Kings move could hit hearts, pockets of Auburn-area residents
As momentum continues to build for a deal that would move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, Auburn-area fans are bracing to lose the area’s lone major sports team.
Now, all that stands in the way is the sale’s approval by NBA owners.
The Maloof family has agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen, the league confirmed in a statement Monday morning. The deal is still pending a vote by the NBA Board of Governors.
A person familiar with the decision said that Hansen's group will buy 65 percent of the franchise for $525 million, move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The Maloofs will have no stake in the team.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was waiting approval.
The Maloofs will get a $30 million non-refundable down payment by Feb. 1, according to the deal, the person said. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale.
Tremors from the shakeup in Sacramento can be felt by fans in the foothills, and some fear it could also send reverberations into surrounding local economies.
“A lot of people that work in Sacramento live in the suburbs of Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville, Placer County, so absolutely it will have an effect,” said Tyler Getz, a medical assistant from Auburn who works events at Sleep Train Arena. “It might have a negative effect on the economy, but time will tell.”
Asked whether he thinks a move to Seattle would hurt Kings fans or the economy more, Getz replied: “Both.”
“The fans are so loyal here in Sacramento and Northern California, it’s hard,” he said. “Especially back in the day when there was the old Kings-Lakers rivalry, and it was exciting to watch. We haven’t had that excitement for years and it definitely seems like Sacramento a few years ago when they were at their prime, the whole town was down for the Kings games.
“Now it’s kind of, you know …”
Perhaps the longtime Kings fan didn’t have the heart to call the team bad, but he could see the writing on the wall once the NBA landscape shifted. New owners and a new city might be the best for the team, increasing its appeal for top free agents in the future, Getz said.
“I used to be a big Kings fan, but I completely lost interest in the NBA in the last few years just because when all the superstars went to two or three teams,” he said. “Sacramento will never be able to be competitive … the way the NBA is set up.”
The Maloofs bought a controlling interest in the Kings in 1999, when the team was beginning a stretch of eight consecutive playoff appearances ending in 2006. They’ve waffled in mediocrity ever since, with six losing seasons in a row and possibly another on the way.
Leslie Bauman of Applegate said her three boys, ages 14, 12 and 6, are Kings fans and that they would be “disappointed” to see them leave the area.
“I think it’s really unfortunate because I think they had a really great following in the past,” Bauman said. “It’s fun to have the team here, so I think it would be sad. I think it would be a loss for a lot of people … and for the economy.”
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week he had received permission from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Johnson, himself a former All-Star point guard in the NBA, said in a statement that the city remained undeterred.
“When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win,” he said. “In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.”
Auburn City Councilwoman Bridget Powers has been involved with Think BIG Sacramento and said the community as a whole, including Placer County, has done everything it can to support the Kings staying in California’s capital city.
“The Kings are just such a great vital and important part of our region, and it’s a lot of fun to have them here, and so we need owners who support that vision,” Powers said.
And if a Sacramento ownership group isn’t able to lure them to stay, how will that affect the Auburn community?
“Just for those of us who are sports fanatics or enthusiasts who like to go to live games and actually see them in person, the trickle down effect is we’re going to lose that,” Powers said. “We’re going to lose a professional basketball team, and I don’t know that we’ll ever get another one if we lose them.”
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews. The Associated Press contributed to this report.