For the first time in the latest effort to keep the Kings, the Sacramento City Council has opened its checkbook and dispatched top city officials to enter into formal negotiations over the financing of a new downtown sports arena.
The council voted 7-2 on Tuesday night to grant its approval of City Manager John Shirey's request to negotiate the terms of a new arena plan that is seen as a key element of the city's work to block a Kings move to Seattle. In doing so, the council allowed Shirey to spend $150,000 on attorneys and arena financing consultants.
While city officials have declined to name the investors they plan to negotiate with, it is widely known that Mayor Kevin Johnson is recruiting 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle to make a bid for the Kings. That bid would be presented to the NBA as a competing offer to the deal the Kings owners have to sell the franchise to a group seeking to move the team to Seattle. The NBA's Board of Governors will rule on the Seattle bid at its mid-April meeting.
Shirey said he would attempt to bring a financing term sheet to the City Council by mid-April - a timeline he described as ambitious.
"Nothing gets approved until this City Council approves a preliminary term sheet and gives us the authority to proceed further," Shirey said.
Most council members said they were comfortable allowing Shirey to work on that term sheet, knowing they will have final say over whether the plan is accepted.
"We don't have all the facts yet, we don't have all the tools we need to make a proper analysis," said Councilman Steve Hansen. "We're at the beginning of this process."