It’s not often you get an invitation to sit in a room with the president of an NBA franchise for a one-on-one conversation. Especially not one as busy as the Sacramento Kings’ Chris Granger. But that is exactly what happened on Tuesday morning following the State of Downtown address at the Memorial Auditorium in the heart of Sacramento.
Granger was in attendance to answer questions on the newest arena renderings, which were released late Monday evening. We originally met Granger in the summer of 2011, when the commissioner, David Stern, sent his marketing experts to Sacramento in an attempt to clean up the Anaheim situation.
Since that initial meeting, Granger has always been a friendly face, be it in New York during the Board of Governors meetings or here in Sacramento after he took on the task of rebuilding the Kings from the inside.
It took some searching, but we found Granger tucked away in a small, plaster-filled room that resembled a jail cell more than a makeshift interview setup. The NBA-executive-turned-Kings-frontman was quick to extend a hand and greet us with a smile. The door closed behind us and the digital recorder went live.
Here is 10 minutes with Chris Granger, president of the Sacramento Kings.
CK: You came out with the renderings for the new arena on Monday night. I know that this has been an intense process. What has it been like for you to embed yourself in the Sacramento community to get a feel for what it is Sacramentans want from this building?
CG: As you know, we’ve been aggressive, to say the least, in terms of our public outreach – focus groups, workshops, open houses, surveys. It’s been very important for me, as someone who is not Sacramento, to get the opinions and input from people who are of Sacramento. So, the process has been fantastic. It’s very instructive to say, “Do you like design A or design B, do you like this setup for this suite or this setup for the suite?” And from all that feedback, it helps us from a design standpoint. So the rollout today, I’ve had a great sense of how people would respond to it, because they’ve already told me how they’re going to respond to it. The great response and great feedback we’ve had today, while it’s nice to hear, it’s not really a surprise because we’ve been hearing it for the last several weeks as we’ve gotten to this point.
CK: What is it that made you poll the audience? Was it that your group is a group of outsiders or is it because that is how this process should go?
CG: I think it’s both. From any marketing that you do, you want to test and experiment and you want data-driven decision-making. You want to get a sense of how people are going to respond to different ideas in anything that you do from a marketing standpoint. You’ve heard Vivek (Ranadivé) say, “We want this to be an iconic building. We want this to be the best building in the world. We want this to be the arena of the 21st century.” So, while we certainly understand that vision, I don’t know what that looks like in Sacramento without asking people. It’s been a must-do and it’s been extremely instructive to engage people in that fashion. And it’s fun. It’s fun to hear what people think.
CK: You’ve done this in other cities. Not quite like this, but you’ve gone into other NBA cities as a member of the NBA and helped figure out some of these things. How has this been different for you this time, knowing that this is your team?
CG: I wouldn’t have left the NBA, if not for the fans here and their strong, unwavering support of this franchise. In addition to what I think is an ownership group that is second to none in terms of their ambition, their creativity, their drive to be the best at everything we do. So, this is very personal for me. After having spent time here in 2011 – the last time this all went down – for me, I buy Sacramento. I buy the opportunity here and I think fans here deserve truly a palace for the Kings and I want to be a part of it. It’s a simple as that. It’s just so much more personal for me than anything else.
CK: You have 30-plus new owners, how has your transition been from coming from the NBA to Sacramento? How are you fitting in so far?
CG: Great. Our owners are engaged in the business. They are intellectually curious about the business. They are driven across everything that we do, and quite honestly, that is the environment I came from at the NBA with David Stern and Adam Silver. So philosophically, it’s not a great change for me, in terms of who I’m working with. Working with 30-plus owners is no different from the NBA where I worked with 30-plus owners. I think it’s gone nicely and I certainly share their values and their vision. It’s been fun and it’s been smooth.
CK: How is the rebuild going? You’ve put a tremendous amount of work into Arco, but you’ve also turned over a lot of the staff. You’ve begun the process of rebuilding the franchise in your own image. It’s early, and there is probably more of that coming over the next couple of years as you grow your own team, but how has that process been?
CG: I’ve been thoroughly impressed with our staff. Those who have been here for multiple years, and there are a lot, as you know, have earned their stripes. And their persistence and their, sort of indomitable spirit over the last few years is inspiring. Part of it for me is, I just want to make sure that we can deliver for them. They stuck it out through a very difficult time and I want to make sure that they get the feeling of winning. Not winning on the court, but winning from a business standpoint, winning from a marketing standpoint, winning from a sales standpoint, because it’s been so very tough for them for so long that I think it is time to experience something different for them.
CK: What made you look at the big picture and say “Sacramento is right for me” instead of staying the course with the NBA and possibly moving into Adam Silver’s role as deputy commissioner when David Stern steps down later this week?
CG: It’s three things. The NBA was fantastic and is fantastic and I certainly was in no hurry to leave the NBA. I think our ownership group is special, in terms of their ambition, in terms of their vision, in terms of their diversity of experience. I think our fanbase is second to none. I know that is a cliché, but it’s absolutely the case after being in every single market the last 10 years, I can tell you our group is special. And then obviously, the arena. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just to build a sports arena, but to transform a city for the next three decades. When you put those things together, it’s a no-brainer for me and I’m thrilled for this opportunity and there is no place I’d rather be.
CK: You have the look from both the inside of the NBA and from here in Sacramento now. Why did David Stern, Adam Silver and the NBA stand up and say Sacramento needs to continue its run as an NBA city?
CG: I think Sacramento has demonstrated its need to be here. I don’t know the stats anymore, but they were something like 19 of the first 25 years were completely sold out. I don’t think David and Adam made a decision as much as Sacramento demonstrated its case as why it should remain an NBA city. And it should.