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Sacramento, Seattle groups present to NBA owners

Posted: April 4, 2013 - 12:11am
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Sacramento Kings fans show support to keep the team from moving during a timeout in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 24, 2013. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced Saturday, that the city has reached an agreement for a new downtown arena with a group of investors that hopes to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)  Rich Pedroncelli
Rich Pedroncelli
Sacramento Kings fans show support to keep the team from moving during a timeout in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 24, 2013. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced Saturday, that the city has reached an agreement for a new downtown arena with a group of investors that hopes to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

NEW YORK — The future home of the Kings may not be settled this month after all.

With owners facing a difficult choice between a move to Seattle or the team staying put in Sacramento, NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday the expected vote in two weeks may be delayed.

“We’ve never had a situation like this,” Stern said.

“And the seriousness of purpose to me is really incredible, because (owners) know that there’s a lot at stake here for two communities and the NBA.”

A Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a pending agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the team and move it back to the city the SuperSonics left in 2008. Sacramento has put together its own group to make a competing bid.

Both sides made presentations to a committee of owners Wednesday that left enough questions that Stern says he doesn’t know when a decision will be made.

A vote was expected during the April 18-19 board of governors meeting. But Stern said questions remain about real estate and arena construction timelines, and owners may need more time to sort through them.

It couldn’t go much past that date, because a 2013-14 schedule has to be made and tickets have to be sold.

“I wouldn’t expect it if it does to slide by a lot, because there’s a combined interest in having some clarity come to this situation,” Stern said.

The Seattle group went first, touting the financial strength of its city and the passion of its fans. Sacramento followed, stressing the support it’s shown for the Kings, even during their many losing seasons, and the city’s plans for a new arena that would revitalize its downtown.

Stern again ruled out expansion at this time, meaning only one of the cities will have an NBA team next season.

“There’s no question that Seattle is a vibrant and thriving market with plans for a great building, and Sacramento has been a great and supportive market of the NBA with plans for a new building,” Stern said. “And so we need to flesh out for the owners, every owner seems to have a different question, but we’ve got a fair amount of work to do.”

Sacramento city officials reached a preliminary agreement Saturday night for a new downtown arena with an investment group that hopes to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson first announced the deal on his Twitter account. A few hours later, the city released the details of the non-binding term sheet.

The group includes Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle. The City Council is planning to vote on the agreement Tuesday.

“Once again, we’re proving the strength of our market — both as host to an NBA team, but as an emerging region with global potential,” Johnson said.

The city of Sacramento plans to contribute $258 million to the $447 million project, mostly by leasing out parking garages and land. The other $189 million will come from the investment group.

Johnson said the deal will avoid new taxes and ensure a net impact to the city’s general fund.

“This is a monumental project that will redefine the Downtown Plaza and revitalize our urban core,” City Manager John Shirey said in a statement. “This project is about providing a regional attraction and creating economic development opportunities that will retain and create thousands of jobs, bring people downtown, increase property and sales tax — all of which will contribute to our city’s vitality.”

Sacramento is hoping to block a bid by group that has a pending purchase agreement to buy the Kings from the Maloof family, move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. That group, led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, has had a deal to acquire a 65 percent stake in the team for $341 million since January.

The NBA Board of Governors is expected to make a decision by mid-April. If league blocks the Seattle deal, the Maloofs would still have to agree to sell to any other group.

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