Who’s going to pay to upgrade Sleep Train Arena?

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson likes to play the big spender when he gets around NBA billionaires, so you have to worry how much more he’ll promise to give away in New York today.

Johnson’s trip to Orlando last year to chat with NBA folks would have cost Sacramentans  $55 million more than the $200 million the mayor planned to donate when he left sleepy Sacramento.  Fortunately for the capital’s financial stability, the mayor couldn’t give away enough to keep the Maloof family happy.

Today, the mayor will make his pitch to a committee of NBA owners that Sacramento is a better deal for the NBA than Seattle. He brings with him an agreement to fork over $258 million in public funds, which is considerably more generous than Seattle’s $200 million public giveaway.

But what’s going to happen behind closed doors when the NBA owners start squeezing the two cities to see which one will ultimately bid more? One trembles to think. But let’s start with $27 million. Will our increasingly desperate mayor sweeten the pot with that tidy sum? Will he promise to upgrade Sleep Train Arena while a new arena is built in downtown Sacramento?

In Seattle, Chris Hansen, the driving force behind that city’s push to get the Kings, is negotiating with city officials about upgrading KeyArena, where the Sonics played basketball until leaving town in 2008. He has already committed $7 million to make KeyArena suitable as an interim arena for two years until a pricey new arena is built.

Today’s Seattle Times  said Hansen and his group might throw in another $20 million to keep the NBA happy. Hansen’s group has reached an agreement to buy the Kings, but the sale must still be approved by the NBA. Any chance Hansen might make his $20 million announcement at today’s NBA committee meeting?

Nothing much has been said in Sacramento about upgrading our arena, but if Seattle is upgrading KeyArena, Sacramento will be pressured to do the same. The city, having shown its hand by agreeing to the term sheet, has little bargaining power with its “whales” or the NBA.

How much will the mayor give away to upgrade our old arena? Well, how much does it mean to Johnson’s political future to keep the Kings in Sacramento?




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One Response to Who’s going to pay to upgrade Sleep Train Arena?

  1. Jason says:

    After you wrote this blog, David Stern said that both cities have “suboptimal” arenas and based on his comments, this is looking like it will come down to whichever city get’s that shovel in the ground first. The NBA is going to squeeze every dollar it can from the cities and owners groups. And Pro Tem Steinberg will very likely produce a late-session bill that will modify CEQA to get those shovels in the ground faster. The NBA is getting its bidding war. This is a war in which winning would be “suboptimal” for Sacramento.

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