April 11, 2011; Fans hold up signs during the Sacramento Kings vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder game: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Greg Van Dusen: We Still Expect to Do a Full Renovation

February 28, 2011; Sacramento, CA, USA; ARCO Arena

I had a chance to chat with Greg Van Dusen about his group’s plan to renovate ARCO Arena. Working pro bono, his group is generating ideas to produce a preliminary design, which they hope to show to the Maloofs, owners of the Sacramento Kings, for their approval in the near future.

Van Dusen is no stranger to working on such projects. He was a major part of Arco I and Arco II. He worked 12 years for developer Gregg Lukenbill, when NBA’s Kansas City Kings were lured to Sacramento. He was Executive Vice President of Sacramento Kings. He is made of the grit to have a vision and the determination to see a project through to completion regardless of the obstacles. He is among the movers and shakers; among a select few who get things done.

Speaking of his prior work on the arena:

Everything we did was based in generating sellout success.

That they did. From Bryan Rosa, Sacramento Kings Fans Most Sellouts in NBA in Last  25 Years. From the proximity of the seating to the basketball court, to controlling cost and pricing of tickets, parking, and food venues, to maintaining affordability to fans, every detail scrutinized. He saw the value of sellout crowds. He still does. The yelling screaming full houses which generated the kind of adrenaline rushes, pulsating pleasure centers all over the brain, making fans want to come back for more, and more. Again and again.

The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dillon

A lot has happened since Arco Arena was built in 1988, twenty-four years ago. The babies born in 1988 are now the Sacramento Kings fans of today. A lot has happened since the 2002 Western Conference Finals, the height of the Sacramento Kings.

TNT announcer Chris Webber, former Sacramento King player; Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Then, Chris Webber blew out his knee.

Who knew that his crumpled body, as he lay on the court, would portend the future of the team?

As the team began to dismantle, so did the arena. Despite repeated attempts to build a new arena, those have crumbled like Chris Webber on that fateful day.

As painful as that was, we couldn’t anticipate the puncture to our hearts, when the Maloofs voiced their desire to leave Sacramento to go to Anaheim. Well, here we are today. No new arena. One old arena and George Maloof announcing they want to renovate ARCO Arena.

That is what brings me to the interview with Greg Van Dusen. He and his group have a plan to fix up the old arena, to bring it back to the glory years.

As to what went wrong with the recent arena deal, Greg had this to say:

Hypothetically, somebody screwed this up.

I think the best way to describe his group’s plan is a reset, like resetting your computer to an earlier date, when it gets all messed up with viruses and trojans. Greg and his group want to reset ARCO back to the glory years. He really believes they can do this.

While I listen to his ideas, in the back of my mind I am wondering: Who is going to pay?

It is going to require a lot money to renovate the arena. The arena is owned by the Maloofs, but I am not hearing them talk about fixing it, beyond slapping on some paint, and making some superficial repairs and fixing up.

March 16, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Mayor Kevin Johnson: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Greg sees other cities spending sums of money with a return on their investment. He believes public funding can come from the City of Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson made it pretty clear, he didn’t see the City of Sacramento paying for the renovation. However, Van Dusen feels that if Mayor Kevin Johnson is not one to support the City paying for the renovation, then, “Kevin Johnson can participate without leading.”

I had a hard time pinning Greg down on how his group hopes to generate revenue to renovate the arena. There was no mention of the Maloofs contributing anything to their own building. Instead, he pointed to others coming up with money to get a return on their investment. Where will this come from? Van Dusen says,

It should be 60-40 private-public…there are many in the City willing.

Adding… “There are other members with equal votes” who would ostensibly vote to use City funds to renovate the Maloofs’ arena.

While there could be some Sacramento Kings fans who would support this, because they want to keep the Kings in Sacramento, there are other fans who may oppose this, not wanting the City to use funds to fix up the Maloofs’ dilapidated arena. Greg doesn’t seem especially concerned about any opposition, citing they had faced similar opposing forces in the past.

I had a difficult time pinning Greg down on his views involving the existing loan between the City of Sacramento and the Maloofs. I cited the Sacramento Bee article, dated April 26, 2012 by Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis. In the article, Greg is quoted as saying that Chris Webber, former Sacramento Kings’ player wanted to participate in a plan to restructure the city of Sacramento’s loan to the Kings in order to ease the team’s financial stress. Greg denied this.

He did mention that the loan with the City and the Maloofs needed to be paid off; yet, also indicated the existing loan might be restructured or added to. When I asked whether this was for the purpose of generating revenue for the project, he didn’t want to commit to a response one way or another.

Wouldn’t any restructuring of the loan be more beneficial to the Maloofs, by lowering interest rates, and generating more money from the City? He thinks it would depend on how the loan would be restructured. Do they have any new investors in his group? No.The investors are already owners of the team.

What happens if the Maloofs apply for relocation?

Greg does not believe the Maloofs have any intention of filing for relocation. What is the Maloofs’ current mindset? He pointed out, “The lowest point of their collective lives was when their father sold the Rockets.”

Greg believes the Maloofs want to, “get away from all this crap.”   Meaning they want to get away from, “all the public pressures, media, and scrutinizing.”  He  takes the view the Maloofs genuinely want to remain here in Sacramento and go back to the days of the sellout crowds. He sees their previous intention to relocate to Anaheim as a dalliance for the lure of television money.

Does he feel the multiple heads of the Maloof family pose any problems for the family coming to agreement?  From his experiences with the Maloofs, he does not believe this poses a problem with the family reaching a consensus. Who does he identify as the leader? He identified Joe Maloof as the “voice of the Maloofs.” Does he personally speak regularly with the Maloofs?  He named John Cassidy as the “communication conduit,” who speaks primarily to Joe Maloof.

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

What about George Maloof, who seemed to come to the forefront with the arena dealing? Has he surfaced to be the family leader? Greg wondered whether I was referring to the events, which surfaced in Florida, over the All-Star break when there seemed to be some agreement as to a framework of an arena deal. (George did not seem excited like his brothers. It was also George, flanked by the family attorney who unceremoniously stamped out any hope for the deal.) Van Dusen surmised the family was probably happy to see George get involved in the management of the Palms, in recent months, as he had become an “embarrassment.”

In summarizing our chat, there is no question Greg Van Dusen loves the Sacramento Kings. This isn’t just business, for him. He has a lot of hope for our young core of players. He spoke effusively of DeMarcus Cousins, believing he could become one of the top players in the league adding the bonus of his sense of humor. Greg’s heart is to keep the team here and return to the days of the sellout crowds.

It remains unclear where the group intends to generate revenue for the project, as it does not sound like the Maloofs would be contributors. It also remains unclear how the group plans will play out politically in Sacramento. More importantly, it remains unclear whether the Maloofs intend to even remain here in Sacramento. If their endgame is to relocate, then this whole conversation becomes moot.

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