Kings to Seattle would be a ‘big bummer’ for some local fans
Auburn native Nick Fowler had been talking with a couple of his buddies from Beale Air Force Base on Wednesday morning about how they should all go to a Sacramento Kings game.
Later, when they loaded up in the car and headed to Auburn for a visit, Fowler said they heard some unsettling news on the radio.
“I heard that they are thinking about going to Seattle, and we were all in the car like, ‘What?’” said Fowler, a member of the security forces. “We were talking about maybe going to see them sometime. Seattle? That’s not happening. It’s a big bummer. I really hope they don’t.”
The rumors and reports spread like wildfire on Twitter throughout the day, mostly beginning with the Yahoo! Sports report that said Seattle businessman Dennis Hansen was on the verge of closing a deal with the Kings current ownership to purchase the team for $500 million.
Around 3:30 p.m., Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said the city has been through this before, first with Anaheim and recently with Virginia Beach, and that he is doing everything in his power to find a local buyer to keep the team in California’s capital city.
“Today is a significant day for our community,” Johnson said during his Wednesday press conference to address the rumors, “Because it is the first time it appears the Sacramento Kings are for sale. It is significant because the past 27 years, our community has staunchly supported the NBA and the Kings.”
Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about buying the Kings, setting up the possibility of the NBA's return to Seattle.
Hansen's interest was confirmed Wednesday by people with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.
One person said the Kings could sell for more than $500 million. The Kings’ future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and the city haven’t been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen. Yahoo! reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the 2013-14 season where the team would play at KeyArena as a temporary home until a new arena is constructed.
“I know as much as you do,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. “If it’s true, ain’t it cool?”
Auburn resident Jerry Fisher doesn’t think so.
The longtime Kings fan and youth basketball coach proudly states “hoops is my life.” Fisher, a sports program coordinator with Auburn Recreation District, said he has taken 200 children annually for the past 12 years to a Kings game retreat, and the possibility that this March could be the last trip is saddening.
“Some of those kids, this is the one chance they’re ever going to get in their life to have that experience, and that experience is being taken away over money,” he said. “I would hate to see them go. … They are a fairly not-so-good team, a bad team, but we had a run a while back when we were making the playoffs.
“Just because your team is losing, that’s no reason to jump off the wagon.”
Fisher knows it’s about more than wins and losses – it’s a business decision.
“It’s about the almighty dollar,” he said, and the Kings have had trouble filling seats at Sleep Train Arena, which he has toured front-to-back and found it to be “dilapidated” and “old.”
Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million arena near the city's other stadiums: CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.
The NBA had no comment on Wednesday’s news. Representatives for Hansen did not return messages seeking comment. Any franchise looking to relocate must submit their plans to the NBA by March 1 and the move must be approved by the league.
“As we have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise,” Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said when contacted Wednesday by the AP.
The Kings’ asking price would top the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. Johnson said he's had past discussions with more than one group about possibly stepping forward as owners if the Kings were up for sale.
The Maloofs backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown arena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the Kings saying the deal didn't make financial sense for the franchise.
Penryn’s Eric Hart is a Sacramento native, and he said if there is a better opportunity elsewhere, the team should seize it.
“I wish they would have had more of a market here, saw them kind of fade out and in, out and in, followed them for quite a few years, but after so long I just kind of gave up on them and feel there might be better pastures elsewhere,” Hart said. “And if another city can give them a better opportunity, I wish them all the luck. Here in Sacramento, I don’t know, they may have played their last round here. “
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews