SEATTLE — By a 7-2 vote, the Sacramento City Council Tuesday night approved a term sheet for a new $447 million downtown arena.
The vote is non-binding, meaning the council would have to approve spending the money at a later date.
But the passage allows Sacramento an arena proposal it can present to the NBA next month when the city will attempt to sway the league from approving a sale of the Kings to a group that would relocate them to Seattle.
As he cast the final yes vote in wrapping up a four-hour meeting, Mayor Kevin Johnson — a former three-time NBA All-Star — called it “a good day for Sacramento. We are on track to do something very historic.”
He said he hopes Seattle gets a team some day and “we wish them well,” but that Sacramento is “fighting for what is ours.” As the meeting ended, a decidedly pro-Kings crowd burst into a chant of “Sac-ra-men-to.”
The term sheet calls for the city of Sacramento to contribute $258 million, with $212.5 million coming through the organization of a non-profit that would borrow against future parking revenues controlled by the city.
The presentation by the city focused on how the arena would be the centerpiece of an entertainment and sports complex that would revitalize downtown Sacramento. The Kings currently play at Sleep Train Arena, in Natomas, north of downtown. That arena opened in 1988.
The speeches by those speaking on behalf of the arena were at times impassioned — at one point, a representative for the private investment group that will work with the city, Darius Anderson, referred to Seattle coming in to “swoop and steal” the Kings out of Sacramento.
A few public opponents also spoke, including a lawyer from a group that has threatened litigation if the issue is not put to a public vote. But the foes were drowned out by a much larger group that spoke in favor of the arena.
There was little real debate among the council. Council member Steve Hansen, who had been considered a borderline vote, called the proposal “an opportunity that is somewhat unprecedented” as he voted yes, noting the economic positive it could present for Sacramento.
One of the two dissenting voices came from Council member Kevin McCarty, who said he wished the Sacramento proposal were more of a “Seattle-like deal” with less public contribution.
The approval of the term sheet helps complete the package Johnson has attempted to assemble to fight back against efforts of a group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to relocate the team to Seattle.
Hansen’s group reached agreement in January to buy the team from the current owners, the Maloof family, purchasing 65 percent of the Kings for roughly $340 million at a total valuation of $525 million.
Johnson has helped form an ownership group now led by Vivek Ranadive, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and also a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, that is making an alternate offer for the team.
Representatives of the Seattle and Sacramento groups will meet before a committee of NBA owners on April 3 to state their case.
The groups will then also meet before the full NBA Board of Governors at their annual meeting April 18-19, after which the Board will vote whether to approve the sale of the team to the Seattle group. If the sale is not approved, the Maloofs will then have the option of selling to the Sacramento group.
If the NBA votes to approve the sale to the Seattle group, the team would relocate beginning with the 2013-14 season and play at KeyArena while a new arena in the Sodo District is constructed. The Kings would be renamed the Sonics, replacing the team that left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in Seattle.