Now that a new arena deal for the Sacramento Kings has fallen apart, Anaheim is again looking to lure the NBA team south, but a couple of other teams might not be so hospitable to those plans.
The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, said an arena agreement reached in early March wasn’t good for the team or the city. The deal was brokered by the league and tentatively agreed to by the Kings.
USC Professor of Sports Business David Carter said it is likely the franchise will be moved.
“It’s actually a very toxic environment up there and many believe that the deal the Maloofs had struck is something that they’re now trying to walk away from, and I think that’s problematic for that city long-term," Carter said.
While the Kings are expected to stay faithful to their Sacramento fans through next season, the flirtation with Anaheim is on again. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait says the city is interested if the Kings leave Sacramento.
Anaheim is “NBA-ready, with great fans and a first-class facility," said Tait in a statement. That facility is the city-owned Honda Center.
“There are always a handful of teams that ultimately are in play," said Carter. "And you’ve got to believe that the Honda Center is as well-positioned as any arena and the City of Anaheim as well-positioned as any city to take over a relocating franchise.”
Carter says the right kind of lease - plus access to sponsors and an avid fan base - puts Anaheim in an ideal place compared to cities, like Seattle, which lost an NBA team partly due to a poor facility.
The Honda Center is getting a $20 million upgrade over the next year with the help of the billionaire owner of the Anaheim Ducks.
During Anaheim's previous courtship of the Kings, Henry Samueli agreed to loan $50 million to the Maloofs for relocation expenses.
But not so fast! There are a couple of NBA teams about 35 miles north of Anaheim - the Lakers and Clippers - that don’t want to split sponsorship money.
Competition on the court is one thing, but competing for dollars is another.
“My understanding is the Lakers new media deal with Time Warner Cable, if anybody else moves into this market, the Lakers would take a tremendous haircut – as much as 10 percent off of this multibillion dollar TV deal over the life of it," said Carter. "And so percentages might be off a little bit, but you’re talking about a tremendous amount of money that the Lakers would have to forego in potential advertising.”
Carter says it’s likely the Lakers and Clippers would oppose any move by the Kings to Anaheim.
The Kings are scheduled to play in Sacramento next season. NBA Commissioner David Stern wouldn't speculate where they would play beyond that. He says if the team wants to relocate, approval is up to the relocation committee.
Meantime, Anaheim is ready and waiting.