Public comment during last year's arena vote (Photo: Steven Chea)

Sacramento moved forward in its efforts to keep the Kings in town with a symbolic council vote Tuesday evening.  The city leaders approved and voted 7-2 in favor of a resolution of support, giving mayor Kevin Johnson the green light to press on in his attempt to build a new arena and seek new ownership as part of a deal to prevent the team from jetting to Seattle.

“A strong show of support by council,” Johnson told Cowbell Kingdom from his courtside seat yesterday when asked what this vote meant to his efforts.  “We understand what’s at stake, to be able to have such a strong vote. It’s been the same case for two years. We wanted to let the region know and the NBA know that we’re ready for business.”

Of the nine council members, only Darrell Fong and Kevin McCarty voted against the mayor’s plan.

A vote of confidence from city council was an important hurdle.  Johnson is counting on an estimated $255-million subsidy from the lease of Sacramento’s parking assets to build a new arena.  With the 7-2 vote, Johnson likely feels confident that he has both the moral and financial backing of his peers to move on to more pressing matters.

While the league is busy vetting the deal of the Seattle-ownership group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, Johnson and his team are playing catch up.  The mayor spent this past weekend championing the city’s efforts to NBA brass and owners at the league’s annual All-Star festivities.  Johnson came away from his meetings in Houston with a positive vibe.

“I’m very confident, very confident,” said Johnson when asked of how he feels about Sacramento’s chances in the fight to keep the Kings.  “I think we’ve done as a community everything necessary over the last couple of years. This is the final act and I think we’ll step up and meet the challenge.”

Next up on the agenda is landing the so-called “whales”.  The city is negotiating with major equity investors willing to join forces with local business leaders to make a competitive bid on the team and partner on the arena plan.  Supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are rumored to be the city’s leading candidates.

“I can see a whale sighting,” Johnson responded when asked whether he was getting close to announcing the major partners.  “I can’t tell you how close to shore, but I can see it.”