Anaheim approves bond deal to open door for NBA's Sacramento Kings to move to Orange County

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Susan Valot/KPCC

The Anaheim City Council on Tuesday voted to approve a bond plan to open the door for the NBA's Sacramento Kings to move to Anaheim's Honda Center.

Anaheim is a step closer to getting an NBA team. The Anaheim City Council last night unanimously approved a $75 million bond deal that could open the door for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings to move to Orange County.

Before a packed house of supporters, the City Council approved the financing deal to pay for moving an NBA team and for upgrades to Honda Center.

Anaheim officials said the city is acting only as a conduit, allowing private investors to back the deal, with no risk to city money.

They said the bonds will be paid off with revenue from Honda Center, not with tax dollars.

Seamus Fallon lives in Anaheim. He likes the idea.

"I think it’s a great thing, you know," Fallon said. "I think my kids would enjoy it. We won’t have to drive up to L.A. to watch the Lakers or the Clippers, you know? We could come and see them right in our own neighborhood. You know, as long as we’re not paying for it as a taxpayer, I’m all for it."

David Rose, who owns a business in Anaheim, told the City Council that he likes the idea, too.

"When there are events in Anaheim – conventions, baseball games, hockey games, concerts – we in the retail business, specifically in the resort area, see the Anaheim jerseys, see the Mighty Ducks – excuse me, the Ducks of Anaheim jerseys. We see the various people," Rose said.

"And we don’t only see them. We see them spending their money. So having another 40, 41, 45 games a year, we’ll undoubtedly see cash registers ringing in Anaheim. And that is something I can tell you, as a struggling business owner in Anaheim, anything you can do to have people walking the streets in Anaheim is a positive."

That revenue is one of the major reasons the Anaheim City Council approved the financing deal.

Mayor Tom Tait said the city has been trying to get an NBA team for 20 years now. He said this deal brings Anaheim a “giant step closer” to having that NBA team.

"And let me say that I’m thrilled. Actually, I think the better word is 'stoked,'" Tait said during the Council meeting.

Not everyone is stoked. Sacramento sent a letter to Anaheim city officials, asking them to not go through with the bonds.

Sacramento is worried the Kings will skip town without paying the $77 million the team owes from a previous loan.

A Sacramento attorney has also suggested that it’s illegal for Anaheim to approve the bonds so quickly, without a chance for opponents to gather signatures to challenge the bonds.

Anaheim officials insist they are not breaking any laws.

"I've talked to our city attorney and everything we've done was proper and legal," Tait said.

City Councilwoman Kris Murray said she was thrilled to be part of the vote. She says it's been a long time coming.

"My heart does go out to the Sacramento residents and fan base," Murray said. "I understand it is a great team. We’d be very excited and honored to have them here in Anaheim."

Tait said this isn't about taking a team away from Sacramento.

"Most teams have come from another city. That’s just the nature of professional sports," Tait said.

"The Kings came from another city before they went to Sacramento. The Lakers were from a different city. The Clippers were from a different city. We’re just very excited in Anaheim to have a chance to have an NBA team."

But a team in Anaheim would put three NBA teams within about 30 miles of each other. Are there enough fans to go around?

Tait points out that 3.5 million people live in Orange County. That that doesn’t include fans from the Inland Empire and San Diego County.

David Diaz is an Anaheim resident – and basketball fan – who wants an NBA team in Anaheim. He thinks there is a fan base, too.

"People will cling to a team that’s local here. It’s your home team," Diaz said.

"You know, the same thing happens with the Angels. You have real dedicated Angels fans that live here and you have real dedicated Dodger fans that live here. But both stadiums, they break records every year for attendance. So I think it’ll be – there’s plenty of people here in Southern California."

But it’s not a done deal. First, the Sacramento Kings have to put in a request to relocate by April 18. Then, a majority of NBA team owners would have to approve that request.

Then, maybe we can start talking about moving day, but that is still a ways off.

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