By Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak
The Sacramento City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night throwing its support behind keeping the Kings in town and contributing resources toward a new downtown sports arena.
While symbolic, the 7-2 City Council vote to approve the resolution showed that the council is willing to get behind Mayor Kevin Johnson's quest to block the Kings' plan to move to Seattle.
What's more, it showed there is an appetite on the council for providing a city subsidy to a new arena seen as vital to Johnson's cause.
The resolution included the city's "continued commitment to enter into a public-private partnership to develop a new sports and entertainment facility for the region that meets NBA standards and represents a sound fiscal and economic development investment for the city's taxpayers."
Johnson has been working for weeks to recruit deep-pocketed investors to buy the Kings and partner with the city on an arena project.
The mayor plans to reveal that team by the end of the month and present it to the NBA as an alternative to the deal the team's owners have to sell the Kings to a Seattle group seeking to move the franchise to the Pacific Northwest.
The NBA's Board of Governors is expected to rule on the proposed Kings sale and relocation at its meeting in April.
So far, it is unclear what the city will be asked to contribute to the arena project. Johnson and other city officials have said that a plan to leverage an estimated $255 million from city parking operations is still on the table, and NBA Commissioner David Stern recently described the city's expected subsidy of a new arena as "significant."
City Manager John Shirey told the council Tuesday that city officials "have met with a potential investment group that would be interested in purchasing the Kings, keeping them here and investing in a new downtown arena."
While that investment team has not been revealed, Southern California grocery tycoon Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in serious discussions over combining on a bid.
If a Sacramento ownership group announces a plan to buy the team, city staff officials said they likely will ask the council in the coming weeks if it wants them to enter into talks with that group to determine how much the city would put into an arena financing deal. Later, the council would be expected to vote a second time on whether it approves any financing agreements involving city money or assets.