Ducks and Honda Center owners Henry and Susan Samueli were joined by Anaheim city leaders Wednesday in a ground-breaking ceremony for the $20-million Grand Terrace project, described as the most extensive upgrade in the venue's history and another sign of the city's still-strong interest in enticing the NBA's Sacramento Kings to move south.
"We can envision a day fans will attend NHL hockey, concerts and NBA basketball games here," Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said at a ceremony complete with hard hats for guests, shovels in the ground and Ducks mascot Wild Wing at the wheel of a bulldozer.
"It will be fan-tastic," Tait added, a reference to the dated NBA ad campaign that some in the crowd missed, causing the mayor to explain, "That's supposed to be funny."
Anaheim is awaiting a March 1 deadline that Kings' owners have for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to reveal a financing plan for a new arena in the state capital.
The NBA last year asked Kings owners the Maloof brothers to delay a decision on moving south for a year, allowing Sacramento officials more time to produce an arena plan. The move came after Anaheim last March approved a $75-million bond plan that would improve the Honda Center and provide a $50-million loan to the team's owners.
Anaheim was to merely act as an escrow broker in that now-expired deal, with the $75 million actually coming from the Samuelis.
Tait said Wednesday that if a similar deal comes about, the city will stay out of it, after being subjected to criticism by some who were confused about its involvement in the Samueli loan, thinking it was a typical bond deal, which it was not.