City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

March 29, 2011
Mayor OK with Kings move to Anaheim if they pay off loan

It wasn't good riddance, but Mayor Kevin Johnson told reporters today he'd be willing to accept a Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim as long as the team pays its loan to City Hall.

"I think the mindset of the city is to make sure that they fulfill their obligation," the mayor said. "And if they do that, then I don't want a messy divorce, I don't want to be a poor sport about it, it's their decision. And quite frankly, if they don't want to be here, then I'm going to be OK with (them moving) and I think our community will be OK with that."

Johnson said the Maloofs, who own the team, told him on Monday that they intend to pay off a $77 million loan they owe the city. George Maloof repeated that message to The Bee.

City Treasurer Russ Fehr said George Maloof's promise to The Bee to repay the loan "was encouraging."

But Fehr said the city still needs greater assurance. "We need a little more than that," he told the Bee's Dale Kasler. "We need to discuss when and how."

The mayor and others want something in writing.

Joe Maloof told the Orange County Register that the family made a huge lump sum payment several years ago on the loan in order to reduce the debt.

In fact, the $12 million payment was on a separate loan, according to Fehr. The payment retired an $8.5 million loan the city provided in 1997, the same time as the big loan that's still outstanding.

Fehr said the smaller loan didn't come due until 2022 but was accumulating interest.

The Maloofs also told the mayor Monday that "it's not a done deal in Anaheim" and "if we don't go to Anaheim, we love Sacramento, the fans have been great to us and we will be back with a renewed commitment and vigor."

The mayor had a conciliatory tone, in contrast to a statement his special assistant, R.E. Graswich, made to The New York Times over the weekend. Graswich was quoted as saying Sacramento's mood was one of "good riddance" toward the Kings.

Johnson jokingly dragged a red-faced Graswich in front of reporters today and said he was "sharing some frustration that was going on in the community," but that Johnson was not wishing the team good riddance.

"We do not want to be involved or embroiled in a messy divorce, that's not what we want to have happen," the mayor said. "(The Maloofs have) been very good to this community for the years they've been here, we want to go out as good partners at the end of the day, but it's a decision that they're ultimately making and we have to honor and respect that as well as protect the interests of the taxpayers."

Tonight represents a key moment in the ongoing saga that is the Kings' future. The Anaheim City Council will begin deliberating at 5 p.m. over a proposal to issue $75 million in bonds to fund upgrades at the Honda Center, the future home of the Kings if they move to Southern California.

Meanwhile, officials at the Honda Center announced that they're creating a waiting list for fans who've been inquiring about NBA tickets.

"The creation of this list is not an indicator of further developments, but simply allows interested parties the chance to be further informed," according to a statement from arena spokesman Merit Tully.

A day earlier, the arena said it would add about 700 seats near the court for an NBA team, bringing total capacity to 18,336. That's about 1,000 more than Sacramento's Power Balance Pavilion.

And in Sacramento, season ticketholders have pointed out they usually get information from the team by now about sales of tickets for next season, but have received nothing from the Kings. Team spokesman Mitch Germann declined comment other than to say, "We haven't mailed out our renewal packages yet. We will update everyone on the process as soon as we can."

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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