Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson preparing for next week’s NBA vote on Kings

Kevin Johnson at his weekly press conference on May 7, 2013. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

As a decision looms on the fate of the Sacramento Kings, Kevin Johnson remains confident in the capital city’s chances of keeping its only major professional sports team.  The Sacramento mayor plans on being in Dallas next week, where NBA owners are expected to make the final vote on where the Kings play next season.

The mayor held his weekly press conference at city hall this morning to provide a brief update.  Here are the highlights, followed by audio of the entire session with the media.

  • Johnson said city staff is regularly meeting with arena consultants from the Sacramento investor group.  They’re having conversations on matters like construction schedules, timelines and site control for the proposed entertainment and sports center.  They’re also engaging in talks on the reuse plan for Natomas when the Kings eventually move out of Sleep Train Arena.
  • Johnson on Vivek Ranadivé and company’s willingness to forfeit NBA revenue sharing: “I felt one of the legs up that Seattle had was they weren’t going have to accept revenue sharing and our group said we’re willing to limit or cap or at least have these type of conversations when it comes to revenue sharing.  And we want to be in position as an ownership group when you get into a new building to not have to be on the dole.  And I think that took the legs out of one of Seattle’s strong arguments.  We dont want to be revenue receipients.  And whether the ownership group can do that in year one, two, three or four, I think what the NBA appreciated was our willingness to put that on the table and have a real conversation.  I think this group has firmed up their offer each step along the way and showed a seriousness of purpose that I think sends a really strong message to the NBA.”
  • The mayor is not yet sure what role he’ll play next week in Dallas.  Johnson said he’s prepared to present or answer questions before the May 15th vote.  He’s willing to do “whatever it takes to keep the team in Sacramento”.
  • As the final vote nears, has the mayor received any indications from the Maloof family that they are open to selling to the Ranadivé group?  Johnson believes that lawyers representing the NBA, the current Kings owners and the Sacramento group are all actively having conversations about how to proceed.  The mayor isn’t fearful of the possibility of the Maloofs deciding not to sell if the Seattle deal is rejected. “I’m sure there’s a 101 things that could go wrong or could slow things up,” Johnson said. “But we’re all very hopeful that coming out of May 15 that there’ll be a final decision.”
  • Johnson said that the Sacramento group is gearing up to launch a season ticket renewal campaign as soon as the franchise’s future is decided.  “Assuming there’s a decision on the 15th, what we’re going to do on the next day is launch our season ticket renewals,” Johnson said. “That’s the best way our fans can show their support of this market.  The corporate sponsors are all ready to write checks but everybody is waiting for a final decision so that’s kind of where we are.”
  • Can the NBA reject relocation yet still approve the sale to Chris Hansen?  The mayor doesn’t believe that scenario is likely. Johnson was also asked about Hansen’s willingness to keep fighting for Seattle and attempted to put himself in the shoes of the prospective Sonics owner.  “If I was in Seattle, I’d be fighting like crazy to keep the team.  I would.  I would be doing everything I could to keep the team. But once the relocation committee spoke as loud and as clear as it did, I would probably take a step back  and understand that I’m probably not going to get this team.  So how can I put Seattle, Hansen, (Steve) Ballmer, the Nordstrom family or anybody else from Seattle in the best possible position to get a team going forward.  I would take the high road and I’d be gracious – that’s what I would do. But they may have more knowledge than I do, but I don’t think it bodes well to anyone at this point. In some respects, you’re poaching.  You’re taking somebody else’s team.  And that’s a whole other scenario, but I think at this point the NBA has spoken loud through their relocation committee.  And if I was them, I’d literally say alright, we understand that.  If another team becomes available, we’re still gonna move forward with our arena efforts, we want to be at the front of the line.  If an expansion opportunity comes available, lord willing then we are gonna be ready.  We have already demonstrated that we have a strong ownership group. We have a plan to build an arena, but Sacramento got us on this one.”

Can’t see the audio player? Listen here.

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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.