Sacramento and Seattle have presented competing plans to the NBA; what happens next?
City officials and business leaders from Sacramento and Seattle took turns presenting their respective plans to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family and build new arenas to a group of NBA owners behind closed doors. The final decision is supposed to be made during NBA Board of Governors meeting on April 18 and 19 based on the information presented yesterday.
In case you haven't been following the story, in January a deal was reached between the Maloofs and a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer for 65% control of the team, which would mean the return of the Sonics to the Emerald City. Sacramento mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson came to Sacramento's rescue. He and his team found potential buyers in Mark Mastrov and Vivek Ranadive and put an arena deal of their own together with Ron Burkle.
Obviously, the NBA has a lot to consider in this decision and many factors are at play. Does David Stern want to make nice with Seattle before he steps down and attempt to salvage his legacy? Will Vivek Ranadive's international connections and experience help with the NBA's recent push to increase its presence in Asia? Will the owners set a precedent in favor of publicly funded arenas like Sacramento's, which could save them millions when their teams need new arenas? Or will they go for the option that puts a team back in a larger TV market? (By the way, for all those that say Sacramento is not a big enough market to support an NBA team, Sacramento's 2.2 million people in the metropolitan area ranks 27th in the U.S., ahead of other NBA cities Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City. Additionally, Nielsen estimates that Sacramento is the 20th largest TV market in the country in 2013).
A lot of speculation exists about these and other considerations, but my crystal ball isn't working today, so I'll just discuss a fact that I think may play a larger role in the NBA Board of Governors deliberations: the Maloofs agreed to sell the team to the Hansen-Ballmer group.
In 2006, when Clay Bennett purchased the Seattle Supersonics from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously in favor of the sale. 18 months later, the owners voted 28-2 to approve relocation of the team to Oklahoma City despite court battles and public unrest in Seattle. Before that, the Charlotte Hornets and Vancouver Grizzlies had their own local arena battles that resulted in relocation votes by the NBA owners.