SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) –– Mayor Kevin Johnson on Monday called the decision by the owners of the Sacramento Kings to keep the NBA team in the city another year a winning playoff moment and pledged to keep the public informed about future arena plans.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life because the community believed when no one else did. We kept believing. And if you believe, anything is possible,” Johnson said during a news conference outside City Hall, where he was joined by other elected officials and business leaders to celebrate the decision.
The Kings had been considering a move to Anaheim after several failed efforts to build an arena in Sacramento but decided to give Johnson one more shot. Monday was the team’s deadline to seek league permission to relocate.
“This was our playoffs. And Anaheim, we won,” Johnson said.
Team co-owner Joe Maloof said the Kings will move if Johnson fails to make good on his promise to fund a new arena. The franchise moved to Sacramento in 1985 from Kansas City. The club started in Rochester, N.Y., and was known as the Royals.
Johnson pledged to be transparent about financing plans for a new arena, which likely will blend public and private money. He said the corporate community already has “over-delivered” with $10 million in additional sponsorships pledges. Beyond civic pride, he stressed the economic stimulus of having a major league team in town.
“What’s different this time is we are all in it together and we are all collectively going to find a way to get the ball across the finish line,” the mayor said. “And part of that is building a new entertainment and sports complex — not for the Maloofs, not for the Kings, but for the best interest of Sacramento.”
Johnson said he will meet with the Maloofs this week and ask supporters to channel all their efforts to save the Kings into ticket sales and sponsorships. Sacramento has to show the Maloofs by March 1, when the owners have to file relocation plans with the NBA, that there is a path to funding and financing a new sports complex.
Johnson and other civic leaders have been pushing for a new arena in downtown Sacramento to replace the Kings’ current home north of downtown. It was built in 1988 and is considered insufficient by today’s standards.
A vote in 2006 on a quarter-cent sales tax in Sacramento County to fund a new arena failed overwhelmingly, 80 percent to 20 percent. Even though public dollars would have been used to pay for the arena, that deal had been structured strongly in favor of the Maloof family.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he was disappointed in the announcement but respects the decision by the Maloofs. In a statement, he said the city remains optimistic that it someday will be home to an NBA team.
Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, which is across the Sacramento River from the state capital, said the yearlong reprieve was a big win not just for Sacramento, but the entire region. U.S. Census Bureau data show the Sacramento metropolitan area has a population of more than 2.1 million people.
“Yeah, the hard work begins today as we move forward with maybe our last chance, but it is our best chance to move forward with a sports and entertainment facility and a long-term home for the NBA here in the Sacramento region,” Cabaldon said. “The wind is at our back.”
Fans like Blake Ellington, a blogger and writer who helped rally community support over social networks, said he thinks there will be public support to build a new arena.
John Palaca, a fan from Sacramento, said he hopes the Maloofs’ decision to keep the Kings in the capital will motivate leaders to act on a new arena.
“I think that’s awesome, but Sacramento has to realize we need a sports complex,” he said while at MVP Sports Grill on Monday. “Without that, we’re not going to attract any teams.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)