Well it's finally official.
After weeks of speculation, Sacramento's Mayor Kevin Johnson finally unveiled his plan to keep the Kings in Sacramento as well as his partners at the annual State of the City. As first reported by USA Today's Sam Amick last month, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle are indeed joining forces to buy the Kings and build a new arena.
Mastrov, the 24-Hour Fitness Founder, will be the one submitting the bid to purchase the Kings, an offer which the Mayor called "very strong and competitive" but didn't go into details on. The Mayor said the Mastrov group plans to give their offer to the NBA and the Maloof Family tomorrow. Mastrov had this to say in a press release sent out by the city after the announcement:
"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 too, I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for the region."
Ron Burkle seemingly will not be a part of the bid to buy the Kings but will instead spearhead efforts to build and develop an arena at the Downtown Plaza. The Mayor specifically mentioned the Plaza as a site, thus ending speculation that the city might choose to build at the Railyards. It was reported earlier this month that Burkle had sat down for a two-and-a-half hour meeting with Commissioner David Stern about his efforts in Sacramento. Burkle also released a statement through the city:
"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."
The revealing of the whales was not the only big news shared by Mayor Johnson. Back in January when the reports surfaced that the Kings had been sold to the Hansen-Ballmer group, one of the first actions the Mayor took was to unveil 20 local investors who would pledge $1 million towards purchasing the Kings. One of those investors chose to remain anonymous at the time, but came forward today. That investor is none other than one of the greatest Sacramento Kings of all time, Mitch "The Rock" Richmond. Further, the Mayor said that plans are being made to have these local owners bid for Bob Cook's 7% share of the team that is currently being held in bankruptcy court in preparation for an auction sometime in April.
Perhaps the biggest news from the Mayor's address was the fact that Sacramento's corporate market has pledged $50 million in sponsorship for the first five seasons in a new arena. The Mayor also mentioned the HereWeBuy grassroots effort, which as of today has over 5,000 pledges for about $23 million in season tickets.
Finally, the Mayor announced a new goal to not only keep the Kings in Sacramento but also to bring back the Sacramento Monarchs. Mayor Johnson stated that he has already notified the WNBA commissioner of Sacramento's intention to acquire a team, and Mark Mastrov is on board with this.
The Mayor repeated that he has the utmost confidence that the NBA will give Sacramento "full consideration". He stated that one of the main reasons for his strong belief that the NBA will make the right decision and keep the team in Sacramento is the fact that the city has done everything and more to keep the team here.
"We have not only stepped up, we have over-delivered."
A lot of good things for Sacramento came to light today but this process is not over yet. The next step for the city will be to finalize an arena term sheet with Ron Burkle and co. before the NBA's Board of Governors meeting on April 18th. The Mayor is still planning on attending to represent Sacramento and make a compelling case.
Burkle up Sacramento, we're in for one hell of a ride.
UPDATE 8:03 PM:
Ken Berger of CBS Sports indicates in his report that Ron Burkle will also have a stake in the team if Sacramento's bid is successful.
UPDATE 9:06 PM:
Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Sacramento's bid is slightly lower than Seattle's but is close enough to cause "real debate" and that Sacramento definitely has a shot to keep the team.