It’s a tale of two cities fighting for the Sacramento Kings.
Last month, the Maloof family, owners of the Kings, agreed to sell the controlling interest in the team to a Seattle-based investment group led by Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. Now, Ballmer and Hansen are looking to relocate the franchise to “The Emerald City.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern confirmed this week that the Seattle-based group formally filed paperwork to move the Kings ahead of the March 1 deadline.
But Sacramento is not backing down easily. The city is stepping up its effort to keep the team in town; Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a 12-year NBA veteran and three-time NBA All-Star, is trying to pull together a group of wealthy investors to put forth a counter-offer and keep the team in Sacramento.
If the Kings leave, the city of Sacramento will likely suffer, as the professional team brings national attention to the Northern California town.
“The Kings provide a great identity for Sacramento,” said Mike Testa, Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau Sr. Vice President. “Every newspaper nationwide has the word Sacramento in it because of the Kings during the season, and nationally televised games make Sacramento look like a fun place.”
Sacramento will also take a hit financially. Jobs at the Sleep Train Arena will likely be cut while restaurants and hotels generate less business.
“Game nights are huge. When games are selling out, restaurants and bars are very crowded,” said Testa. “Hotels in the area draw revenue just south of $300,000 per year from visiting teams alone. Also, off-duty sheriff officers are hired on game night, providing jobs and extra income for the people of Sacramento. Without the team, these jobs would not exist.”
The NBA board is set to vote on the sale and relocation of the Kings in April.