It’s still a long shot the Kings stay in Sacramento — in the end you are asking a bunch of entrepreneurial, rich capitalists to vote against one of their own moving his business to a place he can (theoretically) make more money. It’s hard to get them to vote no.
But they may be getting close.
For the next two days Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett and league counsel Harvey Benjamin will be in Sacramento checking out the claims Mayor Kevin Johnson made to the NBA’s Board of Governors. Specifically, that there is a lot more money out there in Sacramento if the team stays. David Stern talked about roughly $9 million more in sponsorship and ticket sales (Johnson told the media $7 million).
But the bigger part of the picture is that the Anaheim end of the deal may not be all it is cracked up to be, reports Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated.
While the outcome is far from certain here, there are strong indications that the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, is facing enough opposition to the move to force it back to Sacramento. The Maloofs have already been pushed into two overtimes, as the original April 18 deadline to file for relocation was extended twice and now sits at May 2….
Specifically, a source with knowledge of the proposal revealed that the television rights riches that had long been seen as a major motivating factor for the Maloofs aren’t quite as lucrative as they had hoped. And while it had been assumed they would attempt to fill the programming void left by the Lakers at Fox Sports West due to their recent megadeal with Time Warner that starts in 2012, two sources said that is not the case.
The plan as presented in New York included a possible partnership worth $20 million annually with KDOC, an Orange County-based, independent television station that is co-owned by the very man working so hard to make this move happen. Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli, who operates the Honda Center where the Maloofs’ team would play and has already committed $50 million through city bonds to help cover their cost of relocation, reportedly teamed with Bert Ellis to pay $149.5 million for the station in 2006.
KDOC is a minor player on the Southern California television scene. It shows things like old “Andy Griffith Show,” “All in the Family” and “Barney Miller” reruns. It’s Thursday night prime-time lineup (tonight) is a “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” rerun, followed by “Star Trek: The Next Generation” then an original “Star Trek” series episode (the one where they try to court martial Kirk).
If this television deal is worth about $20 million, then it is not the monster deal Kings move supporters had touted, which we had been told was well upwards of $30 million. The Kings currently make $11 million on their television deal in Sacramento, according to Amick. The average team is rumored to make about $20 million on its television deal, but if you’re moving to the second largest television market in the country do you expect and average deal?
In the end it’s not about a television deal — NBA Commissioner David Stern in a press conference last week made it very clear it is about the building. Current Power Balance (former Arco) Arena just doesn’t cut it and Stern left no doubt what he thought of the structure. While Anaheim’s Honda Center is nearly two decades old and needs work — from the players’ locker rooms and a practice court to the media facilities — it has far more luxury suites and a large corporate base outside the building to snap those up. (Even if there are questions about how much of that luxury suite money flows to the Maloofs in the deal.)
If the mayor and Sacramento officials can’t convince the NBA that a new stadium is around the corner, then they will have a very hard time retaining the Kings.
But past franchise moves — like the Sonics leaving Seattle to become the Oklahoma City Thunder — essentially got a rubber stamp from the Board of Governors. The fact that the deadline has twice been extended to allow further negotiations and investigation shows not everyone with the NBA is comfortable with the deal.
Odd are it still goes through, but for Kings fans there is hope.