Sacramento City Council votes 7-2 to formally begin negotiations on new Kings arena

John Shirey at the March 6, 2012 council vote (Photo: Steven Chea)

Sacramento’s quest to build a new home for the Kings took a major step last night when city council voted 7-2 in favor of giving city manager John Shirey the authority to begin negotiating with prospective investors.

The council also approved $150,000 to be transferred to the city manager’s office for consulting and legal fees to further the due diligence process.  Shirey was apologetic for the last minute request, but was clear that time is of the essence.

“Putting together a deal for an arena in a month’s time is pretty ambitious,” Shirey said in his opening statement before the council.  “Even if that deal is simply a set of preliminary terms.”

City Council will have to vote and approve any term sheet that includes a public subsidy before it can be offered to the NBA Board of Governors, who will convene in New York on Apr. 18-19.

There were very little surprises as mayor Kevin Johnson‘s voting block in the council held strong.  Newcomers Steve Hansen and Allen Warren had a spirited debate on the public’s role in the discussions, with Hansen hoping to have town hall meetings for residents before the final term sheet is signed.

“It’s all different, we’re not dealing with the Maloofs,” Hansen said during the comments by council.  “We’re dealing with people who, I think, come at this fresh and I think we need to bring the same sort of attitude forward.”

While Warren, who heads the council’s ad hoc committee on the Kings/arena issue, and other council members were sympathetic to Hansen’s concerns, they made sure that the newly-elected representative understood that there is very little time for such an undertaking on a broad scale.

“We’ve had an opportunity to receive, as I’m sure all of us council men and women have received, a lot of public comment from constituents,” Warren said in response to Hansen.  “At this point, it would appear that we have a lot of what we need in terms of public input.”

The two no votes came from longtime arena naysayers Kevin McCarty and Darrell Fong.  McCarty at one point sounded like he may change his path in the process, but shifted gears and introduced a “plan B” option, which was Monday’s news of a potential second bid to purchase the team by minority owner John Kehriotis.  Kehriotis’ plan requires no public subsidy, but would most likely require moving the project out of the downtown area and back to the current Natomas location of Sleep Train Arena.

Up next is the State of the City address on Thursday night.  There is speculation that mayor Johnson will announce the equity partners or “whales” during the free event taking place at the Memorial Auditorium.

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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 is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".