Thinking Outside the Arena: What Lies Ahead?


Time has elapsed since the collapse of the arena deal between the City of Sacramento and the Maloof family. There has been enough time to recover from collective shock, even if  disappointment remains.

The City of Sacramento is in a quandary as what step to take in the future, while the conversation as to whether public funds should be used to fix up Arco Arena continue.

Tom Ziller, editor for and Sactown Royalty was one of the first to broach this topic in his July 25, 2012 article, Natomas is Not an Option for Public Money. Mr. Ziller is not one to mince words. He had this to say about the idea to renovate Arco Arena using public funds:

"As a Sacramento Kings fan, I want the Kings to stay in Sacramento…no matter what. But I, for one, refuse to carry water for the Maloofs by asking KJ, the city or anyone else to try to sell the public on slapping some shine on the Maloofs’ gym. I never presume to know what the NBA or David Stern think at any given time, but I can’t imagine they are sympathetic to the Maloofs’ new willingness to embrace a cheaper idea."

Ziller’s article was followed the next day, July 26, 2012 with one by James Ham, writer for Cowbell Kingdom, Arena: Turnabout is fair play for Kevin Johnson and the City of Sacramento. Mr. Ham’s article addressed the current Catch-22 which currently holds the City of Sacramento hostage to moving forward on plans for a new Entertainment and Sports Complex.

Specifically, he addressed the New Arena Right, wherein, the Maloofs could get out of their nearly 70 million dollar loan obligation with the City of Sacramento, if the City were to build a new arena capable of being the home venue of a major sports franchise, which is approved, developed, or financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by the City or County of Sacramento… (if the Kings will not be the prime user).

Mr. Ham proposed an idea to attempt to get around the New Arena Right, by suggesting some kind of building, which can be easily converted and put into NBA use.

"What if the Maloof family decides to keep the team in a run-down Power Balance Pavilion for the next decade? Then so be it. Put them out of business with a thriving concert hall that attracts major acts. Turns the screws until they bleed or do the reasonable thing, join the party. In the meantime, pay back your investors with the profits."

While in concept I like Mr. Ham’s idea, in reality my fear is that no matter what semantics one chooses, if your intent is to build something that can be easily converted to NBA use, then in reality your underlying intention is to build an arena. That is something you can’t keep secret. City leaders cannot operate in a closet hiding their real intention from the public. There has to be transparency, as communications are subject to subpoena.

In short, I question whether we can build a concert hall with the intention of converting it to NBA use and not provide the Maloof family an out on their debt. I think it is too risky to play a game with semantics. But, Mr. Ham’s idea does bring into question what alternatives are available in this situation. Does the Maloof family hold all the cards; or, are there other options to explore.

Where does this leave loyal fans of the Sacramento Kings?

First of all, we did not put ourselves in this position. The Maloof family put us in this position. We, as fans, did everything we could and then some. There are some things we can control in life and some things we cannot. We had hoped with our support we could sway the Maloof family to want to remain in Sacramento and be thrilled to be a part of the new arena. Just a reminder – we can’t make someone love us.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City of Sacramento did everything in their power to put together a feasible plan which would fairly benefit all parties involved. In the end, it was the Maloof family who chose not to accept the ESC deal. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Articles like those of Tom Ziller and James Ham remind that no matter the surface topics du jour – the 2012 NBA Draft, NBA Summer League, free agency, and possible trades; under the surface another mind-set prevails among fans. It is only natural that our submerged emotions percolate up to the surface. One can only suppress the spirit for so long.

Initially, I was going to poll everyone as to what approach each of you planned to take this season, but there are too many permutations that it became impractical.

There are questions of whether to attend or boycott games; to support or not support public funds to improve Arco Arena; to pursue a structure at the rail yards or look at other alternatives; to try to reignite negotiations with the Maloof family, and so on. These will be topics for ongoing discussion over the weeks and months to come.

For me, it came down to two simple alternatives for the upcoming season. First, take a wait and see approach, one of readiness, being fully prepared for whatever unfolds. I imagine a tiger crouching in the grasses ready to pounce. Second, take an active look at alternative solutions, brain-storming, engaging in creative and outside-the-box thinking. Of course, these two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

In the end, as dedicated, bright and energetic fans of the Sacramento Kings, we can wait, ready to take on whatever the game brings, while at the same time, using our collective creative juices to unleash fresh ideas to seize upon.