Under mayor Kevin Johnson — yes, former Suns player Kevin Johnson — there has been a renewed effort in Sacramento to find a way to build a new arena that would keep the Kings in town.
But the latest and best in a while plan — a complex swap of the ARCO Arena land with the Cal Expo land in the city — has fallen through, as Tom Ziller explains well over at FanHouse. This was a bold and complex deal that just wasn’t to the taste of a more conservative Expo board.
So we’re back to square one, with ideas but ones in the relatively early stages.
ARCO Arena is 22 years old and was built before the economics of NBA arenas (really all sports buildings) shifted. Luxury suites and the high-end seats (which can come with wait staff, access to private clubs and more) are what drives the revenue in today’s market. Those “real fans” up in the cheap seats matter as a fan base, but it’s the luxury boxes that make most of the money. Owners need that revenue to really be profitable, to really compete.
The Maloof brothers have stepped back from direct involvement and have let an NBA consultant handle the new arena for them.
But they have options. Kansas City has a new arena and a thirst for a team. Anaheim’s Honda Center (called the Ponda by fans as it used to be the Pond) opened five years after ARCO but with rows of luxury boxes, along with plenty of corporate headquarters in surrounding Orange County.
The Maloofs have options. They have said they don’t want to move out of Sacramento, but they also want to pay for a new arena all on their own. And they have leverage.
If they make their announcement by March 31, 2011, they could be playing the season after next in a new city in a new arena. That is real leverage. And real pressure on Johnson and the people in Sacramento trying to keep them.