Arena deal crumbles, Sacramento's NBA future shaky

Associated Press Modified: April 14, 2012 at 1:31 am •  Published: April 14, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Kings' future in Sacramento is uncertain again.

A tentative deal for a new arena has fallen apart, leaving open the possibility the team's owners could again try to move from California's capital.

"Is the deal dead? As we know it, absolutely," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Friday.

The Maloof family has balked at terms of the agreement reached last month, and though they say they want to remain in Sacramento, Johnson isn't so sure after meeting with them Friday and hearing their list of concerns he said hadn't previously been disclosed.

"It just feels like they were coming up with reasons of why not to do the deal," Johnson said.

So a year after Johnson came to New York to begin his fight to save the team, his city is in jeopardy of losing it all over again.

Admitting he was angry and questioning the Maloofs' trustworthiness, Johnson praised his city's efforts but said he doesn't know what will happen now.

"They are now saying they don't want to do the deal, which essentially means they don't want to be in Sacramento, and that's very, very disappointing," he said.

The Kings say otherwise.

"We are committed to remaining the Sacramento Kings," the team said in a statement.

But they stressed — as did Commissioner David Stern — that the deal was "always nonbinding," and the Maloofs always had the right to decide they were no longer comfortable with the terms.

"The negotiations that have occurred surrounding, as Commissioner Stern said repeatedly today during his news conference, a 'non-binding framework,' never resulted in a deal that was good for the City or good for the team," the Kings said.

It was a stunningly swift and disappointing result for Sacramento officials who thought they were on their way to holding onto the team just weeks ago.

They had met with the Maloofs and league officials during the NBA's All-Star weekend in Orlando in February, celebrating a tentative deal to fund the estimated $391 million arena that would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown Sacramento rail yards.

Co-owner Gavin Maloof was in tears then in a joint announcement of the deal, which the Sacramento City Council passed its end of in early March. The deal was brokered by the league — with the Maloofs' permission, according to Johnson — and tentatively agreed to by the Kings.

But Joe, Gavin and George Maloof had since taken issue with some of the terms — particularly environmental and pre-development costs that Johnson said made up less than 1 percent of the project's cost. Under the agreement, the Kings and arena operator AEG each agreed to pay about $3.25 million in pre-development costs with the city paying the remaining $6.5 million.

"I think it's fair for the Maloofs to say they don't want to do that," Stern said during a news conference after two days of owners meetings. "If they had done it simpler, earlier or more directly, it could have saved a lot of angst and trouble."

The Maloofs made a presentation to owners Thursday, which they shared at a separate news conference Friday. They then met with Johnson for about two hours, a meeting Johnson called "relatively civil" but ultimately pointless — and throws open further questions about the Maloofs' financial capabilities.

"It just became clear that they're not willing to honor what we laid out," Johnson said.

During their news conference, the Maloofs said they liked Sacramento but insisted the arena project was too expensive. George Maloof said they had given the city a list of their concerns that needed to be addressed before they could commit to such a major deal.

Maloof even floated the idea of renovating Power Balance Pavilion. Stern said he didn't know if that was possible, but Johnson strongly said he wouldn't support the plan and that if the Maloofs wanted to do it, it would come without financial support from the city.

"Regardless of where you stand on the arena the facts are clear: The city stepped up and the Maloofs did not," state Senator Darrell Steinberg said in a statement. "Sacramento deserves partners who will live by their word. I stand with the Mayor and the city to do everything possible to protect Sacramento's interest. I hope the NBA and its owners do not allow this kind of bad behavior to occur without consequences. I look forward to meeting with Mayor Johnson and city officials to consider next steps."

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