SACRAMENTO, CA - On his way into a screening of "Waiting for Superman", an educational documentary featuring his financee Michelle Rhee, Mayor Kevin Johnson said he's excited and ready for the NBA visit.
"I'm just excited that Sacramento is still in the game," Johnson said. "This is our playof. We're the only team in the playoffs that nobody knows about."
NBA Commissioner David Stern pushed back the relocation deadline to May 2, which will allow a fact-finding team to visit both Sacramento and Anaheim. The team will investigate claims each city made during the NBA Board of Governor's meeting in New York City.
If not for the delay, the Maloofs would have had to file for a relocation to Anaheim by April 18.
The Sacramento fact-finding visit begins Thursday.
"They need to know that something is different this time then all the failed attempts in the past for an entertainment and sports complex," Johnson said. "I think there's a political will, I think we have the leadership and I think our public is ready to have these conversations -- so they'll get a chance to see first hand what we're made of in Sacramento."
The mayor said his plan to woo the NBA relocation committee is three-fold,but focuses on the financial viability of Sacramento. He said they'll be looking for corporate dollars that are ready to invest.
"Advertising, buy a suite, buy a block of tickets, for that you get a suite, you get radio, you get TV, that corporate participation," he said. "We've got to show that's there more of them in Sacramento and that creates a viable market."
The NBA liked Johnson's "business-approach" at its Big Apple meeting on Thursday, where Johnson said $7 million of those corporate dollars were found in a week.
"We think we have a corporate base that's willing to step up, different then they've done in the past and number three, we're going to go forward with a new arena -- regardless," the mayor said.
Part of the help finding those $7 million so quickly came from Sacramento's Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Bureau spokesman Mike Testa said the process revealed how valuable professional sports are in Sacramento.
"There was some outreach that was done pretty quickly and I think people understood the urgency of the issue and made those commitments," Testa said. "I think when you can generate that kind of response in a short period of time, certainly that gives you cause fo maybe there's more there."
Like Johnson, Testa is encouraged by the NBA's decision to look at what Sacramento has to offer. "If you can make a business argument that the investment in a sports and entertainment complex would benefit this region then I think you've gone a long way in making that argument," he said.
"Sixteen out of the last 20 years (the Kings) had losing teams but the arena still sold out. So that fan base I think is very important. And then the commitment from the business community forward to reinvest and buy season tickets and buy suites -- I think those are things that will be eye-openers for the committee," Testa said.
Johnson added they don't yet know how the city will pay for a new arena, but the David Taylor/ ICON Venue Group approved by the city council in January is still working on it. The full report is due at the end of May.
That group did, however, promise to accelerate portions of it for the NBA visit.
"They have committed to accelerate aspects of their feasibility study so when Clay Bennett is out here we'll be able to share some of those things in private," Johnson said.
By Nick Monacelli, email@example.com