Maloof Sports and Entertainment will not be moving the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim's Honda Center for the 2011-2012 season – but local officials haven't given up hope on bringing an NBA team to the county.
“We are disappointed in today’s developments but remain very optimistic about the long-term future of the NBA in Anaheim,” said Michael Schulman, chairman of Anaheim Arena Management, which runs the city-owned Honda Center. “We wish the Maloof family and city of Sacramento well and hope they are successful in their endeavors."
The Maloof Sports and Entertainment announcement comes shortly before today's 2 p.m. deadline to file for relocation with the NBA (the cut-off date was originally set for April 18).
“Out of respect to Kings fans and the regional business community, we have decided to remain in Sacramento for the 2011-12 season," according to the statement. "The fans’ spirit and energy, specifically our season ticket holders, has been remarkable, and we are truly thankful for their loyalty. We also are greatly appreciative of the support from our corporate sponsors as well as other local businesses that have come forward in recent weeks."
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was among those who worked in recent weeks to keep the Kings in the city; he has said that he is "capable of getting the support to build a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports facility" in the area, according to the statement. However, Maloof Sports and Entertainment said that if a plan is not finalized in a "timely fashion," it will consider moving the franchise for the 2012-2013 season.
The condition of the arena had been among the reasons for the possible move to Anaheim – and the Honda Center had offered a prime location. Additionally, city officials recently OK'd a number of measures to prepare the venue for an NBA team, including approving up to $75 million in lease revenue bonds for capital improvements at the center and for transition costs.
“Anaheim remains an NBA-ready city,” said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. “We are proud of the work that was done to bring an NBA team to Anaheim’s Honda Center. In particular, we protected the city’s taxpayers and the city’s finances from any risk by using private, not public, funds in the financing. As confirmed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, this process has shown that Anaheim/Orange County is a stand-alone market. With more than 3 million residents, Orange County is its own region – not a suburb. We believe that there should be more than one venue in Southern California to enjoy NBA basketball."
Schulman added that if an NBA franchise comes to Anaheim in the future, some 10 million people would be allowed "greater access" to attend professional basketball games due to the center's location.
"Since we began working toward bringing an NBA franchise to Orange County, we have maintained that this process is about getting a team for the fans, as basketball is a sport loved by Southern Californians," said Schulman. "With the nation’s second-most populous region, one which serves as home to nearly the same number of people as the entire state of Texas, we are continuing our pursuit of an NBA team for our venue."
The Honda Center is currently home to the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, with neighboring Angel Stadium supporting a local MLB team; city officials believe that bringing a third pro sports team to Anaheim would further strengthen its status as a key entertainment destination.
“The bottom line is this: The final chapter has not been written," said Tait. "Anaheim/Orange County is ripe for the NBA, and we offer an incredibly attractive package to any team. As a world-class sports and entertainment destination, Anaheim will continue to move forward, and we remain optimistic to one day welcoming professional basketball to Anaheim.”
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