ANAHEIM CA - JANUARY 12: Fans line up at the Honda Center prior to the game between the Anaheim Ducks and the St. Louis Blues on January 12 2011 in Anaheim California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Efforts to lure the Kings in Southern California have been surprisingly quiet while Sacramento has countered with a bang. An update on the Kings relocation saga.
Game over...or so it seemed.
The Sacramento Kings' relocation to Anaheim was all but inevitable following their final home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite cries and passionate pleas from loyal fans, Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof already had one foot out the door of Sacramento.
But following the NBA Board of Governors meetings, Mayor Kevin Johnson seemingly accomplished the improbable. He managed to persuade the NBA to give Sacramento one more chance.
"The NBA has said to Sacramento 'show me the money'," Johnson said at a press conference, following a meeting yesterday with local business leaders and league officials. "And today we're doing just that. We're making a down payment on the future of the Sacramento Kings and this being a permanent home for the Kings."
That meeting essentially secured the millions of dollars ($10-million pledged in just a few weeks to be exact) in untapped corporate sponsorships Johnson touted during the owners meetings two weeks ago. And last week, the point-guard-turned-politician rallied 30 leaders from across six counties surrounding the state capital to engage in serious discussions about a unified regional effort toward keeping the Kings.
The community has made their presence known as well. When NBA representatives Clay Bennett and Harvey Benjamin came to town a week ago, Sacramentans donned purple to show their passion for the city's only major professional sports team.
In short, the region responded to the Kings' threat of departure. They've left the relocation decision up to the NBA and the Maloofs now.
Meanwhile, the city that's trying to lure the Kings from Sacramento? They're standing pat.
So far, Anaheim has performed the bare minimum in its pursuit of the Kings. Since it surfaced as a serious relocation destination, its city council passed a measure that would issue $75-million in privately-funded bonds to fund transition costs and improvements to the Honda Center. But that measure will likely be delayed for at least a year, after a Sacramento-based political strategist collected enough signatures in Anaheim to force that resolution into a public vote.
Other than that, the city and its community has deferred much of the responsibility toward relocating the Kings on the operators of the Honda Center.
NBA Commissioner David Stern told media two weeks ago that the relocation committee "wanted to study more of what Anaheim's final arrangements looked like." But since then, most of the league's time has been spent investigating Sacramento's claims of untapped corporate dollars.
NBA representatives have met with city officials in Anaheim to discuss the terms of a Kings move to Southern California. But those meetings occurred before the BOG events in New York, when momentum seemingly shifted in Sacramento's favor in the Kings relocation saga. The Orange County Register reports that a conference call has been scheduled between the Maloofs, Anaheim officials and the NBA representatives for sometime today. However, no trips have been planned by the league to visit Anaheim before next Monday's relocation filing deadline according to sources in both the NBA and the Honda Center.
Unlike Johnson, who reached out personally to the NBA to attend the owners meetings, the operators of the Honda Center and Anaheim city leaders have not actively sought correspondence with the league since. There appears to be no plans to proactively plead another visit from the league before the May 2nd relocation filing deadline. In fact, today's conference call was arranged by relocation committee chairman Clay Bennett and not anyone from the Anaheim contingent according to the Register. An official from Anaheim Arena Management confirmed to SB Nation that they're taking a wait and see approach at this point regarding a possible Kings move south.
And so is the town itself. An Anaheim city official told SB Nation that they too haven't contacted the league directly either.
"As we have said all along, Anaheim is an NBA-ready city," said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in his most recent comments that came almost a week ago regarding Kings relocation. "We put forth a great presentation at the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York. And we are confident that we have established this region as a stand-alone market and that the NBA looks favorably on our city, our arena and our fans."
And as a far as the leaders within the Anaheim community? They're simply following suit with Anaheim Arena Management.
"We haven't had a strategy meeting so I'm really not able to (discuss) that," Anaheim Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau President Charles Ahlers said of any ongoing efforts to convince the NBA to set up shop at the Honda Center.
According to Ahlers, a task force, comprised of the Anaheim Orange County Visitors and Convention Bureau, Orange County Business Council and Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, has been formed to concentrate on bringing the Kings to his region. He said the task force will continue to meet until a decision on the Kings' future is made. But as of Tuesday, no meetings between the leaders of those organizations have been planned.
"Everybody seems to be for it," Ahlers said. "The city of Anaheim wants to do it. They thought they'd have a deal with the (Maloof) family in order to get that done, and now we're a little bit disappointed that we're looking at a delay."
Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, does not see that delay , as a cause for concern in Anaheim's pursuit of the Kings.
"We perceive that the delay is not a negative thing," Dunn said in a phone call. "We just know that there's a lot of molecules vibrating and the matter needs to be looked at closely.
"It is after all, a business decision to be made here," she added.
Within the three-prong task force, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, by all accounts from both Dunn and Ahlers, is the biggest advocate for a Kings move to Orange County. However, its president and CEO, Todd Ament did not return calls for comment regarding the Chamber's efforts toward pursuing a third NBA team for Southern California.
So while Sacramento desperately fights to keep the Kings, Anaheim patiently awaits its arrival.
Did anyone tell Orange County this game went to overtime?
Jonathan Santiago is also a contributor at SLAM Online. Follow him on Twitter.
Editors note: Story updated at 11:31 am.