Stung by the collapse of talks to bring a new Sacramento Kings arena to the downtown railyards area, the NBA has withdrawn from all arena efforts, presumably paving the way for the Maloofs to move the franchise.
Sacramento has always been an interesting market for the NBA: not quite major-league in size and in some ways in the universe of San Francisco/Oakland, Sacramento was able to support NBA basketball because of a fanatical fan base and a ground-breaking naming-rights deal for Arco Arena.
But times have changed. The fanatical crowds are still there, but it’s the big-buck corporate sponsorships that fund the bottom line that are missing from Sacramento. And even if the Kings could come up with a replacement for BP — the buyers of the Arco rights — the amount of the naming-rights deal pales in comparison to what other teams are receiving.
It was clear from the beginning that a complicated land swap that would eventually yield a Kings arena was a long shot, but one worth taking both for the city and the NBA: the rewards would have kept the Kings as a economically viable entity. With the new-arena efforts collapsed, the NBA apparently has decided that enough is enough, as evidenced as this statement sent out by league arena point man John Moag:
“On the heels of the disappointing–but not surprising–action (or inaction) of the State and Cal Expo Board, it is fair to say that the NBA has ceased its activities on the Sacramento arena front. However, we will continue to monitor and respond to the activities and options of others that might reasonably ensure the competitiveness and viability of the Kings franchise.”
How long could this take? Not long: the city clearly has no money for a new arena, and with a market sitting and waiting for an NBA franchise — Las Vegas, where Thomas & Mack Center would be an acceptable temporary facility until a winner emerges from competing arena plans — it’s hard to see how long the team will stay in a smaller market with an outdated arena.
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