SACRAMENTO, CA - Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson arrived home to a crowd chanting "Sac-ra-mento," a fanfare now common with out-of-town trips focused on keeping on Kings.
After spending three days at the NBA's All-Star weekend in Houston, Johnson is more confident than ever.
"I'm more focused than confident than I was before," the Mayor said Monday.
When pressed on why he hasn't been able to announce his deep-pocketed investor, Johnson said, "It's been a little more complicated not because of somebody being less committed. We're going to ultimately pull this off. I will tell you this team is going to stay in Sacramento."
A bold statement, likely stemming from positive meetings with those that matter in Houston. The All-Star event is the only time many team owners and NBA executives are in one place.
Johnson was able to meet with several of them to pitch Sacramento. One of the main talking points is an arena plan.
"We're ready to build a brand-new arena right now," Johnson said. "It was something that was approved by the NBA a year ago. So it's not like we have to start from scratch."
The plan to build an arena at the railyards fell apart because the Maloofs backed out, citing economic concerns.
All it needs now is money from the new owner.
But there are possible complications. Some reports say the presumed major investor, Ron Burkle, prefers the downtown plaza site over the railyards.
The new owners of the downtown mall, a group called JMA, like the idea too. The city of Sacramento, though, hasn't fully researched that site recently.
When questioned about the downtown plaza location as he arrived back in in town Moinday morning, Johnson indicated it wasn't out of reach.
"Not necessarily," the mayor said. "The railyards site was a difficult site because of toxic issues, federal and state dollars with the intermodal. There were a lot of complications that we overcame."
The other complication is timing. The counter-offer has to be completed by March 1 and Johnson was supposed to announce the major investor last month. Then he hoped to do it before All-Star weekend.
Now he's saying this week or next.
"No, no. No crying wolf. Not at all. We will meet our March 1st deadline. We will announce something this week or next week, absolutely. There is no doubt in my mind that we will do that," Johnson said.
by Nick Monacelli, email@example.com