Tag: Mayor Kevin Johnson


Kevin Johnson not interested in NBPA job, but he would be the best man for the job


One of the best opening playoff rounds in recent memory got turned on its head when TMZ released audio on Friday allegedly containing several terrible, racially-charged remarks that Clippers owner Donald Sterling made to his girlfriend.

The next day in Memphis, a somewhat overwhelmed Adam Silver held his first presser under duress as the NBA’s head man, just as news of the death of former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley hit the wire.  The commissioner spoke in his usual lawyerly style, which was proper as the NBA tip-toes through a minefield of legal issues.

To date, the NBA Players Association has worked alongside Silver to ensure that due process is followed, that things don’t get out of hand from the players’ standpoint, and most importantly from their point of view that the NBA does everything it can to deal with the Sterling situation with the heaviest hand possible.

Part of why the players and the NBA have worked well together so far has been the familiar face of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.  Johnson has been in the process of finding a new executive director for the beleaguered union, but he was called upon by Clippers point guard Chris Paul to get involved with the players’ response to this issue.

Sources close to Johnson tell ProBasketballTalk that he is not interested in the union’s head job, despite round applause from people around the league for his handling of the Sterling situation so far.

Johnson was a driving force behind Sacramento’s success in keeping the Kings in town last year.  He worked alongside the league, David Stern and Adam Silver to secure a qualified owner and new arena with the Maloof family wanting out of the league.  The Maloofs knew they needed to create a bidding war in order to get the highest sales price possible, and they struck a controversial deal with Seattle billionaires Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to sell the team.  The deal was designed to quickly put pressure on Johnson and Sacramento to deliver a qualified response, and from Seattle’s point of view the strategy was to create an air of inevitability among decision-makers and media that Sacramento had a shaky proposal.

It was amidst this backdrop that Johnson methodically used his political background to outmaneuver his opponents and convince owners to reject the Kings’ relocation to Seattle.  His team boasted political heavyweight and crisis consultant Chris Lehane, and his network of contacts extend all the way up to President Barack Obama.

The NBPA would certainly love to have Johnson in their top spot because he would be the best man for the job, but they’ll have to settle for him finding the next best thing.

Sacramento City Council takes unanimous step toward key arena vote

kings purple

One vote down to bring a new arena to Sacramento, one more critical vote to go.

Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to continue finalizing proposals with private parking companies, who will in turn provide $200 million or more toward a new Entertainment and Sports Complex. For that money, the winning bidder will have the right to operate the city-owned parking assets for up to 50 years. This is a critical piece of mayor Kevin Johnson’s plan to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and a ‘no’ vote last night would have sent the team packing, though as I reported earlier Tuesday it wasn’t going to come to that.

That report also included a breakdown of the situation and news that the council will have the votes to approve an arena deal before the March 1 deadline, so long as a laundry list of achievable criteria is met.

That criteria, including safeguards on the parking deal and project cost overruns, is going to be worked out over the next two weeks as the city, the private parties, the NBA, and the Maloofs will come together to create a term sheet for the council to vote on. The vote is expected to be held on February 28, but it’s possible, even likely, that the NBA will allow for an extension on their deadline so they can review the terms at a reasonable pace. That announcement could come on All Star weekend.

Tuesday’s vote wasn’t expected to be contentious, but hundreds of Kings fans still showed up to make their case to the council. They wore white T-shirts with words such as growth, economic engine, events, downtown, nightlife, etc, and did their best not to recreate the acoustics in Power Balance Pavilion.

While there were eight speakers signed up make the opposition’s case, mayor Johnson was forced to limit public comment in support of the arena due to obvious time constraints.

After about 20 arena proponents were allowed to address the council, Johnson asked those in support of the arena that didn’t get a chance to speak to stand up and be recognized. Nearly everybody in the double-decker room stood up.

For well over five years Sacramento has been seen as impotent in its ability to get an arena deal done, but even council members that are in opposition of the current deal seemed resigned to their fate. Sandy Sheedy, the most vocal opponent of the deal, put up little to no fight on the issue and the other opponents chose not to speak. Surely they could be saving their breath for when the games count, but in doing so they lost a critical chance to curry favor with the anti-arena crowd, if it even exists.

The vote in 2006 to implement a sales tax for a new Kings arena lost by an 80-to-20 margin, but what most people don’t know is that it was an extremely flawed and eventually abandoned measure that never had a chance.

Tuesday night a strong message was sent to the NBA and competing cities that an arena deal is coming.  Staring into the sea of white T-shirts, with little to no opposition to be found, it was hard to understand how it took them so long in the first place.

Sacramento City Council has votes for arena if reachable criteria is met

Inside Kings Arena

The Sacramento Kings and their fans will hold their breath on Tuesday night, as the Sacramento City Council holds the first of at least two critical votes that will determine whether or not the team leaves town.

Let me be the first to tell you that tonight’s vote will pass.  Sources close to the situation report that the council is all but certain to have the votes necessary to move the process forward.

Specifically, the vote will allow the council to finalize proposals with ten competing private parking operators that will provide upwards of $200 million toward the cost of the estimated $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex.

This will setup a vote on February 28 that will decide the Kings’ future.  It is at this time that the council, in cooperation with mayor Kevin Johnson’s Think Big Sacramento coalition, will vote to approve a term sheet that will signal to the NBA that Sacramento can indeed fund an arena.

I’m also told by sources with knowledge of the situation that as long as a laundry list of criteria is met, the council will have at least the four votes necessary (not counting Johnson’s tie-breaking vote) to approve the term sheet.

This laundry list includes guarantees that the city’s general fund will be replenished by the approximate $9 million annual revenue stream currently provided by city-owned parking operations, a plan for some or all of the city’s employees to be transferred into the new parking company’s operation, a mechanism to cap rate hikes for parking in the future, an option for an agreement shorter than 50 years, and a mechanism to provide kickbacks to the city if parking revenues exceed certain benchmarks.

It is believed that within that framework, the city can meet or exceed their $200 million target.

The last major item on the laundry list is who will be responsible for cost overruns if the $387 million project goes over its budget.  I’m told the city will approach the developer, David Taylor, to potentially provide that guarantee.  While it is unclear whether or not Taylor would shoulder such responsibility, he will likely be given incentive to do so by an offer of development rights near the arena.

Taylor has been working on the arena deal for years and has evaluated the project for Sacramento at a significant cost to himself, and it would be surprising if he told the council that he would not be responsible for cost overruns on a project he evaluated and promoted – particularly if there is further incentive in the form of development rights.

Adding the estimated $200 million or more from parking, an estimated $30 million from local hotels, an estimated $50 million from an arena operator (AEG), and an estimated $80 million from the NBA and the Maloofs — sources tell me that the city is well in the ballpark of securing the financing necessary for the arena.

In other words, the city of Sacramento has both the will and the way to secure a ‘yes’ vote for an arena.

As far as the timing goes, while February 28 is potentially the date for a deciding vote, it is likely that the NBA will allow for an extension on the March 1 deadline so they can properly evaluate Sacramento’s findings.  That announcement could come during All Star weekend.  The NBA and the Maloofs could theoretically act on the city’s proposal quickly and provide their terms in time for a February 28 vote, but sources stress the important part is that the city will have communicated that it is ready to vote on a deal.

From there it is on David Stern and the Maloofs to pull the trigger on the estimated $80 million price tag, which amounts to about $3 million per year in rental payments for 30 years, all paid up front.

As for any talk of selling the team, The Maloofs have been consistent with their message that it’s not an option, and their sale of the Palms can be seen as either a sign that the ship is sinking or a sign that they were moving money for the purposes of an arena.  In the unlikely event they do want to sell, Think Big Sacramento executive director Jeremiah Johnson told Seattle’s King 5 News that the city has “a number of ownership groups willing to keep the Kings in Sacramento.”

It’s not going to come to that.

The Maloofs and/or the NBA could try leverage the city of Anaheim against Sacramento, who recently made improvements on their NBA-ready facility, but after Jerry Buss and Donald Sterling just agreed to revenue sharing with small market clubs it’s less likely that the NBA will place another team in their backyard.

As for Seattle, despite their clear efforts to bring an NBA team back home, they are well behind Sacramento in their pursuit of an arena.  They too would have to approve public funds for a new building, and Stern and the Maloofs will have to weigh the $80 million cost of a sure thing given a ‘yes’ vote, and a nebulous offering in Seattle that is 1-2 years away while Key Arena is a stop-gap solution at best.

With all of the support David Stern and the NBA has given Sacramento in its fight to keep the Kings – from manpower in the front office to people on the ground helping make the arena deal a reality – it just doesn’t make sense for them to pass up a viable option for two that have problems.

This is a complex situation and it is not a done deal, but the once half-court shot turned 3-pointer doesn’t even seem like a free throw at this point – it seems like a layup.  The Party of Five that voted down a public vote that would have sent the Kings packing are interested in a deal that addresses the aforementioned criteria.  That criteria reportedly can be met and still provide the project with the money that it needs to be green-lighted, assuming the private parties each put in amounts that seem reasonable, achievable, and already written in pencil.

Kings fans will probably wait until the shovels hit the dirt before they celebrate.  Let this prediction be the first bottle of Dom Perignon.

The Kings aren’t going anywhere.

Would lost season increase chances Kings move to Anaheim?


You want to know why NBA owners were willing to cut off the Maloof brothers at the knees, block a Kings move to Anaheim and give Sacramento one more shot to keep its only major league sports franchise?


The owners have understood from the start this was going to be a long and ugly NBA lockout. And even if this were a situation where the league and players had reached a deal this week, the ability of the Kings to win over fans in their new home was compromised. “Hey, we’d love you all to pay to come out and see us play, as soon as we are done arguing about how to split up your money.”

So Sacramento got one more chance — a real chance to get plans for a new arena moving forward enough to keep the team.

But can they pull that off in the wake of a lost season? Mayor Kevin Johnson worked hard to rally businesses and fans, to show the groundswell of support for the team. Now is that all being thrown out with the first months of the NBA season (at least)?

USC Sports Business Institute executive director David Carter told the Orange County Register things just got a lot tougher for Sacramento and look better for Anaheim.

“Missing a meaningful amount of the upcoming NBA season will certainly have an effect on Sacramento’s interest, willingness, and ability to keep the Kings,” Carter said. “Public sentiment about the lockout doesn’t help anyone, but it can really impact any franchises that are in flux.”

Sacramento’s chance to keep the Kings is real, but it already had a lot of challenges. Then this week Billy Hunter threw another big hurdle out there on the track. Like the whole lockout, it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s reality.

AEG acknowledges interest in Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Complex

1 Comment

It wasn’t a matter of if, it was when.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, known better as the stadium and arena operations giant AEG, acknowledged for the first time Friday that they might provide “assistance” to Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and the Think Big Sacramento coalition in their quest for an arena, according to the Sac Bee.

AEG’s involvement with the arena initiative was about as secret as LeBron’s hairline, but without the illusion of a headband to try and hide it.

According to sources, that ‘assistance’ should come in the form of tens of millions of dollars of up-front money, assuming of course that AEG can come to terms with the City of Sacramento, the Kings, and the NBA.

In return they would get profits from operating the arena, and using the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon they could also see benefits from the fact that their partially-owned subsidiary, the ICON-David Taylor Group, is providing the logistical backbone for Think Big Sacramento and its proposals. Taylor, whose development company David Taylor Interests would like to build the arena, has also expressed interest in buying up properties located near the arena. And with AEG, Taylor, Darius Anderson, and many other committee members also having business interests near the arena, a mini-L.A. Live type project with the Kings as the epicenter is where the smart money is heading.

This public statement from AEG is just one of many baby steps the Think Big Sacramento coalition will take, as it otherwise sprints to cultivate a $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC) that will keep its anchor tenant from leaving for Anaheim. KJ’s coalition has a self-imposed, though painfully realistic deadline of December 30th to get a funding plan approved so the city can meet the NBA’s deadline of March 1, 2012 to have funding in place.

The next test for the Think Big coalition will come today when the Sacramento City Council will either approve, table, or reject a $550,000 request for lawyers and consultants to be used to officially vet the project and negotiate with third parties such as the NBA and the Maloofs. The city council will also be asked to vote whether to give the ICON-David Taylor Group the authority to start negotiating on behalf of the city with operators.

Here’s betting that the operator is AEG.

As for Kings fans’ chances of keeping their team, Tuesday’s vote will be the first time the city council, who will ultimately decide the project’s fate, will be asked to part with cold, hard cash. If any of them are opposed to it, saying so before the city spends a half-million dollars would make some sense. With no real public opposition being shown by the council so far it is likely that they will approve the request, and see what numbers come through the pipeline and how the public reacts to them.

If the request is approved, negotiations will commence with the aforementioned parties to determine what level of private funding can be secured, and in turn what level of public funding will be needed. Sources from Think Big Sacramento are in agreement that a public vote to generate funds for an ESC would be an abject failure, so they don’t plan on using public funds that would trigger a public vote.

Because of this limitation they’ve taken a kitchen sink approach where everything from hotel fees, ticket surcharges, cell phone towers on the arena, and the sale of city lands have all come into play. Local kids have taken to selling lemonade to raise funds, and Think Big may just need it. But finding enough money to hit the magic number isn’t their only challenge. Making sure that the city council is comfortable voting ‘yes’ for a controversial measure is job No. 1.

So far, the Think Big coalition campaign has been run to a presidential degree, with traveling town hall meetings around the region and a media awareness campaign not seen before in arena politics. While there will always be skeptics and opponents of such a measure, you wouldn’t have known it by the last city council meeting where every public commenter was in support of an arena and no dissident voices could be found.

Today we’ll see if the first one shows up.