Few to Blame in Sacramento Kings Arena Quandary
Will they so choose? Are the Kings on rails out of Sacramento?
It's unlikely there will be an answer to that question until late February 2011, which is the league's deadline for teams to file for relocation ahead of the 2011-12 season. Joe Maloof told Sacramento sports anchor Jim Crandell on Thursday that the brothers aren't discussing relocation, but admitted that cities have courted the Kings in recent years. Those advances will only increase as the Sacramento situation continues to look bleaker by the day.
Perhaps most difficult for fans to accept is that it will be pretty darn difficult to blame the Maloofs if they do decide to leave. But what about the NBA, who after three years of trying now appears to be abandoning the market?
Well, it's not quite that simple. The NBA had never before devoted the resources and attention to an arena situation as it did to Sacramento. The NBA stationed a consultant, John Moag, on the beat. He met with local developers, officials, the Maloofs and financiers many times over the course of the last three years, and a couple ideas surfaced from those talks. None could be considered realistic; in fact, Moag's first idea (a sprawling event center and amusement park at the state fairgrounds) seemed dead from Day 1. But the NBA has put in the effort and resources. It just hasn't worked.
ARCO Arena has been on its last legs for the entirety of the Maloofs' ownership of the Kings, dating back to 1998. The arena just isn't suitable for the current needs of the sports-entertainment complex; the NCAA has said it will no longer hold tournament games at ARCO, and concert tours regularly skip the arena (despite a 2-million population base for the metro area).
Since 1998, everyone in Sacramento has known that this arena needs to replaced, and since 1998 every attempt to get a new building funded has failed. While a good portion of NBA facilities are financed privately, the unique situation of Sacramento has never really allowed the idea the Maloofs could build a gym themselves to take hold, and for good reason, as a proper arena could cost upward of $500 million.
Most recent financing ideas have revolved around separate development plans. None have gotten close to approval among relevant parties. A proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase went down in flames several years ago, due in part to a dispute between the Maloofs and the city over parking revenue. The Maloofs and city leaders seem skittish about presenting even a hotel tax increase to help fund a new downtown arena.
The economy's in the tank, especially in Sacramento, where unemployment has boomed thanks in part to the region's reliance on the construction industry. Sacramento and surrounding cities have been hit particularly hard by the housing bust, owing to the massive property value spike earlier in the 2000s. Several developments sit half-built; more established neighborhoods feature rows "for sale" signs.
As such, you can't blame residents' resistance to a tax proposal.
It just might so happen that the Sacramento arena problem is an awful crisis that just couldn't be avoided, with no one in particular to take the blame. There's a ton of room for credit, though, if the folks involved can make something work.