Council meets with prospective Sacramento Kings owners Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov

Kevin Johnson addresses media at March 25th press conference. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)Like city manager John Shirey, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is touting that this year’s arena deal is better than last year’s. Speaking at City Hall Monday, Johnson offered his first public comments since announcing an agreement Saturday on a term sheet to build a new arena at the Downtown Plaza.

  • The mayor confirmed that whale investors Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov were in town this morning, meeting with city council members. Johnson said the prospective Sacramento Kings owners shared their vision for the project and “economic transformation” of the capital city. They also emphasized their long-term commitment to Sacramento according to the mayor. Lastly, they noted their appreciation for how the community has welcomed them.
  • Johnson on new investor Vivek Ranadivé and how he believes Ranadivé’s cultural background strengthens their bid: “When you think about Sacramento being a world-class city, this is what we’ve been talking about. This is someone who has strong ties to India obviously and when you think about emerging markets, you think about what we’re doing in California, in Sacramento, you think about China and India. This is a chance for the Sacramento Kings to be the favorite team of folks in India. And that’s gonna put us on the map in an entirely different way and that will create other business opportunities.”
  • As Think Big’s Jeff Dorso told James Ham on the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast last Friday, the mayor confirmed that Ranadivé’s involvement stems from an existing relationship with Mastrov. However, the mayor offered little details on what business the two partners have done together. “He always wanted to be in a position where he could be a general partner and play a lead role,” Johnson said of Ranadivé. “And certainly Sacramento’s part of the greater Northern California community and I think he believes in this market.”
  • The mayor on speculated on the NBA’s expectations: “I think they’re expecting us to continue the momentum that we’ve been doing over the last year or two, to build on that and get past the finish line.  And that’s what they expect.  The arena is one of the most critical pieces that gives us a competitive advantage over Seattle.  If they sense that there’s any delay, if they sense that there’s any way that this deal may not get done in a timely manner or something could be pushed over another day or two, it’s just not consistent with what we’ve been talking about.  It’s not consistent with our negotiations with the Burkle group.”
  • The term sheet was released Saturday evening, two days after the city’s self-imposed Thursday deadline. Johnson believes four days is enough time for the public and council digest the plan, citing that it follows the framework of last year’s arena project. “The main deal-points have essentially been in place for two years,” the mayor said. “This is not something that just was baked today or yesterday or something that was thrown together. This is something that there have been a lot of meticulous steps, a lot of back and forth.”
  • Despite Johnson’s confidence, councilmember Steve Hansen remains ambivalent about tomorrow’s vote. Hansen represents citizens in District 4, which includes the site of the proposed entertainment and sports center. “The mayor speaks certainly for himself,” Hansen told a small group of reporters following today’s news conference. “I, as a councilmember, have to make my own independent decision. And whether there’s enough time or not, I guess we may be pushing it down to the wire.”
  • Hansen on this morning’s meetings with Burkle and Mastrov: “I left those very optimistic. I still think there are a lot of reasonable questions to be answered and we have to make sure that the public’s questions are answered, the councilmembers’ questions are answered. This is a new deal at a new site and I think legitimately, we as trustees for the city have to do our job. And our job is to ask difficult questions and make sure the public is looked after.”

Listen to the press conference in the audio player below.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.