Tag: arenas


Comcast-Spectacor hasn’t spoken with Kings at all, arena project barely off the ground


Unless there is more to come in the next few days, the Virginia Beach arena press conference didn’t do much to sway the overwhelming opinion that the Sacramento Kings are nowhere near moving there.

There were no Maloof appearances, but president of Comcast-Spectacor Peter Luukko spoke to the Virginia Beach city council in support of bringing a pro sports franchise into town.

When posing the question of why Comcast-Spectacor would get involved in the Virginia Beach market, Luukko offered two reasons, including the numerous business relationships the company has in the area and that the area “is one of the largest underserved markets (for sports) in North America.”

Luukko and Virginia Beach director of economic development Warren Harris jointly said that they would negotiate with pro sports franchises over the next two months, and that a 25-year lease would be fulfilled by the sports and entertainment giant, assuming a deal can be worked out of course. And in the unlikely event that Virginia Beach wants to stick to that timetable, it’s difficult to see the NBA racing to cooperate with that deadline unless they somehow believe that this is the endgame for the Kings.

Given what we have seen so far, that’s not likely the case, with just one reason being that David Stern loves the No. 20 Sacramento TV market that shares no space with other pro sports teams.

Virginia Beach, on the other hand, is the No. 43 TV market and that fact was not lost upon councilman Bill DeSteph, who quickly and methodically picked apart the presentation made by the city. Pointing out inconsistencies in the criteria used for market size, he called the city’s presentation “misleading” and repeatedly asked for “apples to apples” comparisons of the data used to similarly compare Virginia Beach with Sacramento.

“If we’re talking about Sacramento, let’s go out 100 miles and let’s include the San Francisco Bay Area and let’s include Fresno,” said DeSteph.

If similar radiuses had been used in the presentation then the three million people boasted by Virginia Beach would compare to 10 million on the Sacramento side.

Cost was another issue for DeSteph, who asked and was told that the $350 million price tag for the arena was an estimate and that no cost analysis had been done. He would later ask for a public vote if public funds were going to be used to pay for the arena, which is usually a death-knell for projects of this type.

For his part, mayor William Sessions followed up the emphatic opposition by some council members by pounded his hands on the table in front of him, exclaiming “me and the vice mayor will keep you updated on a weekly basis!”

Regardless of the support from notable local figures that was highlighted in Tuesday’s PowerPoint presentation, it’s clear the city council is at square one with the project. And of the three councilmen that spoke on Tuesday, two of them appeared dead set against the use of public funds and both of them openly questioned the validity of the city’s initial proposal.

On the other hand, Comcast-Spectacor is a big player in the sports and entertainment marketplace and is a serious investor here. They clearly see an opportunity in Virginia Beach, but the city is now at the starting line of a long, arduous race that includes a laundry list of municipalities that want pro basketball.

As for the purple elephant in the room, the Kings, who had not issued any specific denial of the past week’s reports and were instead tweeting out photos of their newly shined concourse floor — Luukko said that Comcast-Spectacor has not talked with them at all.

“We have not had any formal talks with the Kings. We have not had any talks,” said Luukko, which is about as specific of a denial as can be expected.

This would line up with what sources close to negotiations have said is a project being driven by the Virginia Beach side, that just happens to fit the Maloof’s current strategy of waiting and hoping that another city can provide a viable offer to move.

This sentiment was echoed by Carmichael Dave, a well-connected arena proponent and local radio personality whose dismissal from the team-sponsored radio station drew raised eyebrows in Sacramento. On his new show on the CD Networks, sources of his close to the team said that the Maloofs had rejected an offer from Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen which was upward of $400 million.

Dave also added that those sources said the Maloofs were “looking more to relocate than to sell.”

Of course, everything from the Maloof camp is part conjecture and part conundrum these days. Sources close to the situation say that the family is split internally and that George Maloof, in particular, is holding a grudge and wants to leave Sacramento. The family name has been removed from the Palms Hotel and Casino, which doesn’t exactly scream $6 million burger, and sources say that ticket sales and sponsorships continue to suffer as the team remains in limbo.

If there can be any good news for Kings fans during this debacle, it’s that the Maloofs do not appear to have filed any Virginia-based trademark applications for the terms ‘Kings’ or ‘Royals,’ and their trademark attorney Scott Hervey has no new trademark applications on file with the US Trademark office. Their trademark application for the terms ‘Anaheim Royals, Los Angeles Royals, Orange County Royals’ and my favorite ‘Anaheim Royals of Southern California’ has, however, been held up by an opposition from the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball.

On the other hand, marketing consultants for the city of Virginia Beach have registered the websites vbkings.com and virginiabeachkings.com, and along with a legitimate partner in Comcast-Spectacor the Virginia Beach threat will continue to loom for Kings fans – no matter how overstated the threat may be at this time.

And until the NBA can effectively shove the Maloofs out the door with the franchise intact in Sacramento, who league sources say has done everything that was asked of them to keep the team, these stories are going to continue to pile up and be a black eye for the league.

NBA doing the Maloofs’ talking for them

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The Maloofs’ relationship with Sacramento is decidedly love-hate. When the Kings were winning and Joe and Gavin were plastered on TV during games, Sacramentans were ready to propose.

But it’s funny how life works — the team started losing and (gulp) started asking the city of Sacramento for money, and everything has been downhill since. Their 2006 ill-fated measure to finance an arena was a PR disaster. Now the relationship they have with fans after a failed attempt to get out of Dodge in April is well, think Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods having dinner at Thanksgiving with their children.

It’s all about the Kings, so I won’t throw this turkey leg at your head.

In all fairness, the Maloofs have dealt with a city that has acted like NBA franchises grow on trees and that people will gladly pay property taxes absent the consideration of amenities.  But let’s not get into details, because who cares about those?  After all, more than half of the basketball public believes the players are ‘on strike’ because Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson ran away with all of the dollar bills to make it rain with.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t surprising in the least to read Rob McAllister’s latest report on KFBK.com about the big meeting in Dallas between arena-related parties. McAllister reports that yesterday the city of Sacramento, NBA representative Clay Bennett, AEG, and others met to lay out parameters, timelines, etc. You know, arena stuff.

But is he forgetting somebody? I’ll let McAllister take it from here:

The Maloof family was not at the meeting in Dallas and there is no time table that currently details when the Kings’ owners will join the negotiations. (Sac City Councilman Rob) Fong said he expects the “Maloofs to be a part of the talks,” even though the city has been dealing directly with the NBA.

If you recall, the NBA kindly told the Maloofs to give Sacramento one more year to get an arena, after Kevin Johnson came up with $10 million in corporate sponsorships and an eleventh hour plan – while simultaneously fans pulled a ‘hell no, we won’t go.’

Make no mistake, it’s not typically the NBA’s protocol to block a team from moving, particularly if the old city has balked at building a new arena. As long as the supply for NBA teams is restricted, and the demand for teams remains high, then the NBA will always have that leverage (see antitrust: reasons why the NBA wants never to speak of it).

So telling the Maloofs to get back in the negotiating seat would normally mean that they, ya know, sit at the table, right? Wrong.

This time Ron Burkle and prospective buyers lurk in the background behind Kevin Johnson’s promise that Sacramento can be an NBA city. The Maloofs, hit hard by the economy, have sold all but two percent of the Palms, and what had once been rumors was finally put into print when NBA insider Jonathan Abrams wrote at Grantland that they “would have likely been forced to sell had they relocated to Anaheim, which remains a distinct possibility.”

Even at city council meetings, where opponents of the arena initiative would normally rail against giving money to rich people, they’re now talking about the various uses of public funds rather than making it about the Maloofs. And arena proponents barely even talk about the Kings these days. Instead, they talk about the A-list acts that will go to the Bay Area if an ‘Entertainment and Sports Complex’ isn’t built, and the millions being lost in Sacramento property tax revenue that a new ‘Entertainment and Sports Complex’ would address according to top economists.

The Maloofs have made just a handful of public comments regarding the process since it was decided that they would stay, and nothing that would make the 10 o’clock news.

For a family that doesn’t exactly lay low, it’s almost like they’re not there, complicit with the idea that their presence could somehow derail things in Sacramento.

It’s a pretty simple decision to hide the Maloofs, given their past history with arena initiatives, the threat of moving, and the like, but as Abrams alluded to there is more at play here.

As much as you would like to hide the Maloofs if you’re Sacramento and the NBA, any owner would be expected to be involved in a process like this, and their representatives would certainly be at meetings of this type. In this case, Bennett is there instead to keep things on track.

The NBA has invested a ton of time in getting an arena deal in Sacramento, and frankly, had they wanted to be in Anaheim they would have simply let the Kings go. But there were too many reasons not to go at the time.

Henry Samueli rolled out the red carpet for the Kings and really, really, really wants to take over for the Maloofs if they can’t afford to play with the other billionaires, but he has an image problem. Convicted of lying to regulators in a stock option scandal years ago, he was suspended as an owner in the NHL. He has a history of philanthropy and Donald Sterling is obviously tolerated, but still, it’s a blemish.

Compared to David Stern’s drooling over Ron Burkle, it’s quite clear who the NBA would prefer to pick up wherever the Maloofs leave off, assuming of course Burkle or the other suitors are still interested.

And then there’s the small issue of the lockout. Back in April the NBA was preparing to ask the Jerry Busses of the world to dish out some pie in the form of revenue sharing – not exactly the right time to plunk a team in his back yard. In fact, there may be no right time to do that if the NBA quadruples revenue sharing – at least not for a while. Don’t tell that to Sacramento, though, since Anaheim is still being dangled over their head (not like a carrot, like a guillotine).

Besides, can the NBA really uproot another franchise — after a lockout — when Sacramento has so publicly been supported by just about everybody in the NBA?  And financially, do they really want to abandon the 20th largest market in the United States, just to overlap what they already have in L.A.?

No. Not now. Not under these circumstances. Not if Kevin Johnson can deliver an arena.

So Clay Bennett will show up and lay out the parameters that have likely already been communicated to Kevin Johnson, AEG, and the rest of the team. Johnson and Sacramento city councilman Rob Fong will be there to discuss what they believe can and cannot pass in the council, which ultimately controls Sacramento’s checkbook. The NBA will negotiate on behalf of the Maloofs, but as long as a reasonable plan gets presented by Sacramento, they’ll turn to the Maloofs and say, ‘here it is.’

And they will take it.  Whatever they choose to do with it from there is anybody’s guess.

Sac City Council members tip their hands on arena vote

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Sometimes you need to see the look in somebody’s eyes when they’re forced to make a decision before you truly know how they feel.

We got to see that on Tuesday night when the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve $550,000 to secure consultants, lawyers, and parking experts to start formalizing a funding proposal for the $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC). Once the funding proposal is finalized, the council will eventually vote on it. The NBA and the Maloofs have given Sacramento until March 1, 2012 to get a funding plan in place.

Each council member was given ample time to wax poetic about the nature of this small request, and most of them gave some clues about how they view the larger $387 million question that will be coming.

Here, I am going to handicap their votes, based on what they said and how they said it. A total of five out of nine votes on the city council will yield a new Entertainment and Sports Complex for Kings fans.

And for the sake of brevity, I’m going to call mayor Kevin Johnson and known proponent, councilman Rob Fong both yes votes, and I’m going to call both Sally Sheedy and Darrell Fong no votes, though I have a slight suspicion that Darrell Fong could be turned to the purple side.

Onto the science of word-parsing:

Angelique Ashby:

We have a real opportunity here. AEG is at the table. That’s great news. That’s terrific news.

This, for me, is not about a decision for what we do this week. It’s long term. A lot of the things we decide at this council…is how to fix things right now. We have a public safety problem, right now. We have three browned out fire stations, right now. But this…is a half-million dollar investment in long-term solutions, so we don’t have the urgent ‘right now’ discussion every year. If we play our cards right and we invest wisely, and we make smart decisions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines.

Me: Real opportunity, long-term solutions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines. She’s a yes.

Steve Cohn:

Let me be real clear, this work has to be done. If we’re even going to consider an arena, this has to be done. If one has the point of view that we shouldn’t be doing an arena, obviously it’s a waste of money, and we should stop right here. But I think if we’re open to the idea that we might find the public-private partnership that works, then this work has to be done and it has to be objective information.

Me: He voted yes to authorize the spending, which presumably he wouldn’t do if he opposed the arena given his comments. And he hung out with Slamson and KJ at a district meeting in May, so if he’s not a ‘yes’ he’s on the fence and leaning hard that way.

Bonnie Pannell:

What I heard this week….is we need jobs. Seniors are talking about ‘we need jobs,’ and our young people are talking about ‘we need jobs.’ There are no jobs in Sacramento. So what do we do? Do we take a chance and invest $500,000 that could lead to billions of dollars, or many jobs?

We need jobs, many more jobs, so I have to take a chance. We can’t depend on the federal dollar…state dollars…our destiny is in our hands. So I have to support this next step.

Me: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs. Billions of dollars? Many jobs? Almost like she was reading from the Think Big brochure. Yeah, she’s in.

Jay Schenirer:

I talked (in my campaign) about my opposition to the city giving away land. This is something very different here, which is a city owned property (an arena), and an asset we will have for a very long time. We saw Sacramento build the Crocker Art Museum, and put millions of dollars into it, and I think that it has become a jewel of the city. And I would look forward to this facility, this complex, being something similar. And what it can bring to the city will be incredibly important.

Me: Incredibly important, jewel of the city, that’s a yes.

Kevin McCarty:

I don’t want to be a naysayer, but this project is still a long-shot. It’s a shot, more than we had before, but it’s still a long road to hoe. With that, I’m thinking, if we can find some tools that we can invest in our downtown, whether it’s an arena or a California academy type thing in the railyards or anything else, we may not have an economic development tool anymore, such as redevelopment or the really limited opportunities to make sense of the investments.

Me: I don’t know what that means, either. That he thinks the project is a long-shot puts him on the fence for me, and probably leaning no.

First things first, none of these folks are going to sign off on something that they don’t agree with, so the Think Big Sacramento coalition still has to provide a viable proposal to them. But this issue didn’t just pop up overnight. These officials, for the most part, have a strong grasp of arena politics after 10-plus years of talking about this topic to no avail.

Looking at my ridiculously unscientific analysis I’d say that four of the five are either a yes or leaning that way. They only need three of the five to vote yes after counting K.J.’s and Rob Fong’s vote.

As always, the devil is in the details, but if you’re a Kings fan or a fan of teams staying put – then tonight’s meeting was an unqualified victory.