SEATTLE — City officials in Sacramento are expected today to release details of a financing plan to build a new arena in that city designed at keeping the NBA Kings from relocating to Seattle.
And that unveiling will set off what figures to be a mad dash of activity in the four weeks leading to the April 18-19 meeting of the NBA’s Board of Governors in New York. That’s when the NBA is scheduled to vote whether to approve the sale of the Kings to a group that would move them to Seattle.
Some close to the process, though, say the decision could be all but made on April 3 when representatives of both cities meet before a smaller group of NBA owners, also in New York.
“It makes sense to me that by the end of that meeting on the third they will have a decision,” barring some complication, said Michael McCann, a legal analyst for NBA-TV.
McCann said that’s in part because the NBA likes to build consensus on major decisions such as franchise relocations. McCann said it’s likely the owners at the April 3 meeting will give a recommendation for the entire group to officially vote on April 18-19.
“It’s important for them to have a decisive vote because if there is a divided vote, it sort of raises questions about the process and suggests there is uncertainty about this in the league,” McCann said. “So to avoid what could be portrayed as a result where some owners won and others lost, I think they probably will want to have an overwhelming vote when they vote. To get to that point, they have to discuss it beforehand, and that’s where the April 3 meeting is crucial to that.”
McCann compared the procedure to that in 2008, when the board voted to approve the move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City. McCann said it was known then that some “questioned the logic of moving the team. But even at that, it was a 28-2 vote. So I think the league wants to put forth a showing of solidarity.”
The importance of the April 3 meeting is no secret in Sacramento. Officials there are scrambling to get all the pieces in place in their plan designed to dissuade the NBA from approving the sale of the Kings from the current owners, the Maloof family, to a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced last month he had assembled an ownership group led by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, as well as a plan to build a new downtown arena led by billionaire Ron Burkle.
The arena plan, though, needs approval by the Sacramento City Council because it could involve at least $250 million in public funds.
The financing plan is expected to be unveiled tonight, with a scheduled vote Tuesday. Between those dates, the city will allow the public to ask questions about the plan in open forums.
Sacramento city officials have acknowledged that the time frame for putting the plan together is tight. But City Manager John Shirey said Tuesday that “we’ll still make that deadline” of releasing the plan Thursday.
Sacramento also has been working on enhancing what it has offered to buy the Kings. NBA commissioner David Stern said this month that the offer from the Mastrov group was not competitive with that made by the Seattle group, and that “unless it increases, it doesn’t get to the state of consideration.” Hansen’s group reportedly paid $341 million to buy 65 percent of the team at a valuation of $525 million.
McCann said Sacramento must “have everything in order” by the April 3 meeting to have a chance to keep the Kings. The Seattle group already has an agreement to purchase the team and government approval of an arena plan.
“I think at this point, Seattle still has a strong lead,” McCann said. “The multiple steps still required for Sacramento’s approach makes it more difficult for them.”