Stern visits Sacramento to work on arena

December 5th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Stern visits Sacramento to work on arena


Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - NBA commissioner David Stern still believes he can keep the Kings in Sacramento, and he seems willing to meet with anyone who has a good idea about the best way to do it.
Stern visited California's capital city on Monday in the first step of the latest effort to devise a funding plan for a new arena that would keep the Kings in their home since 1985. Though the league has no definite plan and no timetable for a deal, Stern claims the league is committed to Sacramento.
"With the quality of the support that this team has received from Sacramento and the job that the Maloofs have done with (the Kings and the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs), we feel it's important to make this effort," Stern said. "Whether it's successful or not, I make no guarantees, but it will not be from any lack of effort on our part."
Stern met with Mayor Heather Fargo, five city councilmembers and the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee on Monday. He plans to meet with the county's board of supervisors, local developers and perhaps Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday before departing.
Sacramento voters soundly rejected two ballot measures last month that were the latest attempt to create partial public funding for a downtown replacement for dilapidated Arco Arena, but Stern believes the NBA can find a way to make it work.
Given Stern's track record in revolutionizing sports during his years in charge of the league, it's hard to doubt his abilities - and the commissioner also makes it difficult to doubt his sincerity.
"I have so many other things that could occupy me," Stern said with his usual genial smirk. "Being here is only because I believe that it would be a tragedy for the marriage to end on the note that was sounded by the last election."
Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof asked Stern last month to take the lead in negotiations with local governments. The billionaire brothers have grown increasingly unpopular in Sacramento even while the team earned eight consecutive playoff berths, mostly because of the Kings' clamor for a new arena.
John Moag, a stadium financing expert who runs a consulting firm in Maryland, has been hired by the NBA to stay in town for several days of meetings and exploratory conversations with everyone who might play a role in building an arena.
"We're here without preconception," Stern said. "This is very much fact-finding to determine what is the best funding plan, what is the best place for a stadium to be."
Though fretful fans still believe the Maloofs intend to move the Kings to Anaheim, Las Vegas or points east, Stern's stated desire to keep the Kings in California's capital could be quite genuine.
The NBA has an enviable market in Sacramento, where fans have sold out 322 consecutive home games despite rising ticket prices. Talk and writing about the Kings dominates the local media, with no other big-league franchises or major college sports in the growing metropolitan area.
Stern's intervention in the arena battle is unique, but the commissioner was willing to take the risk because the Maloofs asked.
"If there is a plan, it's something I will put my name on," Stern said.

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