, the push by the Seattle investment group headed by billionaire Chris Hansen to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle will be potentially defined. One thing is certain and that is one city will be elated and one is going to be knocked to their knees. Sacramento is not going down without a fight as former NBA All-Star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has often tweeted, “Sacramento is playing to win…”.
At stake for Seattle is the return of the NBA since the Seattle SuperSonics bolted for Oklahoma City after a last-place 20-62 finish in 2007-08. With the Portland Trail Blazers as the only show in the entire Pacific Northwest for the league, a return to Seattle looks to be on the NBA radar.
At stake for Sacramento is the loss of a franchise that has been the only professional sports team in California’s capital city. The owners of the Kings seem to be finished with their commitment to the franchise and have agreed to sell 65 percent to Hansen.
On Friday, according to Hansen’s own website, he has voluntarily upped the purchase price of the Kings by $25 million from $525 million to $550 million. This will increase his check to the Kings’ primary shareholders, the Maloof family and cohort Bobby Henreich, to a cool $357.5 million.
The NBA owners have a tough decision to make at the NBA BOG meeting. There are two actual issues for the owners to cast their ballot. The first of which, is to approve the sale of the majority shares of the franchise to Hansen and his group, which requires only a simple majority. The other issue to be decided is whether or not to move the franchise from Sacramento to Seattle. That will require 23 of the 30 votes.
NBA Commissioner David Stern mentioned in his annual press conference before the All-Star Game, that expanding the league to allow for the Kings to remain in Sacramento was not a viable option.
It seems like a bit of an uphill battle for the Kings to stay in Sacramento.
In Sacramento’s Favor
History: The team has had some lean years as of late, but that traditionally has not scared away the fans. Over the course of the franchise history in Sacramento, the team has had long streaks of sellouts. The fan base in Sacramento is strong, despite the economy, and would continue to get stronger if the team can turn the corner and get out of the cellar. Simply moving to a new city doesn’t always mean immediate success on the court. By comparison, the attendance figures for Sacramento dominated Seattle 20 of the 23 years the two teams were in existence at same time.
Marketing of India: The addition of the Golden State Warriors No. 3 partner, Vivek Ranadive, has really drawn the attention of the owners around the league. Ranadive has a vision for not only the Kings to market their product in his native India, but to expand the marketing of the entire NBA. This would mean huge dividends for the entire league and the owners back pockets. This, of course, is not a proven plan but it has a tremendous amount of potential.
Mayor Kevin Johnson: In my opinion, this is the best thing that the Sacramento Kings have going. A mayor that was a former NBA All-Star understands the value of having the team in the city. He is fighting hard to secure investors and a new arena. It is one thing to have a mayor that backs the team and is a fan. It is another to have a mayor with this kind of NBA experience and passion.
In Seattle’s Favor
Economy/Market: Head to head there really is no comparison between the two markets. According to www.stationindex.com, the Seattle market is ranked No. 14 and Sacramento at No. 20. According to Policom.com, the Seattle economy is ranked No. 5 for all metropolitan areas and was ranked No. 1 in 2010, up from 51st in 2006. Sacramento, on the other hand, has been dropping steadily from a high of No. 5 in 2010. With such a strong economy, the market is a potential hotbed for corporate and fan support.
Chris Hansen: He may be a virtual nobody in the world of the NBA, but he has a lot of money and a lot more passion to bring the NBA back to Seattle. With his money, he has created a situation where the opposing investment group in Sacramento, is a fractured group spread throughout the state of California. Hansen is a self-made man that seems to have the character and integrity comparable to the size of the hedge fund he runs. This is no rich kid with a Cubanesque personality. This is a genuinely good guy that wants to fulfill a dream.
NBA Owners: There seems to be a genuine desire throughout the league to get a team back to Seattle. With the potential of having a financially stable and contributing franchise, the slice of the pie gets larger for each of the owners. Right now, the Kings are a financial liability to the league. Of course, moving to Seattle, there are no guarantees that the franchise will be a huge success. However, right now, the Maloof family seems to have one foot out the door and it seems to some, that that are purposely letting the franchise tank to help their chances of the other owners voting to take the Kings off their hands.
The Real Issue
Arenas: Forget about the bids. Forget about the promise of season-ticket holders. The real issue that needs to be settled in this drama is where either of these two programs are going to play their games. Neither franchise has broken ground on a new arena and both seem to be little more than dreams. However, both parties have proposed that new arenas will be built with Seattle seemingly a step ahead of the Sacramento group.
The issue is becoming a timing issue, however, on when the proposed arenas are capable of opening. Seattle seems to have the upper hand since they have the financial backing of the investment group and have been claiming to have a potential two-year construction window. The issue in Sacramento is the city needs to come up with nearly $260 million. Arena and stadium constructions in California have been running notoriously long because of the environmental impact studies. A new arena could take the Kings well into 2016-17 season.
What to Expect This Week:
Expect a lot of filibustering on both sides. We are not talking Strom Thurmond-length banter. Both sides, however, have a lot to gain and, particularly with the city of Sacramento, a lot to lose. Until the owners vote, it is still Sacramento’s franchise to lose. However, particularly with the power move this past Friday from the Hansen Camp, Seattle is very much poised to make this happen.
Regardless, according to David Stern, there is going to be one city, potentially by the end of the week, devastated by the outcome.
All eyes will be on New York this week. This Chris Hansen may not be trying to catch a predator, but he just may catch himself a NBA childhood dream.