Aaron Bruski

The Step-back 3

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Sacramento: Losing Its Crown

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Along the lines of those assurances, how are you guys going to handle the money?

Like I said from the get go, I don't want a penny to come in of people's hard earned money, or to break their piggy banks after they lost their jobs, or they're $100K or $200K upside down on their mortgage – which is very prevalent in the Sacramento area, until we can guarantee that every penny goes back. Nobody's making a dime on this thing, there's not a percentage going to administration, there's none of that. So in order to accomplish that goal of 100%, and not that fake charitable 100% where really 80% goes to the cause, 100 percent of every dime goes to the arena fund. And if no arena is built, and it's more than likely that it won't be – then all those monies go back.

In order to accomplish that goal I need 'legal,' I need an accounting firm, we need a financial institution willing to do a herculean task of not just the intake but the release of those pledges back to the individuals, and many other things – web services, PR, all the stuff a good movement needs to make sure they're maximizing the voices of the people participating – the citizens! So we're trying to slam this thing together, and we need these groups who in most cases are extremely high-paid members of our business community, to come in pro bono, to come in and donate their time and efforts and resources to help us get to that goal -- which is bringing in pledges, starting a fund in escrow, which we will turn over to the city once they have cut a deal to build an arena and entertainment complex for the Kings and other tenants they will have throughout the year.

Has the ICON-David Taylor group, who was commissioned to do a feasibility study regarding the building of an arena for the Kings in Sacramento, contacted you regarding #HereWeBuild.

I haven't spoken to the ICON group, but I did speak to the mayor's office on Sunday. One question I asked very specifically was 'are we anywhere close to putting a dollar amount on what it's going to take to build the arena,' and I was told, 'no we're not there yet.' And I appreciate that, I understand that they don't want to give out false numbers and oversell or undersell, but the bottom line is that they don't have a number. So no I haven't been contacted by the arena group, and really I hope to at some point. If they want to get their hands on the money we're raising, they're going to need to contact us because part of what we're doing is contingent on their plan. They are one of the most important entities in this entire thing right now, and unfortunately their timetable doesn't seem to be meshing with the Maloof or NBA timetable so that remains to be seen.

Now a lot of folks remember the Kings from the Chris Webber and Vlade Divac days, they remember the cowbells and the sold out arena, but many of our readers across the nation and world might not know much about Sacramento. Can you tell our readers, what does the team mean for the city and how would losing the team be different for Sacramento than a city like Seattle, that lost a team a few years back?

I have been to Seattle, and Seattle is a gorgeous town with a fantastic nightlife and weather, as long as you like a little bit of rain. Most importantly, just from a sports point of view, although the loss of the Sonics was tragic –they also have the Seattle Mariners baseball team, the Seattle Seahawks football team, there's hockey up in Vancouver, there's college sports like the University of Washington nearby. They have a very viable sports scene without the Sonics, though it knocked a leg out from under them. But it's the same if you look at the Cleveland Browns, they have the Indians or Cavaliers, and if you look at most towns that have lost franchises – the Baltimore Colts when they moved to Indianapolis, they had the Orioles.

We have nothing. Sacramento's not a destination town, it's a government town. Sacramento is near things – it's near San Francisco, it's near Lake Tahoe, and it's a quick flight to Los Angeles and San Diego, and Yosemite is down the road. That's what we have. We have location near things. We don't have another team. With apologies to the Sacramento River Cats, but it's minor league baseball. Listen, there was a recent survey done, one of those national magazines puts out a misery index – the most miserable places to live in the country – and Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto, which is the television market here, they were three of the top five miserable places in the entire country. One TV market holds three of the top five spots – that gives you an idea of how tough it is here.

And listen, this arena should have been built, but I'm not going to trash the city or its citizens when people are losing their homes. There's a homeless problem, class sizes are too high, and the city doesn't have a lot of money, because they don't have a lot of tourism. They don't have a lot of things to pick from. Anaheim can issue $75 million in bonds cause they have Disneyland! It's a destination place, people vacation to Anaheim. I've never watched the Price is Right and seen one of the prizes in the showcase be 'you've won an all-expense trip paid to Sacramento!' It doesn't happen.

So, back in 2002, the early part of this decade, people were flying flags with Kings on it. They were lining up round the block at the local Carl's Jr. for bobble head day, there was water cooler talk – and the thing I have to underline here, is that you can't quantify the complete value of the Sacramento Kings to this town. You can't put a dollar amount on when you go to work all day long and you come home, and you're worried about your mortgage, and your job, and you have a couple of kids that need to go to college and you don't know how you're going to do it – you can't put a dollar value on the ability to flop down on the couch and feel a little bit of civic pride while watching your basketball team, and win or lose, your mind gets away from the normal discourse of the day.

However you slice it, billions upon billions of dollars a year get spent on diversions, whether it's television, movies, video games, sports, or anything like that. People pay a lot of money just to forget for a little bit about real life, and there's not a lot of diversions in Sacramento. The biggest one by far is the Sacramento Kings, and this town which is in the top-5 cities that are the most miserable in the nation to live in right now with a team – is in the process of losing its crown jewel. It's a tragedy.

On the point of unquantifiable evidence, I agree that it's hard to quantify all of the benefit the Kings have to the region, but the Sacramento Business Journal actually quantified it and they pegged it at about $100 million per year. Now, you have a rabid fan base that raised a record number of funds, even if it is in Monopoly money, and there is an undisputed loss that this region is going to take if the Kings leave town. It seems to me that this should have been solved 10 years ago. What do you think the reason is that we're not at 'point B' right now?

Why do I think the reason is that we don't have an arena? Well, I know that there's a lot of people, whether they're listening or reading, that have never been to Sacramento, but I can tell you that as somebody that lives in Sacramento – if somebody asked me 'what is the last thing Sacramento accomplished, what is the last thing other than the Kings making the Western Conference Finals, or anything Kings related, what was the last thing this town accomplished?' I can't think of one, I can't, I cannot.

This town is perhaps, maybe other than Washington – which is the seed of government for the entire world, the most red-tape filled, bureaucratic, posturing, ego-driven town you can imagine. Nothing gets done. There's an old acronym, NIMBY, which stands for 'not in my back yard.' People in this town are all for things. They're willing to speak up for or against things, but don't do it near them. Don't' involve them. Don't make them pay for it. They don't want to do it.

The problem is, in my opinion, that we have a very misshaped seat of power here in Sacramento. We have people running this city that really are an old guard, they're in over their heads and they lack a vision, and most importantly, they lack courage. They lack courage to put themselves and their careers, their egos and their images, on the line.

Why haven't we discussed publicly a surcharge on all tickets for anything at the arena to help fund this? Why is the city of Sacramento, which has a relatively small number of attendees at arena events percentage-wise, the only city in the region in the discussion? You've got Yolo County, Placer County, you got suburbs all over the place that fall outside the jurisdiction of the city of Sacramento – that aren't involved in this process. Why isn't there a joint powers authority? Why hasn't that been created? Why isn't the county getting involved? Why is it a small sliver of the fan base of the Sacramento Kings that is trying to shoulder the entire process?

Just a few years ago we had a gorgeous, some say the best, minor league baseball facility (in the nation) built at Raley Field, but it's in (the separate city of) West Sacramento, which is led by a young, very dynamic mayor that somehow found a way to get things done. West Sacramento has leaders that get things done. If they can do that, and they're just a tiny little city, you're telling me that the 25th largest TV market in the country and the surrounding areas where millions of people live, they can't get an arena done and they've had 10 years with this on the front burner – it's because they're inept. It's because they're stubborn, and it's because they're obtuse – that's the problem.

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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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