A few late-night musings after Tuesday's eventful evening with the Sacramento City Council and several hundred of their closest friends, many of whom were eager to discuss the proposal for a new arena in the downtown railyards:
The council's 7-2 vote that approved the term sheet and authorized the parties to proceed with the RFP and parking bids was preceded by testimony from a number of colorful characters opposing and favoring the proposal. Mayor Kevin Johnson said there were 19 requests to speak in opposition, and three times as many waiting to vent in favor of the deal. KJ gave equal time to both groups - limited individual speakers to two minutes - and 40 minutes total. The most creative, or at least the most entertaining presentation was given by longtime Kings fan Mike Barnbaum, who approached the podium wearing a purple hardhat, spoke a few words, and belted out an off-key version of the song, "Downtown," before reaching his two-minute time limit. (And, yes, believe it or not, the crowd joined in the chorus). Later, Mike reminded me the song was made famous by British singer Petula Clark. How could I have forgotten?
City manager John Shirey, who is being praised for his significant behind-scenes input at the recent NBA/city/Kings meetings in Orlando, related an interesting anecdote during the raucous post-meeting press conference in the foyer outside the council chambers. "This is a great milestone for this city," he said. "It's a great thing for me personally ... .My team growing up was a team called the Cincinnati Royals. And it was a sad day for me when that team left Cincinnati (1972 for Kansas City). But here it is, it's grown up again, it's right here again in Sacramento, and we're going to keep it. And I don't have to say goodbye a second time."
Shirey isn't the only city official with a sentimental attachment to the Kings. City council member Steve Cohn, an avid basketball fan, is a native of Kansas City, another former home of the Kings. Yet this is the first arena venture that the East Sac resident has enthusiastically embraced.
While watching the scene in the chambers and later in the foyer, where KJ held a press conference joined by several council members, David Taylor, and officials from AEG, Populous and Turner, I was reminded about the impact of spontaneous emotion. Anyone attending modern sports events is usually subjected to the whims of the game's particular game operator, and subjected to overhead video screens and fan prompts that tell fans when to cheer, when to jeer, when to stand, in essence, choreograph the entire evening allegedly based on developments on the court. It's pretty annoying stuff. But watching the Kings/Sacramento fans at the council meeting and the postgame presser reminded me of what geniune emotion sounds like. When the 7-2 vote was announced, the crowd inside the chambers erupted in a familiar chant of "SAC-ra-MEN-to, SAC-ra-MEN-to." Later, the chant switched to "THANK you KJ, THANK you KJ," a reference to the mayor, who just happens to be a native Sacramentan and former NBA All-Star.
Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof, who sat throught the four-hour meeting, didn't break down like he did when the tentative agreement was announced in Orlando. But he choked up when council member Rob Fong looked directly at him in the audience and, very eloquently, thanked him and other members of the Maloof family for giving Sacramento another year and another chance to come up with a workable arena plan to retain the Kings.
"I see Gavin out there," began Fong, "and we spent some time together on this. Please tell your family, 'thank you.' There are plenty of ways or times you guys could have said, 'you know what? We gave you a lot of chances.' We hung in there with you, but you hung in there us, and I think we're finally going to get there."
Poor little Isaiah Thomas looked exhausted. The popular rookie point guard showed up for the final two-plus hours of the session, then hung around for the press conference. With the Kings having arrived home from Denver around 1 a.m. Tuesday, he looked absolutely exhausted.