The old point guard comes through

In 12 seasons as a point guard in the NBA, Kevin Johnson averaged 9.1 assists per game. Even though he’s 13 years removed from his last game in a Phoenix Suns uniform, KJ has shown throughout this drive to keep the Kings that he can still run the point and dish out dimes like he was 26, not 46. KJ deserves credit for putting together the coalition of civic and business leaders, outside big money private equity investors (whales), and his owners of other teams that he has been lobbying to Sacramento’s cause.

That’s not to say that KJ has complete control of the situation. He still faces a formidable bid from a Seattle group that has already done the paperwork necessary to buy the team from the Maloof family. All KJ can do as mayor is to put together the best possible presentation and the most credible group to represent Sacramento. Everything else falls to the NBA and David Stern to decide.

During Thursday’s State of the City address, KJ finally revealed the names of the equity partners, along with other details important to the Sacramento bid. Let’s dispense with that information quickly:

  • Mark Mastrov will head the group attempting to buy the club.
  • Ron Burkle will head the group looking to build a new downtown arena.
  • The site being considered is Downtown Plaza, where a mall is currently located.
  • The city and the NBA still expects the arena to be a public-private partnership.
  • The previously divulged 20 local business leaders looking to invest $1 million apiece for a share of the team are all going in on the 7% minority share currently tied up in bankruptcy court.
  • Former Kings great Mitch Richmond is one of the group of 20.
  • The bid will also attempt to bring back the Sacramento Monarchs WNBA franchise, which folded in 2009 as the Maloof family started to go into the red.
  • The city intends to get its $75 million loan paid in full, and redevelop the Natomas area (where Sleep Train Pavilion is located) as part of a long range plan.
  • The city will put together a deal that involves no new taxes and has no negative impact on the general fund.

While the presence of Mastrov and Burkle were the worst-kept secret of the whole affair, the structure of their relationship to the deal is a surprise. The thought going in was that they might go in together on the team and arena. Instead, by splitting the tasks, it allows the two alpha dogs to bring in their own people for the part they’re most interested in. Mastrov could revive the group that he put together to bid on the Warriors for $420 million in 2010. The fact that Mastrov’s group made it to the final round of bidding should show to the owners and Stern that they can be comfortable with Mastrov. In addition, if Mastrov is bidding on 50-65% of the team as Hansen-Ballmer were doing, the group’s outlay should be less than what they offered for the W’s, along the lines of $300 million is my guess. Mastrov had this to say about his bid:

“This is about building a winning franchise for a winning community. Sacramento has proven time and time again to be a great NBA market. As a longtime resident of Northern California with deep ties to Sacramento, I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for the region.”

Burkle gets to bring in his friends at AEG to work on the arena project. This would be synergistic with a rumored bid for AEG by Burkle. The AEG sale is still up in the air as offers are not coming close to the $8 billion that Phil Anschutz is seeking. As of today, those monitoring the AEG horserace have real estate investment giant Colony Capital in the lead. The structure also allows one degree of separation between Burkle and the Maloofs, who aren’t exactly buddies after Burkle helped block the Maloofs’ attempt to move the Kings to Anaheim a year ago. Burkle had his own quote about the news:

“I am excited about the economic possibilities for the arena and for downtown Sacramento as a whole. We have an opportunity to transform downtown into a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity that will create jobs and generate a positive economic impact for years to come.”

Downtown Plaza has languished for some time, and calls for a serious revamping regardless of whether or not there’s an arena. Interestingly, one of the tenants is a 24 Hour Fitness center that only opened in 2011 (update: reopened after closing). It’s one of thirteen in the Sacramento region and the only one anywhere near downtown. I would imagine that even with an arena, the 24 Hour Fitness location would be preserved at Mastrov’s behest, perhaps even expanded to include a new Kings practice facility. It also seems likely that Macy’s would stay put, at least the main (women’s) store on one of the six blocks that make up Downtown Plaza. One complicating factor is that there are 3,700 parking spaces underneath the mall. While those spaces would be extremely helpful for arena infrastructure, the NBA apparently doesn’t want parking directly underneath an arena, so those spaces will have to go. That could create a big sticking point when EIR time rolls around, since something will be needed to backfill the lost capacity. Knowing a little about the layout, the plan that would make the most sense would be to demolish the center of the mall, build the arena there, then continue to use the 24 Hour Fitness, multiplex, Macy’s, and food court, while buying additional property on the fringes to build parking garages and additional commercial space.

Will all of this be enough? Based on history, the odds remain stacked against Sacramento. At least the city and KJ are putting the best deal possible in front of the NBA. KJ even sounded highly magnanimous in his address, as he took time to thank the Maloofs for their contributions to the region over the years. He didn’t have to do that as the Maloofs are already one foot out the door. But he did, and it showed the kind of diplomacy and class one would expect of a prominent leader. In his time in the Association, KJ learned a thing or two about working the refs. It works. That’s a stark contrast from Wednesday’s SotC speech by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, which contained yet another minor snipe at Lew Wolff (she described her meeting with Wolff as “a tough day” in line with the more difficult moments of Occupy movement). One of the frequent refrains I hear from the Oakland-only crowd is, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” That’s fair. How about another popular adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You want to rise above? How about rising above the fray? Food for thought, Oakland.

Update 2:30 PM – Sacramento reporter and occasional River Cats fill-in play-by-play man Rob McAllister reports that AEG is not involved with Burkle on the arena side. 

34 thoughts on “The old point guard comes through

  1. amazing the work kj has done for the city of sac. if they eventually lose the kings you can’t say he didn’t try him hardest to keep them there. the same can’t be said about oakland politicos.

    heck kj has already released potential names of potential buyers for the kings franchise yet the city of oakland and the pro oak people haven’t even announced one name from this mysterious ownership group that they say would be willing to buy the a’s from wolff/fisher.

  2. Way to go KJ! Hopefully in the end all works out for Sac. Back here in the Bay, considering MLB has most likely made its decision re the A’s and a resolution is near, does it really matter what Oakland does (or doesn’t do) at this point? JQ: exhibit A on why ranked choice voting should never be allowed in an election.

  3. re: That’s fair. How about another popular adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You want to rise above? How about rising above the fray? Food for thought, Oakland.

    …But Oakland’s offer is always the same: The city provides a slab of land and the team pays for 100% of construction and takes 100% of the risks if/when the finances don’t work out.

  4. @”Oakland-first Athletics fans” – do not take the bait!

  5. @TonyD – I said it months ago– ranked choice voting saves the city money, but you end up with a greater chance of electing someone without the qualifications for the position.

    @David – Sure, don’t take the ‘bait.’ Continue to believe that Quan is an excellent mayor going about this whole thing the right way. Something makes me think you glossed over the whole entire article about how KJ busted his ass to make something happen while the owner is “one foot out the door.” Meanwhile, Quan+the Oakland-Only people keep pointing the finger instead of doing something to help.

  6. OT: Baer was on 95.7 a little bit ago:

    * Not really concerned with players leaving for WBC. They start early, it’s over by the 19ths and they’re back. The concerns are usually related to players, especially pitchers, going all out earlier than they usually do.
    * It’s a new year, so you can’t sit back on past championships.
    * Regarding the MLB guidelines for the A’s to SJ, says he can’t comment. Doesn’t know anything about the guidelines or the situation around them. Says they’d have to ask the commissioner.
    * He’s is completely behind one last game at Candlestick, but there are a bunch of checkboxes that need to be completed, including making sure that it can even still be put into baseball configuration. The bleachers might not be retractable anymore. The city also controls the stadium, so they’d have to be on board. Baer says ESPN’s Chris Berman is completely behind a final baseball game at Candlestick. The A’s would be an appropriate opponent, but also the Dodgers who are their long-time rivals. In short, they’re looking into it.
    * When asked about the Dodgers, Baer mentions that money does not equal success, as the A’s have shown. It was mentioned that fans wish the Dodgers were the way they were a few years ago, when things were in chaos. Baer says that he doesn’t want them in bankruptcy, as that’s not good for the Dodgers or the league.

  7. For all of my fellow Oaklanders.. look at Major K.J to see what chicken salad “really” looks like and realize that the stuff our Mayor has been feeding us is chicken shizzy!!!

  8. Careful GADR, as an Oakland-realist you might be labeled as an Oakland-hater by some who troll here. @LS, I continue to be happily impressed by how Baer has dropped all media resistance to the A’s relocating to San Jose (since last June). A far cry from what he used to say in the media. Cooler heads are now prevailing in this matter and the best interest of the entire league is at the forefront..

  9. Imagine KJ running for Oakland mayor next year! Hee does have Cal roots after all! Anyhow, I think in the end, the Kings stay, Seattle gets an expansion franchise (Sonics II), the Maloofs get their money, the NBA gets 2 teams, and everyone wins!

  10. The 24 Hour Fitness may have opened in 2011, but that’s after it had already opened and closed in the same space. I went there for from 2007 to 2008. I remember because a woman drowned in the pool there the week after I joined. More on that in the link:

  11. @LS, ranked choice isn’t the problem. All it does it makes sure the people’s highest choice among those who qualify gets applied. The problem is a bad tendency to pick people who simply suck at the job from a list full of unqualified people to begin with. This has been an issue in Oakland well before the use of ranked choice.

  12. @Tony D. Hahahaha. It wont be the first time someone called me a hater for “keeping it real” . Ive lived in Oakland all my life. Raised in west Oakland and lived there with my mom across the street from hoover elementary on 32nd and market and went to visit my pops every weekend who lived on 20th and E 14th st which is now international. I ran the streets and lived a thug life until I got my life straight at the age of 19 after a near death experience and got into trucking. 17 yrs later I own a succesful trucking/logistics company, I choose to keep my business in Oakland even though moving to stockton or the valley would be more cost effective, I refused to move to Antioch, pittsburgh, lathrop, tracy to buy a house even though all my friends did it because I understand that most people move to suburbs once they get ahead in life and forget thier roots, but i wanted to stay in Oakland and try to be a light to my fellow citizens. I’ve worked with troubled teens in Oakland since I was 22 yrs old. So if people wanna call me a hater i could careless, all I want is for things to get done. Im tired of speculation and all the “staples on steriods” mumbo jumbo. Give us some names, in the words of jerry mcguire “SHOW ME THE MONEY” stop putting all the blame on Wolff and stop crying like a 6 yr old ” waaaaaawaaaaa mommy lew wont talk to me.” Get it done Oakland

  13. @KetchupFingers – Thanks. Corrected in the post.

  14. @DMOAS – Same thing though. You end up getting someone who sucks more than usual.

  15. Seattle should be nervous….and I’m glad Quan is finally being questioned…she can’t dance around this issue forever

  16. LS, if you get someone who sucks more than usual it’s simply because people voted for them. It’s not like the ranking system used for MLB awards, the 2nd and 3rd choices don’t come into play unless your first choice is one of the lowest % people, so all it’s really doing is speeding up the less than 50% re-voting process.

  17. @ML–any idea of where the suit challenging the SJ EIR is? I know they were trying to get the S4SJ group (the giants) to withdraw their suit I ahvent seen anything recently. Given that we are 2-3 years away from construction beginning in SJ why not let the court hear it and throw it out? BTW–walking to the Sharks game last night it was nice to see that the welding company has completely vacated the property–much like KJ SJ has a vision in mind and seems to be moving forward regardless of having to wait for MLB to give the go-ahead–

  18. @GoA’s – Nothing has happened with the lawsuit since last fall’s hearing to compel a deposition (which failed). It’s up to the plaintiff at this point (S4SJ) to decide what they want to do next. It appears that they prefer to just keep the lawsuit hanging in the air rather than actually seeing a resolution – in which case it’s likely they’ll lose.

  19. @GADR,
    I have all the respect in the world for you brah! I was brought up in the Seven Trees neighborhood of San Jose (relatively speaking, a “rough” section of SJ), and now work with very troubled youth as a career. We have lots in common. Also a huge Raiders, A’s and Sharks fan (don’t really follow the NBA or college sports). As has been stated in previous posts, I think the ideal spot for the A’s would have been Uptown. Since that fell through, I’ve always taken the stance of getting the A’s a new ballpark anywhere in the Bay Area, but because I have fierce pride in being a San Jose native/citizen I’ve always come off as being a SJ partisan. But I won’t lie; of course I want MLB/the A’s in my town! I would also however like to see the Raiders get a new venue at the Coliseum site; I’m hoping your pols will at least make that happen. Peace GADR!

  20. I admit I care more about the Raiders getting a new football stadium before the A’s get theirs….in fact I believe Oakland city leaders thinking is take care of the Raiders stadium first, then if lew Wolff gives up S.J, then the A’s can keep the old Coliseum and take down mount Davis….yeah that goes directly to u pjk and tony d…I think it could work and be cheaper, build a New football next to the old coliseum and recontrusct the old coliseum back to baseball….problem solved.

    Yung Berry

  21. And u guys know I’m right, u pro san josers can’t out-
    Yell me away, so embrace debate.

    • @berry – So the Raiders get 1.5 new stadiums and the A’s get 0? Sounds fair. Where does Wolff sign up?

  22. @ML
    Sry I was eating…. He signs up on the dotted line

  23. OK OK i gave it some thought.. all im saying is.. this is just an idea for Oakland… whether its building a new ballpark for the A’s or stadium for the Raiders.. i just feel that the current Coliseum is still in good condition and i feel that it could save the city 1 new stadium to just renovate the other one… wheter the A’s and Raiders play there.. didnt you older A/’s fan on this site enjoyed the pre mount davis ballpark with the view of the hills… cmon it can work…

    Berry Out….

  24. SIB,
    I was literally LMAO at that article about JQ and lock picking. Thanks for sharing! (David must be proud)

  25. Echoing other posters, phenomenal job by KJ. One could argue Sac’s priorities should not be focused on retaining a sports franchise, however, that is a separate discussion. Mayor Johnson stated his belief/intention of keeping the Kings and he has done exactly that. Not to say it has succeeded, it is to say he has kept his word and laid it on the line to make it happen. That is a pretty rare thing to see in politics.
    Is the political climate of Sac that much different than Oakland? Is the climate of Sac one that allows a political leader to make something like this happen where Oakland’s climate is too mired in squabbling and territory/power protection? Or is it the voters of Sac are much more certain of the direction they want to go with ‘Pro Sports’ versus an Oakland climate that is so divided it causes ‘leaders’ to play both sides of the issue (or play no side at all)? One thing is for certain (IMHO), if Kevon Johnson was mayor of Oakland, the A’s would already have a real, tangible, site-workable plan on LW’s desk. It would now be entirely on LW to say no to a tangible plan. Instead Oakland has JQ and predecessors ineffective, double speak hot air that had produced no tangible plan whatsoever. Too bad considering Oakland is a town of much greater stature than SAC (no insult to Sac intended)…..

  26. Well said, I’m tired of Oakland residents talk about how the money should be used on schools and crime and stuff….hogwash…plenty of these kids can go to CAL or Stanford by applying themselves and they went to the roughest schools in Oakland, crime??? Always in the same spots in Oakland, the fact is Oakland pols are the sons ads daughters of the “sport destroyer” Jerry Brown, Quan, Dobbins, Santana really don’t like sports and its effects is the east bay sports fans b/c our leaders don’t want to pay for sports….its really not lew Wolff or mark Davis fault, its just our leaders have different views and o think all 3 teams might dip unless Quan feels her job might be in jeopardy and do something

  27. @berry – “Well said, I’m tired of Oakland residents talk about how the money should be used on schools and crime and stuff….hogwash…plenty of these kids can go to CAL or Stanford by applying themselves and they went to the roughest schools in Oakland, crime???”

    I’m sorry, but as an Oakland resident, I strongly disagree with that statement. As much as I want to see Oakland do everything in it’s power to keep the A’s here, and how upset I am at the lack of effort on the city’s part, I would not be happy if city leaders decided to prioritized all their energy, political capital, and taxpayer dollars on keeping our sports teams over schools and crime. Oakland’s got bigger fish to fry, and it can’t afford to lose sight of that.

    I think criticisms of Oakland’s handling of the A’s gets too conflated as calls for the city to go all-out on keeping the team. It’s one thing to make a concerted effort on stadium plans, its another thing to disregard more important (IMHO) commitments. The problem with Oakland is that not only have they not done enough, they haven’t been honest and transparent about their “efforts” with themselves, A’s fans, and Oakland citizens.

    As ML has said before, Oakland needs to have an honest conversation about keeping its teams. Many have harped on an Oakland ballpark as being unrealistic and unfeasible, and perhaps that is true. If so, the city needs to be straight with itself and admit that, instead of wasting time and energy on a political PR, ass-covering game that could be better spent addressing more pressing needs. Likewise, if city leaders truly believe something can be done to keep our teams, they need to be open and pragmatic about it; a pipe-dream like Coliseum City is not the kind of vision that comes off as striking a realistic balance between sports and schools/crime/etc.

    Of course, all this is easier said than done…

  28. @ JL,
    your last post was perhaps the best when it comes to summarizing how a REAL Oakland citizen feels re keeping the A’s in town and the performance of city pols. Wants team to stay in town, yet acknowledges the ineptitude of pols and more pressing needs of the citizenry. Brilliant!

  29. Ok ill take what u said and I respect it, I still feel that Oakland can still keep the Raiders , which means they are going to still pay for a new stadium and can still take care of schools and crime…also didn’t the greedy Raiders donate money to Oakland public school district last year??? Cmon u know that the teams will donate money and have programs that can help Oakland ppl out…in fact that would really help the teams convince Oakland to find it

  30. berry, I agree that if Oakland has any chance of keeping a team, it will be the Raiders. That said, I do believe that the Raiders also have the most leverage to get a new or renovated stadium deal done within Oakland.
    Unlike the A’s and Warriors, the Raiders do currently have a definite option to move to a new Bay Area facility that is under construction. The Raiders could sign a short-term lease at the Santa Clara stadium, with the possibility of returning to Oakland if a new stadium deal can be worked out. As for the A’s and Warriors, both teams have expressed the desire to permanently leave Oakland for other sections of the Bay Area. If Oakland Officials continue to play this PR charade, Oakland will ultimately lose all its teams.

  31. Yup llpec. 100% agree:….I will not hate on San Jose anymore….I’LL focus on the Raiders getting a new or renovated stadium…and that is kinda cool idea of the Raiders playing a season or two in Santa Clara , and with an empty coliseum I’m sure city pols will find a way to keep teams, Mark Davis might have to play a little nice with Oakland when it comes to the rest of the mount Davis debt, but hopefully Oakland gets the g4 fund which will help ease the cost

  32. Yawn another slow day

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