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In Which the Hope Embedded in the Cal Expo Arena is Sapped, If Not Destroyed

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Mayor Kevin Johnson obviously touched a nerve Tuesday in his blog post bemoaning Sacramento's loss of hosting privileges for the NCAA Tournament and questioning the pace of the Cal Expo arena plan development. Bee reporters Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis found NBA rep John Moag, the leader of the Cal Expo effort, and synced him up to the mayor's concerns.

The result is not particularly ebullient.

"I think the mayor is expressing a sense of where we all are," Moag said. "We are in a bad economy in a state that doesn't have any money. Lending has dried up. We can't force developers to borrow money they can't get." [...]

Moag said he and the NBA have not given up hope, however, of getting an arena built at Cal Expo. "We are committed to this effort, and the Kings are committed to this effort, and we are staying with it until we get to the point where it is apparent it won't work."

Again, not a lot of hope expressed there. Perhaps it is in Kings fans' wiring to be pessimistic, especially concerning arena issues, because so many attempts have failed. To be clear, no previous attempt has even gotten this far. The Kings have never been closer to a new arena.

And the team's still so far away.

Moag's stance would be all well and good if not for the self-imposed deadline the Maloofs set last spring. The owners expressed that they expected -- they needed -- substantial progress within a year of the initial unveiling of the plan in order to keep faith the new arena at Cal Expo would happen. That was late February. We're halfway through that deadline. (Further, there is a more immediate deadline in November, when the memorandum of understanding between the NBA and Cal Expo expires. MOUs typically get extended with hesistation, though, and Cal Expo has been surprisingly gung-ho about everything. So the real deadline is 90 days after the November expiration, which happens to fall in ... February.)

No one knows what the Maloofs' next step after Cal Expo failure will be. It could entail reigniting downtown talk, with a new (cooperative) mayor in place. Or perhaps Natomas, or other less central locations are considered. Or -- and this is the real fear I hold -- the Maloofs give up, wave goodbye, and file for relocation to Kansas City or Anaheim. If the team files for relocation by March 1, 2010, it could play its 2010-11 season in its new home (pending league approval).

I hope Mayor KJ is being sincere and not sliding in to boost his own idea. Because every time the Cal Expo plan hits the press, a little bit of energy, a little bit of hope is sapped. And we didn't have much to begin with.