Posted by: Kingsguru21 | February 5, 2012

Could a potential Seattle arena plan throw a wrench into the financing of a Railyards arena?

There has been plenty of talk, talk I’ve avoided here on purpose, about how a San Francisco hedge developer wants to bring back the NBA to Seattle. There was a lengthy piece in the Seattle Times (now the city’s lone periodical after the Seattle PI shut down to onlinedom in March of 2009) yesterday about what kind of obstacles need to be hurdled in order to build a new arena in the SODO District.

First off, why the SODO district? Well, among other things, it’s close to Safeco Field and Century Link Field so the infrastructure are already in the area to support a large project. If nothing else, the infrastructure will simply be an extension of those buildings. Second, SODO is almost entirely an industrial district so building a new structure there doesn’t cause the same kind of traffic tie-up’s that typically would be had in other places.

Hansen has acquired property south of Safeco Field’s parking garage, between South Massachusetts and South Holgate streets east of First Avenue South, records show.

While sources have previously said at least one business owner has declined to sell, the issue of the city using its power of eminent domain to acquire the land is no longer a concern of Hansen’s group, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said during a recent interview with The Times editorial board.

Holmes did not elaborate, but his comments suggest Hansen’s representatives have reached some sort of agreements.

Hirsh, managing partner of Stafford Sports LLC, who has extensive experience with arena deals, has estimated the cost of building a state-of-the art facility at about $400 million.

Why is the Massachusetts-Holgate point important? It’s near the Stadium Light Rail station operated by SoundTransit.

Second, it’s possible this could contract the Century Link parking lot (primarily used for a lot of non-Seahawk-Sounder games as day parking for DT Seattle workers) a lot more often rather than having to find parking as most stadiums require. (This seems complicated, but it certainly gives a lot of people other options than just parking in one place.) Numerous places in Seattle double up on parking spaces due to the limited amount of spaces available in Seattle proper (not a problem in Sacramento obviously).

Third, it ignores the reality of what challenges renovating Key Arena might bring. Which, I might point out, are numerous in of itself.

The biggest thing for me is that it gives more events for Pioneer Square businesses, and for the city of Seattle to say Pioneer Square is now receiving, to mandate that a new arena go down there.


Why does this matter to Sacramento? It’s my opinion that beyond the current RFQ/RFP process explained by Chris Lehane (to a slight degree) in this interview with Blake Ellington at Bleed Black and Purple, the financing for a new downtown Railyards arena in Sacramento is a bit murky on many of the details.

Last September, I felt like a financing source or two would drop and that the city of Sacramento would have to use a plan B. Maybe I’m wrong on that point. Maybe it’s more like that the NBA feels like, and I certainly feel this is true regardless of what’s been announced publicly or elsewhere, it won’t have to contribute a signficant financial chunk to get a new arena done. Kevin Johnson has already sold this publicly as a public-private partnership, and the sense that it would be more than the Maloofs-and an arena operator like AEG would have to contribute. Who is left? The NBA.

The question is now if you are the NBA would you rather let private contributors-Seattle foot all of the bill, or would you prefer to keep a franchise in a destination that has always had trouble putting down roots before arriving in Sacramento in 1985. (It’s worth noting that the franchise has been in Sacramento twice as long as any other stop in franchise history.)

Yesterday, along with the major news article already linked further above from the Times, Steve Kelley, the long time columnist for the Times, talked about the possibility of Seattle not only getting the Kings for the upcoming 2012-13 season, that there could be a NHL team too in a new building. This line stuck out to me though:

Does the NBA really need a third team in Southern California? The Kings’ franchise would be the forgotten child of L.A. sports.

The difference between Kelley’s tone, and Randy Youngman’s tone, is amusingly stark. Kelley has seen firsthand the pain that a moving franchise can create. Youngman doesn’t care; he just wants a NBA team to cover for whatever reason he wants it. Kelley could have sneered at what’s going on in Sacramento right now, but he knows better.

What’s my point? Seattle knows this is still about what it’s always about: Dollars and cents. If Seattle can build an arena that offers more corporate support, a larger market and a TV deal that is more lucrative than anything that could be offered in Sacramento, it could change the NBA’s mind about what’s going on.

On the flip side of all this though, it seems all of the Seattle bluster is just talk about a new arena being built. The NBA may just ignore what’s going in with a potential new arena (this is not the first time we’ve heard of this after all) in the SODO district of Seattle and move forward with Sacramento.

Could one of the weakest points, as far as the NBA is concerned, is that a new franchise in Seattle would have more competition than it did previously with not just the NHL, but the heaviest supported MLS team in the US? (The Seattle Sounders were starting their first season in 2008 as the Sonics were leaving.)

Chris Lehane talks extensively in Ellington’s interview how one of the potential attractions for Ron Burkle is the size of the Sacramento market and the fact that there is little competition there. In Seattle, you have the Seahawks, Mariners, UW athletics, WSU athletics to a limited extent (this is true of Gonzaga as well), Sounders, and now possibly a NHL team like the Phoenix Coyotes in the mix too. That’s some stiff competition no matter how you slice it. There’s nothing wrong with that as it’s typically what happens in the Seattle market. This is nothing new up here.

This is where I think the whole negotiations between the city of Sacramento and the NBA get very interesting. Exactly what does the financials of the whole arena financing plan look like, and who is covering exactly what pennies and why?

No matter what happens here, a glimpse into how business is done in a new NBA could see the first domino fall in Sacramento. It might mean new things in Seattle, or the Kings remaining in Sacramento. I’d be lying if I say I’d rather see the Kings move to Seattle (I don’t), but I’d also be lying if I said I’d be heartbroken if a deal can’t be worked out to get an arena in the Railyards and the franchise ends up moving to Seattle.

I’ve said for a long time that Seattle was the real threat to Sacramento, and it seems that a number of people are starting to clue in on that very fact. The real question: Does the NBA care, and does David Stern?

Marcos Breton had an important point in today’s Bee about the Maloofs:

Sacramento is moving a mountain right now just for the prize of securing a cellar-dwelling team with a cellar-dwelling payroll?

I have no doubts about Kings basketball people or employees. But the Kings owners are a different story.

That’s unacceptable given how Sacramento has stepped up for the Kings and the NBA. Sacramento deserves better.

As of this writing, no one has any idea what the NBA intends to do about any of this.

Before Sacramento and potential private partners commit millions to an arena venture, they need to know from the NBA:

What are they going to do about the long-term future of the Kings in Sacramento and about owners whose future success seems as remote as the Kings reaching the playoffs?

Guess what? Attendance is not stellar right now because the product has been poor for a very long time. It’s not up to snuff, and in most cities most people wouldn’t care at any point. The Maloofs have done everything in their power to alienate Sacramento (and in a not so subtle way either), and this is all coming to a head for them. The Maloofs desperately want to maintain ownership of the franchise, and I don’t blame them. I would too if I were them.

Guess what? I don’t care about owners who jacked up ticket prices, then didn’t respond to the market dropping by lowering ticket prices in a recession that hit Sacramento harder than any NBA market, and tried to act as if Sacramento was against them by wanting to keep the Kings. Then, to top it off, the Maloofs, especially Joe and Gavin, have tried to pretend there is a split among the family wanting to move to Anaheim when in fact the rest of the family wanted to file and Joe and Gavin figured out first the NBA would reject them.

Guess what? The NBA has a number of moving parts to figure out here, and it would be nice if a wealthy owner just swept in and took away all of the real problems this franchise has with the Maloofs in one fell swoop.

But it won’t happen that way. We know it won’t happen that way. I’m just hoping that the Kings staying in Sacramento doesn’t resolve around David Stern having kindness because we know that won’t happen.

I’m hoping that the Kings staying in Sacramento is a matter of dollars and cents, and that’s the bottom line here. Which market for the Kings represents the best bottom line long term value to the NBA?


Right now, I’d say that the odds of the Kings moving to Seattle are fairly slim for a number of reasons. First, as Tom Ziller points out today, the NBA has invested a number of things, including ticket people to sell tickets, in the Sacramento market. (The effort has not been a token small effort unlike a certain family.) Second, the NBA knows that when a deal is nearly consummated plenty of suitors jump out of the woodwork to grab a potential slice of the pie? How does the NBA know Seattle’s effort is really real?

I know one thing: This type of story is the exact type of thing that matters if the Kings remain in Sacramento. The Kings remaining in Sacramento isn’t just a story that matters, but the kind of story that so many said was so wrong about the Seattle-Oklahoma City saga.

It would be nice for a change if Sacramento could get an arena started so that the real conversation that adversely Sacramentans of all walks of life could actually be had: Urbanization. You know, what living in an urban area actually entails in the 21st century.

The ball is in Sacramento’s court. And, you know what, nothing has changed in that regard. That’s the real point. It’s up to the City Council of Sacramento to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity that’s been afforded them. Or, not.

Either way, I actually feel better about the chances that a Kings arena could pass because not even real proposals by another city are being seen as a potential legitimate threat to a new arena in Sacramento. That makes me feel better about the chances a new arena could get done sooner than later.

A new arena would be the best news this city has ever had regarding the Kings. Plenty of temporary events (Gregg Lukenbill moving the team, building 2 arena’s that crumbled fairly quickly, Geoff Petrie changing the nature of the franchise, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and that crew giving fans something to actually cheer about among others) have kept the Kings in Sacramento for better or worse. But, it would be nice if a real actual live long term solution is what sealed the actual long term future of the Sacramento Kings.

A new arena would be the start of a process that would be a pleasant change of pace that doesn’t include a group working against City Hall and residents who simply don’t want to live in the 20th (or 21st now) century and all that implies. It’s time Sacramento grow up. The ball is in your court City Council and NBA. Don’t make a mistake; you often get exactly what you wish for.


  1. Sonics fan here (I think I’ve encountered you over at Supersonicsoul a few times a while back). Ever since our old team left I’ve been dreading the prospect of us stealing another city’s team—the fact that that was the only way we could get a team back was like the final, nasty twist of the knife that Stern stuck into us.
    It didn’t seem to matter much until recently. Now with this arena talk, it’s becoming more of a real possibility. That talk about the Kings in the paper today made me sick. I don’t want them or any other town’s team. But if an arena happens I assume some team will move here. It could be like a strange, bizzaro version of the Sonics leaving—summoning up the old feelings of helplessness and existential angst.

    Best wishes to Sacramento in getting it done.

    • Thanks jas. I understand the conflicted feelings right now. But everyone knows that an existing team will have to move to Seattle becuz the NBA has no expansion teams to grant.

      I have posted at SuperSonic Soul as ” Pookeyguru” so I’m sure thats what you are thinking of.

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