|Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson celebrating an "unfair arena deal" with the Maloofs. (Getty Images)|
The Maloofs have had a rough couple of years, and it's largely their own doing. After the 2010-11 season, it looked like the city of Sacramento was going to lose the basketball team they've hosted since 1985. The Maloofs tried to sneak into the city of Anaheim and add a third NBA team to the Los Angeles/Southern California area.
After a phenomenal rallying of support by the city of Sacramento, the team's fans and people around the league who knew what was happening wasn't correct, the NBA basically gave Sacramento one year to figure out an arena deal with the Maloofs. During All-Star weekend in Orlando, a deal was agreed upon in handshake form, causing a great deal of pride and a sense of accomplishment throughout the NBA front offices and the Sacramento Kings community.
Then the deal fell apart because the Maloofs claimed it wasn't a fair deal. Since then, other cities have been looking into poaching the Kings from Sacramento. Virginia Beach is one of the persistent cities right now. Via Sactown Royalty:
According to WAVY-TV's Bruce Rader, Virginia Beach mayor Will Sessoms has reached a deal with Comcast-Spectacor and apparently the Maloofs to build a city-owned arena in that fair burg, with the cable company as the operator and the Kings as the primary tenant. Next Tuesday, Rader reports, Sessoms will ask the Virginia Beach City Council to approve a request to the State of Virginia for $150 million to help build the arena and finance the team's relocation. The apparent angle will be that doing the deal gives Virginia its first professional major league team since ... the ABA's Squires?
Rader says $80 million of that money will go toward relocation costs for the Kings. The Maloofs owe the city of Sacramento just less than that amount, and the standard recent relocation fees from the NBA have been $30 million. The Maloofs could also default on their loan with the city and fork over a $25 million stake of the team, per the loan agreement.
There are an enormous number of hurdles that Virginia Beach would have to clear in order to land the Kings. The first major hurdle is covering the outstanding debt the Maloofs have accumulated over the course of their ownership of the Kings. The Maloofs owe the city of Sacramento nearly $80 million, and they don't appear to be in the financial shape to cover relocation fees and throw any money toward building an arena.
They've basically refused to put up a decent amount of money that they don't already owe during this arena fiasco because it looks like they might be hurting for the collateral to do so. They barely own any of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas (just 2 percent) and sold their alcohol distributorship in order to attempt to save the casino.
The Maloofs have offered up a dizzying array of excuses that don't show anything substantial as they try to get out of having an arena in Sacramento. It seems like Anaheim or Seattle would be better markets for the Kings. However, Virginia Beach would get the Maloofs away from a lot of bad relationships they've fostered with the city of Sacramento, its officials and the fans of the team.
After the financial costs, the NBA would have to approve the relocation, which might be hard for them to bring themselves to do. After the bad press and fallout of the Sonics moving from Seattle, the NBA has been much more careful about protecting teams in existing markets. In the past few months alone, the NBA has worked hard to make sure the Grizzlies in Memphis and the Hornets in New Orleans have local backing and sound ownership futures to ensure those teams stay in those markets. And after seeing the way the Maloof-Sacramento debacle has unfolded, commissioner David Stern and the NBA seem to be pretty disappointed in where the Kings' situation is headed.
If they wanted to submarine such efforts for as long as they possibly can, it could kill a deal in getting this particular team to leave Sacramento for the time being.
For what it's worth, the 2012-13 Nielsen rankings have the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Hampton market ranked 44th in the top television markets. The Sacramento-Modesto-Stockton market is ranked 20th.
The move by Virginia Beach seems like a no-brainer. Even at the estimated arena cost of $350 million to $400 million, they could bring in quite a bit of revenue that isn't in the city now to make up for the tax hikes and costs to get such a deal done. That is assuming the Maloofs don't decide to claim an arena deal isn't fair after they've already agreed to it.
They have a reputation for doing just that.