Kings owners 'optimistic' about new arena plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are growing increasingly optimistic that the city will approve an acceptable financing plan for a new arena by the March 1 deadline to keep the franchise from relocating.

Gavin Maloof said Thursday that the team is pleased with the progress of the city's latest arena project and is "encouraged that something can be done" in time. Joe Maloof said the brothers are "optimistic guys" and would love for the franchise to remain in Sacramento.

The Sacramento City Council has approved several preliminary measures to finance a new arena, including a key step earlier this week asking companies interested in leasing the city's downtown parking operations to come forward. Upfront revenue from a parking deal could provide $200 million to put toward the arena.

That would be the largest chunk of money for the project, which is expected to cost at least $406 million. The parking measure passed by a 7-2 vote. A final vote is expected in February on the entire financing plan - with details of public and private contributions, including from the NBA and the Kings.

"We're encouraged that something can be done. Obviously, we're leaving that up to the mayor and the city and the NBA," Gavin Maloof said. "But the NBA is keeping us apprised of everything that's going on."

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, is planning to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern and other executives in New York on Friday to continue discussions. The Central Valley's only major professional franchise almost moved to Anaheim this summer, but the league and the Maloofs decided to give the city one final chance to approve a workable financing plan.

While a March 1 deadline has been imposed, the league also extended that a year ago while the Maloofs pursued options to move the team to Southern California. Joe Maloof said the City Council's tight schedule would still give the team enough time to make a decision - if everything stays on schedule.

"We're optimistic guys, always have been. We look at the positive parts," Joe Maloof said. "We think as long as the mayor continues on with his ideas, we'll see if they can come to fruition."

The Maloofs also noted an increase in ticket sales, corporate sponsors and overall excitement building momentum toward a Sacramento solution.

Johnson convinced owners at the NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York earlier this year to keep the team from moving this summer. He secured pledges - which later became checks - for more than $10 million in Kings sponsorship and ticket sales, essentially buying Sacramento time this season.

"The community has been really great," Joe Maloof said. "Our ticket sales are going through the roof. Our corporate sponsors are way up. I think we're second in the league in group sales. It's just been great, sold a lot of tickets and the phone is ringing off the hook. I think they're all excited about this team and the fact that we've got a good young team with a lot of talent and looking forward to big things."


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