Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
SACRAMENTO, CA - The mayor of Sacramento is feeling confident the Sacramento Kings saga will have a happy ending for not only local fans but the community on the whole.
Mayor Kevin Johnson will be part of a contingent stating Sacramento's case for keeping the team and building a new arena to the NBA relocation committee in New York on April 3.
The Sacramento proposal kicked into high gear when it was confirmed the Kings' majority owners, the Maloof family, had reached a deal with a Seattle group to sell and move the team to the Emerald City for $525 million. One component to the Sacramento counter-offer was to identify local investor/partners. Twenty pledged at least $1 million each - and more than a dozen local companies also committed support.
Another component: the committment of major equity investors - so-called "whales". They are Mark Mastrov (24-Hour Fitness), Ron Burkle (grocery magnate and Pittsburgh Penguins owner), Vivek Ranadive (TIBCO software company founder) and Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm CEO).
For the mayor, getting the "whales" felt like Sacramento was turning the tide.
"I felt really good when we identified Ron Burkle. I felt even better when we identified Burkle and Mastrov. Then I felt three times as good when we got Vivek. Now that we have the Fab Four, the Jacob moment, those were four separate 'A ha!' moments I think really strengthened our position," Johnson said.
Then Tuesday night, the Sacramento City Council approved a $448 million term sheet for a downtown venue. The city of Sacramento would commit $258 million toward the project.
The challenge of helping pull Sacramento's plan together motivates the former NBA star point guard.
"We've always said since day one this is bigger than basketball," Johnson said. "If you think about the basketball building and team, that's one aspect. When you think about a construction project that will create 4,000 jobs , I'd like for most people to understand that's good for Sacramento whether you like sports or not.
"It's what keeps me going," Johnson continued. "It's an honor. It's overwhelming. It really is overwhelming to be mayor at this particular time for this cause for this community.
So how does he think the NBA owners will vote April 18 and 19? Sacramento needs eight of the 30 owners to vote against the Seattle offer to keep the team in town.
"I think if a city like Sacramento does everything that it was expected to do, why would you not side with the home team in this case? Tie goes to the runner."