Arena: Stop the insanity, get back to work

This weekend, I wrote about where this nightmare of a roller coaster could be headed. What happened Friday was the equivalent of someone bringing a grenade to a peace treaty. The pin has been pulled and just 10 seconds remain before detonation, but everyone is locked in the room.

No one survives this mess. No one.

The damage has already been done. All the goodwill in this deal falls on Mayor Kevin Johnson. He is the man who has fought to keep the Maloofs from leaving town. He is the man who fought to get the Kings a new “beacon of light” in the railyards. He is the front man of an epic Hollywood story of survival.

But Johnson is also the man who’s spent city time and funds on a project that just blew up in his face. He is the man who believed the NBA would side against one of its owners and force them to play nice.

Unfortunately, he was wrong. He overplayed his hand and just got burned on the river.

What exactly were the Maloofs thinking when they pulled the plug on this deal?  Certainly not about the 89 percent of their season-ticket base that had already renewed.

After letting ticket-refund calls go to voicemail all weekend, Gavin Maloof sat down Monday with ticket reps and made personal calls to a long list of unhappy customers.  While he wouldn’t commit to being in Sacramento after the 2012-13 season, he made sure to tell his customers that the Maloofs are still committed to this community.

This could have been the moment when the Kings rebuilt their season-ticket base, but instead, it will once again be a summer of damage control.

While things grow more and more contentious, the only hope for both sides is reconciliation. I consider myself somewhat of a pragmatist, so I would like to offer a few solutions to the problems at hand.

Suck it up, men. Whoever makes the first move in this situation won’t be deemed weak; he will be considered the one who has everyone’s best interests at heart.

As I said Sunday, neither the city, nor the Maloofs want to hear this right now, but they need each other.

I don’t care if the city didn’t have the Maloofs’ list of demands before or after the city council vote. You have them now.

I also don’t care specifically about that list of demands. This is a negotiation and at least half of their changes will probably be thrown out without a second glance. No city taxes? You don’t want to pay for police or firefighters on gameday? Really?

The NBA revealed they were kicking in $7 million to the project. There are your predevelopment costs, with insurance money for AEG’s portion. I’m pretty sure we can get David Stern to sign off on this.

The Maloofs don’t want to put up collateral to refinance their 1997 loan? Fine, then don’t refinance the loan – that is your choice. No one in the world would buy a bond that’s backed by nothing. The family can continue to pay down the original loan backed by Power Balance Pavilion and a $25-million stake in the club.

The Maloofs don’t want to be locked into a 30-year term? Well, 15 years isn’t going to cut it, so how about 25 years? The city would already have their lease payments from the original funding and a stadium to boot. We can fight that battle down the road with a different generation of owners.

If George Maloof and Kevin Johnson are the issue, then have City Manager John Shirey and Assistant City Manager John Dangberg sit down with Joe and Gavin in an undisclosed, unannounced location.

If AEG isn’t giving enough to make the deal successful for everyone involved, then look at their contribution and negotiate a few tweaks.

Stop with the name-calling. Quit with the PR mudslinging. Sit down and hash out your differences like real men.

We have come too far to let this end now. We need to put on our big boy pants and find solutions to the issues, not splatter the walls with the blood of everyone involved.

The present course helps no one. When the bickering and squabbling are over, a mayor has to answer for lost city funds, while the Maloofs watch their professional sports franchise wither and die.

Let’s give it one more shot boys.


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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".