Sacramento Kings break ground on new arena

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Eighteen months ago, it was over.  The Sacramento Kings were being sold to Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer and moved to Seattle.  The Kings name would be retired.  The franchise’s 65-year history was set to expire and the rebirth of the Supersonics was all but a sure thing.

But the story turned.  The narrative had to be rewritten, and the Sacramento Kings, by hook or by crook, lived to fight another day.

After nearly four years of grassroots movements, Houdini acts by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a change in ownership, it’s time for Sacramento Kings fans to celebrate another huge victory.

Failed attempts to build a new arena in Sacramento are over.   At an early Friday morning press conference, Johnson, alongside Kings President Chris Granger kicked off the demolition of the Downtown Plaza, a defunct mall in the center of downtown Sacramento.  The mall site is the future home of a new 17,500-seat capacity model of technology that will cement the Kings’ future in Sacramento for the next 35 years.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Johnson told the crowd of media and construction workers from the Plaza site. “I was up all night. I was so excited. It felt like I was coming to a game. Where’s my uniform?”

The improbable come-from-behind victory for Sacramento has now moved to the next stage – the stage where the word relocation is eliminated from the city’s vernacular, at least until 2050.

“It’s been a long journey, to say the least to get to this point, but we’re absolutely thrilled,” Granger said.  “It’s a huge day for the Kings.  It’s an even bigger day for the city of Sacramento, and I’m just so humbled by the moment and I am proud to be a Sacramentan today.”

Demolition is the first step.  Traffic is being rerouted, sound barriers are being installed and hundreds of construction jobs have been filled. This is the moment for which Sacramento Kings fans have been waiting.

Construction of the new arena is slated to start early next year, with a completion date scheduled for October 2016.

“It has taken all of us to come together to make this project a reality,” mayor Johnson told the crowd.

The estimated $477 million project is being touted by the team as a technological wonder and fits into the city’s “green” initiatives.  Of the estimated costs, the city of Sacramento is on the hook for $223 million.  $212 million will come through the sale of bonds, and the remaining $11 million will come through parking and economic development.

The Kings will contribute the remaining $254 million for the project and have committed to pay all additional costs, including cost overruns and predevelopment monies.  The team has also committed to funding the development of the surrounding area.

‘This is a new era in what cities are doing.  How you have public-private partnerships, and we want to be a model around the country,” Johnson said.

Not only have the Kings committed to the public-private partnership with the city, but they have gone out of their way to make sure the building is distinctly Sacramento.

“We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time soliciting input from Sacramentans – focus groups, open houses, surveys,” Granger said.  “So this building is designed by the people of Sacramento.  This is their building, so we are thrilled to be able to deliver something that’s reflective of the values of the people in Sacramento and the way we live our lives here.”

The real excitement for the new building will come early next year when the steel girders begin to rise up from the demolition site.  After years of struggle, the city of Sacramento and the Kings franchise are on a new path.  For the first time, their path is singular and will lead to long-term viability of the team in the capital city.

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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".