Sacramento Kings’ arena concerns put Anaheim back in play

Building a new arena for the Sacramento Kings by the 2015 NBA season opener is fraught with challenges, the greatest of which may be the increasing skepticism of the team’s owners that it can be accomplished.

Documents reviewed by The Times this week show Kings owners Joe, Gavin and George Maloof dispute that they have a firm agreement to participate in a new entertainment and sports complex in the city.

Additionally, in a Wednesday letter delivered to city leaders under the subject “ESC feasibility concerns,” the Maloofs’ attorney writes “unresolved issues regarding the … project remain … .”

A year removed from the Maloofs wanting to move the Kings south to Anaheim’s Honda Center, that notion is back in play, a Maloof spokesman said.

“If an arena project cannot be completed by the timeline set by the city, then the Kings would be forced to explore all of their options,” Maloof family spokesperson Eric Rose said.

Meeting the timeline requires navigating a perilous path of environmental requirements, possible additional expenses and legal challenges.

In a Tuesday letter to the Maloofs’ attorney, Sacramento officials acknowledged they are working to ease “questions and concerns” aired by the owners.

Sacramento Assistant City Manager John Dangberg wrote “there is much work ahead that must be closely coordinated among the partners,” adding, “it is critical for all parties to be pulling in the same direction.”

Dangberg, in the nine-page letter, said completing construction by the 2015 opener is “achievable.”

Public scrutiny of city spending has spawned a civic group to fight arena investment. Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork filed has filed for an initiative to stop public arena funding.

Amid other uncertainty about who’s paying for a slew of pre-development and construction costs, the Maloofs were moved to press for specifics from the city on March 20.

“The leadership in Sacramento is aware of the many challenges in completing the project in the timeframe they set,” Rose said in a prepared statement. “The city has previously committed to having the Kings in a new arena by the start of the 2015 basketball season.”

The Maloofs declined to comment.

Messages left for the spokesman of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and other city officials were not immediately returned.

The Maloofs were poised to move the team to the Honda Center last year before NBA Commissioner David Stern asked them to wait a year and let Johnson, an ex-NBA All-Star point guard, establish a financing plan for a new arena in the city.

Sacramento officials and the Maloofs emerged from a Feb. 27 meeting during NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Fla., saying they had reached verbal agreement for a new $391-million arena to be funded by the Maloofs ($75 million), arena builder AEG ($59 million) and the city ($255.5 million).

But the Maloofs made a strong point in Wednesday’s letter to underline the preliminary term sheet is non-binding, with their attorney writing, “There was never an agreement reached.”

In addressing questions about the impact of legal challenges and other interference that could complicate efforts to meet California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Environmental Impact Report requirements, Sacramento’s Dangberg wrote in his letter to the Maloofs’ attorney that, “development projects of this magnitude always involve risk.”

Stern’s voice may still enter to calm the Maloofs as a future dealing with traffic, parking planning and measurements of greenhouse gas emissions at the proposed arena site swirl in their heads.

An NBA spokesman did not immediately comment on the Sacramento situation, but Stern has thus far made moves consistent with advocating remaining in the market where his is the only pro sports league.

Yet, the Maloofs’willingness to maintain patience with the risk of arena building weighed against ready-made Anaheim’s interest in becoming an NBA home in a far larger market is compelling.

More about the dynamic could be revealed as soon as Tuesday, when the Sacramento City Council is expected to discuss the status of the arena agreement and seek a more substantial Maloofs’ commitment.


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Sacramento Kings’ arena concerns puts Anaheim back in play