During his 12-year NBA career, Kevin Johnson amassed 6,711 assists. But his most significant assist probably came earlier this week when he bridged the gap between the Kings, the city of Sacramento, and the NBA as a tentative deal was reached that would finance a new arena in Sacramento and keep the Kings in the California capital for a long time.
The agreement was a watershed moment for Johnson, the current mayor of Sacramento and former NBA star point guard for the Phoenix Suns. Johnson, who turned 46 on March 4, grew up in the Northern California region, went to high school in the Sacramento area, and attended the University of California at Berkeley. He is a Central Valley kid to the core, and he has a tremendous affinity for the community and he didn’t want to see his beloved city lose its one and only NBA franchise.
“It really didn’t start happening until Mayor Johnson came in,” Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said on NBA TV. “We were so pleased that he became involved. I think the difference this time was the political will. We never really had that in all the other failed attempts. We couldn’t get the politics behind us, and now that Kevin is at the helm we’re really, really pleased.”
The new deal finally gave Kings fans something to cheer about. The franchise – which moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985 – hasn’t had a winning season since 2006, and this year’s ballclub appears headed to the NBA lottery. When the framework of the deal was completed during the All-Star break, the anxiety-filled last couple years turned into one big exhale.
The Maloofs had been trying to get a new arena built in Sacramento for 13 years. After failing nine times, they were ready to pack up and leave.
The Kings appeared to be headed out of town, and the hardcore fans who fill Arco Arena night after night were already bracing for the worst. But a last-minute effort by Johnson and his team of civic leaders pulled off a near miraculous comeback that not only helped save the Kings in Sacramento but also provide a boost to the city’s economy with the amount of business the state-of-the-art arena would bring to the community.
“It’s terrific. We’re so excited to have the team here for many, many years. It’s great for our fans, great for our sponsors, the city, the community, for all of Northern California,” said Maloof, who promises the Kings will have a brand new 19,000-seat arena built by 2015.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the arena would cost about $390 million with a privately-financed $25 million premium parking facility next to the arena; a $1 fee on every arena ticket that will be set aside for facility maintenance and operations; and terms of a 50-50 split on naming rights and luxury suite revenue between arena operator AEG and the Kings.
The Bee also reported that the Kings are being asked to provide $73 million toward the project upfront. AEG will contribute $58 million to the deal in exchange for keeping much of the revenue from operating the arena. AEG will share part of its profits with the city.
“The building is a huge plus. It will help us recruit free agents, help us retain our current players, and it’s a beacon of light for our entire community. Everyone can rally behind this arena,” Maloof said.