Kings remaining in Sacramento [Updated]
The Sacramento Kings have just announced they are staying in California's capital rather than attempt a move to Anaheim.
The team faced a Monday afternoon deadline to decide whether to apply to the NBA for relocation to the Honda Center.
The decision to stay follows weeks of maneuvering by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who mobilized more than $10 million in sponsorship and ticket support for the team in the capital, and gathered interest from Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle to help build a new arena downtown for the Kings.
Behind the scenes, opposition to placing a third team in Southern California was mounted by the Lakers, Clippers and league officials who didn't like the idea of leaving a market that has proved in the past to be fervent, especially as the team succeeded.
By staying, team owners Joe and Gavin Maloof have given Johnson and others a year to follow through on their pledge to move significantly toward a new "entertainment and sports complex" in town. If the effort is not satisfactory to the owners, they are free to revive relocation talk again next year.
Anaheim and Honda Center officials did not immediately comment on the Maloofs' decision to stay in Sacramento, except to repeat their confidence that the Honda Center remains a viable destination for an NBA franchise.
In a statement just released, Maloof Sports and Entertainment said:
"Out of respect to Kings fans and the regional business community, we have decided to remain in Sacramento for the 2011-12 season. The fans' spirit and energy, specifically our season ticket holders, has been remarkable and we are truly thankful for their loyalty. We also are greatly appreciative of the support from our corporate sponsors as well as other local businesses that have come forward in recent weeks.
Additionally, we would like to take this opportunity to send a heartfelt thank you to the loyal and hardworking team members within our organization. From the game night staff to the front office, coaches, and players, we are grateful for their professionalism and devotion.
During this process, Mayor Johnson has strongly indicated to both the community and the NBA that he is capable of getting the support to build a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports facility that the Sacramento Region and the tremendous Kings fans so rightly deserve. We look forward to seeing Mayor Johnson bring his vision to reality. However, if an arena plan cannot be finalized in a timely fashion, the NBA's relocation committee has assured Maloof Sports and Entertainment that it will support an application to move the franchise to another market starting in 2012-13."
[Updated at 9:27 a.m.: The Kings also released a second statement expressing appreciation to Anaheim and Honda Center operator/Ducks owner Henry Samueli:
"In making our decision to remain in Sacramento for the 2011-12 season, we cannot do so without thanking the City of Anaheim for its foresight and support in diligently working toward bringing NBA basketball to Orange County. Mayor Tom Tait, City Manager Tom Wood, and the members of the Anaheim City Council are ambitious, hardworking leaders and have done everything possible to attract the greatest entertainment options in the World to their community.
Of course, we are indebted to the tireless efforts of Henry and Susan Samueli, whose professionalism and desire during this process were second to none. The Samueli's are a true visionary family dedicated to bettering the Orange County community in which they live and work. We also would like to thank Michael Schulman, who spent the past several months working with the Anaheim Arena Management staff to spearhead efforts to make the Honda Center home to a professional basketball franchise."]
[Updated at 9:48 a.m.: "We are disappointed in today's developments but remain very optimistic about the long-term future of the NBA in Anaheim," Michael Schulman, chairman of Anaheim Arena Management, said in a statement. "We wish the Maloof family and City of Sacramento well and hope they are successful in their endeavors. Since we began working toward bringing an NBA franchise to Orange County, we have maintained that this process is about getting a team for the fans, as basketball is a sport loved by Southern Californians. With the nation's second most populous region, one which serves as home to nearly the same number of people as the entire state of Texas, we are continuing our pursuit of an NBA team for our venue.
"Southern California has long proved its ability to support major league sports franchises, yet both of our area basketball teams share an arena in the northern-most part of the region. If an NBA franchise came to Anaheim, nearly 10 million people will have greater access to regularly attend professional basketball games due to the location of Honda Center.
"Recently listed as one of the five most successful arenas in North America (along with Staples Center), Honda Center is without question a leader in the industry. With that in mind, our pursuit continues and we look forward to securing a franchise for area fans in the very near future."]
We'll have more on this later at latimes.com/sports.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: George, left, Gavin and Joe Maloof. Credit: Steve Yeater / Associated Press