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Who’s winning the race to open a new Kings arena?

Apr 3, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT


While Sacramento’s fight to keep their Kings could extend all the way to the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting on April 18-19, this week will prove pivotal as both Sacramento and Seattle are set to give their best pitch to the BOG’s joint committees tasked with reviewing the matter today in New York.

League insiders have bounced around on a lot of issues surrounding the Kings saga, but one of the issues that they are in agreement on is that the city that can build an arena first will have a key advantage in the eyes of the owners deciding the fate of the franchise.

In what may be a surprise development to some given Seattle’s head start on the arena building process, sources say that in Wednesday’s meeting and in the coming weeks, Chris Hansen’s group will reveal that they have “very little chance” of opening an arena before the 2017-18 season due to expected challenges under environmental law.

Seattle and Hansen are expected to agree to proceed with an arena deal as early as January 2014, after a final environmental review is conducted.  It is at that time that they are expected to face significant challenges (lawsuits) to their environmental review over traffic and arena location.  Those lawsuits have no time limit to be heard within, so a one-year lawsuit would make it a race for Seattle to open for the 2017-18 season if arena construction takes two years.

Sacramento is on track to open an arena in the 2016-17 season, and has no significant legal opposition to its arena plan as of yet.  There was practically no opposition against the last Sacramento arena plan, although that plan never got into the details of design (where opposition to large developments often form, as it has in Seattle). Also, the Downtown Plaza site for Sacramento’s arena plan is favorably zoned in the eyes of both the city and the league.

Sources with knowledge of the NBA’s view have identified two main differences that define each city’s path to an arena.

The first is a difference in environmental laws that provides Sacramento with an ‘expedited process’ to address any environmental challenges made against their arena deal once an environmental review is complete.

California recently enacted law AB900 at the urging of AEG (which has plans for a football arena in downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center). That law limits environmental challenges to a 175-day time-frame following the approval of an environmental review. Because any challenge must be heard in an appellate court, with statutory directives designed to expedite a challenge, Sacramento has a key legal advantage in the race to build an arena.  Co-Author of the law and member of Sacramento’s arena task force Darrell Steinberg is expected to attend today’s meetings with the joint committees to answer any questions about how the law works.

Should the NBA’s BOG approve the sale of the Kings to Sacramento buyers, an environmental review lasting for one year would result in a construction start date of no later than November 2014 when considering the maximum 175 day review for any environmental challenges.

Because of the certainty the expedited review process provides, Sacramento can present a firm timeline to the league whereas Seattle’s environment laws have no time limit for challenges to be heard and any legal proceedings go through superior (lower) courtrooms.  The expedited process in California takes place in appellate courts, and also gives those courts additional tools to further expedite an arena deal.

The second difference is the amount of resistance the Seattle arena deal is currently facing and will continue to face until all environmental challenges are heard. There are already challenges under Washington environmental laws that will take anywhere from one year or more to resolve according to Peter Goldman, who is currently suing the city on behalf of the local Longshoreman’s union over traffic concerns and the lack of a viable alternative site analysis required under state environmental law. The union’s main concern is union jobs at the port, which it wants to see grow as trade along the Pacific rim grows.

The main issue for opponents of the arena deal is where the arena is being placed. Opponents contend that the stadium district that houses the two existing stadia for the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders is already congested with traffic that interferes with the Post of Seattle. They’re arguing that even with attempts to mitigate additional traffic issues, the development of an “L.A. Live-like facility” on top of the other stadiums is an issue that cannot necessarily be fixed.

Whether or not these opponents’ claims have merits, league sources expect Hansen to be forthcoming about the possibility that the challenges delay the opening of the new facility.

There has been Seattle-based talk about a pair of pro bono attorneys in Sacramento that have been pursuing a potential lawsuit demanding a voter referendum on the recently approved arena deal.  Those attorneys sent a copy of their ‘intent to commence action’ (a threat to file a lawsuit) to Seattle television stations on Tuesday.

The attorneys contend that Sacramento’s parking monetization plan is effectively a tax that needs to be voted upon by the public, but according to Sports Illustrated and Legal Analyst Michael McCann, who has been following the Kings situation closely, he said that’s not likely to be the case.

“An administrative action like a parking monetization plan is not generally subject to referendum, but could be subject to an administrative review by a local agency such as the city treasurer or zoning board.”

Sacramento sources told PBT that they have “no concern about a referendum whatsoever.”

  1. allidoiswin55 - Apr 3, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    You must be a local Sacramento beat writer bc this is some objective but horrendously one sided article.

    The longshoreman have no shot it in Court same with the environmental review, it’s essentially a mute issue. One could argue that an apparent approval of tax and ticket dollars is a major deal if not voted in. This to me shows the rush and inaccurate process the mayor is pushing on both the city and the NBA and even if not in court this will hurt them tremendously publicly and within the owners meetings.

    The major issue is this the difference of public vs private funding. The league doesn’t want to deny big money (Seattle group) vs public funding which takes away owners forking over the costs. It boils down to this the league wants cities to help pay for new arenas and be able to hold a city hostage with the threat of moving unless approved and in this case them being approved and still moved would greatly crap on that process for other owners.

    Problem again comes down to the seattle group lining up all their ducks both in court and in proposals compared to a last sec push by a city.

    The team will move, because seattle is a more viable sports city, with more money, a larger market and and the potential to grow into an larger fan base. Each owner gets money if they approve the sale and move, the nba has about 44,000 season ticket holders waiting in Seattle, the big business in Seattle will fulfill the corporate needs arenas want, and more importantly seattle is bringing a much more well thought out and planned proposal, they have a well thought out plan but by law weren’t able to go to the media like Mayor Johnson was able to gain some momentum.

    Bring back our sonics sorry to sac they never deserved this.

    • petey57 - Apr 3, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      Seattle would have to “share” TV, corp support, fans,etc with 3 other major pro sports leagues which negates that argument. Sacramento is a 1 pro sports town and will have 100% market share for TV, corp sponsorship, etc. The relocation fee dispersion is a drop in the bucket to Billionaires – aprox 1.5 mil each. not a factor again. The 44k season ticket sales is a sham – the sight allowed multiple entries by the same person, lumped individual ticket sales as well as season ticket sales all into one – I even read where fans were “voting” 15 to 20 times each and laughing about it! Negates that argument.
      The City that can build the arena first will have the upper hand – sorry Seattle , but I think you’re going to have to wait for expansion or another team to steal. California Law allows expediting environmental review while Washington does not – in fact Wash. has even tougher laws which will drag this process out longer.
      the bottom line is we can all speculate but no one really knows – we will find out on the 18th.
      I hope Seattle gets a team, just not our team – KJ

    • thecuckoo3 - Apr 4, 2013 at 1:14 AM

      You sure sound angry and scared. Get used to the Sacramento Kings. If Seattle’s plan is so much better why cant they build an arena quicker? Good job for providing not one logical reason to move the Kings to Seattle. Way to go!!! Go root for the Sounders or something.

    • tallcoolone71 - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      Ignorance is bliss. You have done zero research on the Sac side of things. Kings stay in Sac. The behavior of Sonics fans in their attempted robbery of Sac’s team is among the most vile and ignorant things I have seen in my years of a sports fan.

    • rvanderzanden93 - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      Wow. I actually had to create an account to reply to this complete trash of a comment. How is it that some people are so misinformed?!? While I do agree that the longshoreman union’s appeals have no shot at stopping this that is not the point. What Bruski is saying is that in CA appeals like this can only last 175 days. There is no limit in WA, thus appeals can (and will) delay the Seattle arena pushing it out further than the Sacramento arena. And that isn’t his opinion, it is exactly what your “savior” will come out and say.

      First of all, the Sacramento plan wasn’t thrown together at the last minute. KJ and city council have been putting together an arena term sheet since last February (remember the one the Maloofs backed out on?). That term sheet was just altered to fit owners with money instead of IOU’s. Second, to think there are actually 44,000 season ticket holders ready in Seattle is absurd. You do realize that would be almost 4x as many season ticket holders as seats right? More than any other NBA team by far, more than pretty much any team in any sport. Yet, Sacramento sold more tickets than Seattle in the seasons they were in the league together. Where were these 44,000 season ticket holders then? Third, you claim Seattle to be a more viable city with more money, etc. Yes, they are a bigger TV market, but that is split among the M’s, Seachicken and major college sports. With those taken into account it has been proven that Seattle is actually a worse market. Sacramento on the other hand has been and will continue to be #1 or #2 market in terms of TV and radio in the NBA because no other advertising dollars are shared. Fourth, according to the NBA there was no gag order, so that is on the Seattle group for not taking advantage, except for their mouth piece Chris Daniels.

      Oh, one last thing…If you want your Sonics back go get them from OKC. These are not your Sonics, they are OUR Kings.

  2. praetorian12 - Apr 3, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Aaron Bruski wrote this? No need to read it then. Let me guess, he’s conccted another angle which is favorable for Sacramento and not favorable for Seattle, right? Why does PBT even let this guy write? Or if they do, why isn’t there a huge asterisk “Dude’s in the bag for Sacramento” ?

  3. gianthuskydolphin - Apr 3, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    1st & goal on the 1, Seattle? It’s 4th down now and KJ’s ready to complete the goal line stand!

  4. itsfinn - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Talk about a one sided article. The only plans Sacramento have for an arena is a magic marker drawn circle on a screen shot of from Google Earth.

  5. asimonetti88 - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    No offense Aaron but your articles on this subject tend to be awfully one sided for Sacramento.

  6. seattlenative57 - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Congratulations Mr Bruski. Once again you have proven your ability to present a complex issue in the simplest way possible. You have totally overestimated Sacramento’s position and underestimated Seattle’s position. Why don’t you just begin each of your posts thusly: I am entirely in the bag with Sacramento and will spew any sliver of garbage to slime Seattle.

    You sir do not belong in journalism. You are better suited to the advertising business. Or consulting, where you can present your bias and collect a bonus if your side prevails.

    • thecuckoo3 - Apr 4, 2013 at 1:15 AM

      Wahhhh go cry some more

  7. turdfurgerson68 - Apr 3, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    White Boys…hahahahaha!

  8. kylexitron - Apr 3, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Lets completely overlook the fact that the sale of the team has already been agreed upon by the team’s owners and the billionair-backed seattle group, you’re going to need more than the toothless ‘threat’ of an environmental study that is a foregone conclusion and formality to try to backup a push from Sacramento.

    I’m not sure how you justify a 15-paragraph article to basically say “Seattle will lose on this deal because of a trivial enviornmental impact study” and call yourself a journalist.

    • warhawk71 - Apr 6, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      You completely overlook the fact that the league has NEVER moved a team that has had great fan support and an arena deal in place.

      A signed agreement is just a proposal to sell the team. It doesn’t guarantee anything. It is an agreement on price and terms but no deal is approved without NBA OK. And if the team gets the same $$$ from a local buyer, no harm, no foul.

      The environmental review process is limited in California to 175 days for projects like this, unlike Washington where it can drag on for a year or more. BIG advantage in speed of project completion. And that may be key to the NBA.

      Basically, we have ownership who is petty and vile and wanted to squeeze a few bucks out of the sale of the team after moving it to Anaheim. After we got that move blocked by proving that the Maloofs didn’t even TRY to raise corporate support, the NBA and Stern himself came in to help negotiate a fair arena deal. The Maloofs agreed, and then shot it down.

      Stern and the owners don’t like idiots as other owners. It has the potential to screw up arena deals in other cities and makes the league look bad. The Maloofs are DONE.

      The league also doesn’t like moving teams to other cities. With an arena deal agreed to and fan support here like they don’t have in Seattle, the team will stay.

  9. whitdog23 - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Where were the 44,000 season ticket holders with the Sonics?
    IF Seattle is so great and treats NBA basketball so well, why did team move?

  10. allidoiswin55 - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Our city took the stance initially of not believing the team would move and many boycotted the games because of Howard Schultz and the betrayal of him and the Bennet group.

    Why didn’t we support ????????????

    They gave us crap for players by traditional away our stars, until Durant was drafted (which this thing was almost over with already) . And they proposed half a**ed arenas that had NO SHOT OF being built, and it was reported that the team actually had plans to ruin it’s image locally to ease the move. Raises ticket prices and gave us one of the worst 2 teams in the league just a couple seasons after making and winning playoff games.

    The OBVIOUS problem that some moronic people don’t realize is. THAT THE SALE OF THE SONICS to Clay Bennet was presented as a Keep in Seattle team, then almost immediately he set into place a marketing strategy to turn fans off on purpose. (People will get turned off by that including sac.) Then the next season the team was essentially a Lame duck. There were plans to move and the CURRENT ownership did not want them to stay. That’s the fundamental difference between these scenarios that your missing. The seattle group is not in town petitioning the move or messing up the team.

    MOST people including sac fans would NOT SUPPORT their supposed team knowing that it’s a forgone conclusion that they will be deserting them NO MATTER what you do because the ownership is doing shady crap and has the support of the commish even without reason . . STOP with the stupid stuff please.

    The real comparison would be if the league approved the sale then allowed the seattle group to come to Sac claim they will keep them in town(just to ease the sales approval) then immediately try to move them, then let’s see if you show up to support??? BECAUSE that’s what happened in to the city of Seattle.

    What happened before to the Sonics was the commissioner of the nba looked the other way and approved all the shady things his personal friend Clay Bennet was doing with the team and to he city. Trading all stars, hiking up ticket prices, marketing improperly, and proposing Rediculous arenas that had no chance of being approved.. LIKE NO CHANCE!

    HE (CLAY BENNET) lied to the city and was even CAUGHT ON TAPE TAKING ABOUT THE SHADY STUFF he’d been doing on purpose to get the team out of town.

    Please people don’t question others without the facts. Because these situations are hardly comparable to Sacramento favor, better kept under wraps before the NBA approves the sale just to keep it that way.

    • thegreatbrandini74 - Apr 3, 2013 at 10:09 PM

      So because your city got screwed by a bad owner and lost its team, it’s fair game for another city to suffer the same fate? The Kings have been suffering the same fate as the Sonics. The difference is Sacramento has a mayor who can get things done. He blocked the Maloof’s first attempt to take the team to Anaheim and engineered an arena deal immediately. Our current arena deal is better than Seattle’s. That will be a huge deal.

      I’m sorry Seattle lost it’s 3rd professional team. That doesn’t make it right that a great town with a great mayor should lose their ONLY team. The Kings are staying in Sacramento because their city’s passion is matched by their city’s government. Unfortunately the same situation wasn’t in play in Seattle. I hope the NBA votes for expansion because the fans in Seattle didn’t deserve what happened to them. That does not make it right, however, to root for the same thing on another franchise.

    • rvanderzanden93 - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      “MOST people including sac fans would NOT SUPPORT their supposed team knowing that it’s a forgone conclusion that they will be deserting them NO MATTER what you do because the ownership is doing shady crap and has the support of the commish even without reason”

      Except for the fact that attendance in Sacramento has actually increased since the sale was announced.

      Nice try. We actually care about doing something before it is too late.

      • Kurt Helin - Apr 4, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        Do not blame the Seattle fans for the lameness of their politicians. Seattle fans care, you can’t go there.

  11. renoedge - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    I understand the fans from Seattle calling this article a one sides hatchet job. That said…you have to appreciate the lengths the people, mayor and other elected officials in Sacramento are going to keep their team. Why didn’t Seattle do the same as the Sonics were leaving? I think the point of the article is that as long as any city(Sacramento in this case) has a chance to save a team they are going all in. I know Seattle wants and deserves a team but it just might not be this team. I hear the Lakers are struggling and the owner died…maybe take a run at them!

  12. allidoiswin55 - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    ****Clay was caught on both Email and on I believe conference call voicemails.

  13. seattlenative57 - Apr 3, 2013 at 10:26 PM


  14. seattlenative57 - Apr 3, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Sorry about that, I was interrupted by a travelling salesman at my door … here from OKC. Kicked his ass and shoved him down the road.

    Now, where was I? Ah yes…..


    seriously, that’s your question. NBA fans have always been here. Through 40+ years, 3 Finals appearances and one Championship season. Seattle’s support of its NBA team has never been an issue. Attendance during the Bennett years as an issue is a red herring. First, they were lied to by Bennett saying he was keeping the team in Seattle. All the while, systematically ravaging the roster of marketable assets for cash and future draft picks. Until the roster was so decimated the team was barely D-League quality. Only after the team left did we learn it was an intentional deception to erode team support and grease their move to OKC. The team was gutted for the sole purpose of moving them.

    On the otherhand, Hansen has fully disclosed his intention to the people of Sacramento. How refreshing. No deception, no lying, no roster gutting.

    Sonics fans have always been here and remain loyal to their team.

    • warhawk71 - Apr 6, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Except with more winning seasons and a slightly smaller arena you still couldn’t sell the place out.

      Sac has had much better fan support that Seattle for the NBA.

      “No deception, no lying, no roster gutting” ??? Have you heard of the Maloofs? At all??? Take a look at our team since they took over. The first few years they were good owners, but it has all been downhill since then. Lying through their teeth about fielding a competitive team, bottom of the barrel coaches who couldn’t get a head coaching job anywhere else, and trying to repeatedly move the team out from Sacramento. Despite a record number of sellout seasons since they have been here.

      Sonics fans may be loyal, but they don’t show up. Where were they in New York for the presentations? Where were they instead of selling out the arena all these years?

  15. brianspider - Apr 4, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Pretty humorous that most of the people that say Bruski is biased believe Daniels is objective.

  16. glink123 - Apr 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Steve Ballmer has 15 billion ways to expedite any issue Seattle throws at him.

    • warhawk71 - Apr 6, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      And Burkle and the others here can’t “expedite” issues? At some point, the number of $$$ in a bank account becomes irrelevant. Either ownership group would be more than well-funded to run a team. If you are buying a Honda Civic you can do it just as easily with $100,000 cash as with $200,000 cash. It doesn’t make a difference.

      • ahawkalypse - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        Terrible analogy.

  17. kennadog - Apr 5, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Re: allidoiswin55: “One could argue that an apparent approval of tax and ticket dollars is a major deal if not voted in.” Wow, major mistake on your part. It is a surcharge on tickets sold to consumers, no matter where they live. The taxpayers don’t vote on this, because they pay zero of this, unless they decide to purchase a ticket to an event (consumer, not taxpayer). The current arena has ticket surcharges.

    Re: allidoiswin55: “…you’re going to need more than the toothless ‘threat’ of an environmental study that is a foregone conclusion and formality….” Hopefully, Seattle is printing or saying this. It is a violation of environmental laws to state that a review is a foregone conclusion and a formality, before a formal commitment of funds to any project. I’ve worked on many public-funded projects, dependent on an clear environmental review, with or without mitigation, so I know this better not be true. I’m not saying the environmental review will stop a Seattle arena, but without a specific deadline for appeals or suits, unlike California, it is easier for Sacramento to state a definite timeline.

    Finally, I know Sonics fans would have saved the team, if possible. Why a Hansen didn’t step up to buy a team, and why Seattle told the league flat out no public financing for an arena, I don’t know. However, Sacramento has had a willing buyer since 2011 (Burkle) and a city council that had a league-approved arena plan a year ago, that was halted only by the Maloof ‘s reneging on a deal and swearing the team wasn’t for sale.

    So you lost your team, primarily due to lack of political will, not fan disinterest. However, Sacramento has had political will, pro-Sacramento buyers approved arena plans and fan support, but Seattle argues we should lose our team? Sacramento did everything the league has asked of it.

    You think you were screwed by Bennett? Well, Sacramento is being screwed by our current owners, the Maloofs. They backed out of the NBA-approved arena deal a year ago. (We know now that they were already negotiating to move the team and never intended to sign an agreement with Sacramento for an arena. They would not accept a bid for the team from Burkle, because they swore they would rather die than sell the team (while they were negotiating with Hansen.

    This is the first time in NBA history that an owner has wanted to sell a team and didn’t even give the city a chance to have its potential buyer submit any bid?

    From 1985 (year the Kings came to Sacramento) to 2008, when the Sonics left Seattle, Sacramento had a better attendance record than Seattle in all but three of those years, despite Seattle having a better record over those years. Sacramento owns 2 of the NBA’s top 5 sellout streaks of all time, One while the team was pretty bad.

    Seattle may end up with our team, but no body in Seattle should believe the myth that Sacramento deserves this or that we aren’t getting screwed every bit as much as Seattle did by Bennett. Its just that we are getting screwed every bit as much by the Maloofs.

  18. bremknight76 - Apr 14, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    From the desk of Peter Goldman, Atty at Law.

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