The Sacramento Kings announced on Monday that the arena at which NBA basketball is played will be called Sleep Train Arena for the next five years. This is excellent news for Maloof Sports and Entertainment, who can finally wash off the stench of Power Balance and avoid the embarrassment of having a nameless arena this season. This is excellent news for Sleep Train, which will get an enormous publicity boost worldwide, no matter how damaged the Kings brand has become. (Chances are they got a fantastic price, too.)
But this is also a great deal for Sacramento. We've talked about finding ways to separate our anger with the Maloofs with our passion for the Kings. Sleep Train has made no bones about their disappointment with how the downtown arena plan fell apart at the hands of George Maloof and his hired guns. Even in the quotes following the deal, the CEO was focused not on the Kings as much as the community. Sleep Train's leaders found a way to separate Maloofs and the Kings. They are not letting their anger prevent them from making a smart business deal and help the community. (The company has done a lot of work to help foster children; they mentioned the benefits of the partnership in that work in the announcement stories.)
It's a great deal for Sacramento because Sacramento showed that even though we don't have a slew of Fortune 500 companies, that even though we're not a particularly rich region, that even though the Kings' reputation is rock-bottom, that there's no guarantee the team will be here next year, that the current gym is borderline dilapidated, that there is so much bad blood here ... that despite all of that, we can support NBA basketball financially in Sacramento. That's the bottom line: even in these awful conditions, we can support a team financially. The NBA can't abandon a market like this ... can it?
Of course, Seattle financially supported a team, and we know what happened there. The difference is that Seattle killed the "final arena plan" -- down here, the Maloofs did that job. (Of course, that statement removes a lot of nuance on both ends. Bennett's plan in Seattle might very well have been designed to fail, whereas the Maloofs might have sandbagged the Sacramento after agreeing to it in order to prevent further negotiations. Like I said, nuance.) The Sleep Train deal hardly means that the Kings won't leave -- far from it. But it's a positive step forward as Sacramento proves itself ... again ... for the millionth time.
Bless the boys and ladies at Sleep Train for cutting the deal.