ANAHEIM, CA - Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait confirmed to the Orange County Register Tuesday night that negotiations and are ongoing and Anaheim is "closer" to landing an NBA franchise, possibly the Sacramento Kings.
"The good news is that we are continuing to move closer to bringing a professional basketball team to Anaheim," Tait told the Orange County Register Tuesday night. "Because there are ongoing discussions and negotiations, I have just a few details to share tonight. More information will be forthcoming in the next week or so."
On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council delayed discussions whether to issue bonds to fund improvements for the Honda Center, the venue that the Kings would play their home games as early as next season, if they were to leave Sacramento for Orange County.
The council will resume discussions during a meeting to be held on March 29.
The improvements to the Honda Center could indicate that the venue is preparing to host an NBA franchise, possibly as soon as next season with the Kings.
"This is something this city has been waiting 18 years for," Tait told the Orange County Register after Tuesday night's meeting. "I am very excited."
Tait's comments were the first public comments from an Anaheim city official since Kings owners, the Maloof family, have been in talks with Anaheim Arena Management, which operates the Honda Center, about relocating the franchise from Sacramento for the 2011-12 season.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said in his blog on Tuesday that "it feels like a slow death," in regards to the Kings possible decision for relocation. He also praised Sacramento fans for "taking the high road," while the future of the team remains in limbo.
"The strange part is, our true destiny as a professional sports town continues to rest with us - not the Kings or Royals or whatever they want to call themselves," Johnson wrote. "The slow death is almost over. It's painful. But a new beginning is right around the corner."
Tait told the Orange County Register that no taxpayer money would be used to lure the Kings to Anaheim.
"First, I can tell you that a financing structure is being proposed that would allow for private investment to fund improvements at Honda Center," Tait told the newspaper.
"We have all seen the speculation in the media, but I want to assure everyone that should a deal go forward, the city taxpayers and the city's general fund will not be put at risk in any way," he added. "All of my colleagues on the City Council and city staff share my concern that the taxpayers cannot be exposed to any risk with this potential new deal."
"Our city is a first-class destination. Adding a second professional sports team at Honda Center is very exciting, as long as the city and the taxpayers are protected," Tait said. "And they will be."
Over the years, Anaheim city officials have made it clear that the Honda Center, which already hosts the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, would need improvements, such as additional locker rooms, to make it NBA-ready.
The Kings have until Monday, April 18, to file for relocation and have already filed trademarks for names, including the Anaheim Royals.
By Sean Cunningham, SCunningham@News10.net