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Thursday, March 1, 2012
Sacramento releases financing plan

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- All that's left to keep the Sacramento Kings in California's capital is a vote.

Sacramento released the full financing plan for a new arena Thursday night, setting the stage for next week's city council vote that will decide whether the Kings stay put. The non-binding term sheet between the city and the Kings estimates the final price tag for the arena at $391 million.

The city council will vote on the project Tuesday night, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has long expressed confidence that there are more than enough members to approve the plan.

Under the agreement, the city will contribute $255.5 million to the project, mostly by leasing out parking garages around the facility. The Kings have agreed to pay $73.25 million upfront and sign a lease obligating the team -- and any future owners -- to remain in Sacramento for 30 years.

Arena operator AEG will contribute $58.75 million, and another $3 million will come from a public sponsorship campaign -- such as selling engraved bricks and plaques around the building.

There also will be a 5 percent ticket surcharge to help fund the arena and a $1 ticket surcharge for facility maintenance. Among the other notables:

• The arena will be owned by the city and operated by AEG.

• The city will receive a percentage of net profits earned by AEG.

• The city will allow the Kings to refinance the team's existing loan.

• The city will sell 100 acres it owns next to the Kings' current suburban arena and some smaller lots around the city that will raise $30.7 million.

Despite attempts by Anaheim and Seattle to swoop in and lure the Kings, the fate of the franchise is now in the hands of the Sacramento city council -- which has approved every arena measure to date under the current project. The arena would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown Sacramento rail yards.

What a turnaround for town that once seemed assured of losing its only major professional sports team.

The Kings were on the verge of relocating to Anaheim last year before Johnson desperately convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson -- a former NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns -- even called the process a "slow death" and compared the city's efforts to keep the Kings a "Hail Mary."

Johnson made a pitch to the NBA Board of Governors last April, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team's current outdated suburban facility. He also bought time by presenting more than $10 million in commitments for new advertising, ticket purchases and other financial support from regional businesses for this season.

The NBA's relocation committee, headed by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett, who moved the team now known as the Thunder from Seattle in 2008, recommended that the league give the city a shot to follow through and handed down a March 1 deadline to come up with a plan to help finance an arena. True to his word, Johnson delivered. And just in time, too.

Thursday was March 1.