NBA Commissioner David Stern says the group that has reached agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings has formally filed to relocate the franchise to Seattle.
"The Seattle application is to play in KeyArena, which would be there probably for two years, possibly three," Stern said.
Stern spoke on Wednesday night in Minneapolis before the Timberwolves hosted San Antonio. He called the Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, “very strong,” and that the appropriate committees have been convened to look over the proposed sale of the Kings and the prospective move to Seattle.
"We have had submitted a signed agreement to have the team sold to a very strong group from Seattle," Stern said. "We have received an application to have the team moved from Sacramento to Seattle.”
The deadline for teams to file for relocation is March 1. It's been expected that the Hansen/Ballmer group would file to move the team, but Stern's comments were the first time that decision had been verified. The filing for relocation is just another step, but big in the efforts to bring professional basketball back to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.
Hansen's group reached an agreement with the Maloof family last month to buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million.
The Kings' sale price of $525 million would surpass the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in 2010.
McGinn praises Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn acknowledged the news was “very consistent with a conversation I had with David Stern last week.” McGinn told KING5 he’s not celebrating just yet. “The ball is in the NBA’s court right now.”
McGinn also praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the efforts he has made to save the Kings franchise, calling him a “Great Mayor” who is “fighting for his team.”
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been trying to find investors with the financial means to match the sale price, keep the Kings in Sacramento and help on the construction of a new arena in California's capital city.
Sacramento 'playing to win'
Johnson issued a long statement on Wednesday night, saying he’s still moving forward on a counter proposal.
“As we’ve said from the start, Sacramento is playing to win. For 28 years, we’ve proven time and again to be a top NBA market. Our fans have set league records for consecutive sellouts. Our corporate community has stepped up in ways never seen before. We are a top 20 media market where the NBA enjoys 100% market share and no competition from pro football, baseball or soccer. We are the state capital of the eighth largest economy in the world, a place where more businesses work to promote a positive image than in any other city in the US outside of Washington, DC. And above all, we know that with an ownership partner committed both to Sacramento and an arena plan already supported by the City and NBA, Sacramento is ready to show what a great one-team market can be, should be, and is”
Johnson said Tuesday he planned to attend the NBA All-Star game in Houston and lobby anyone he could on the merits of keeping the Kings in Sacramento, but he has yet to reveal any of the large equity investors he's attempting to pull together. Johnson said he hoped to be able to announce them next week.
"My guess is it's likely that the mayor of Sacramento will appear before the board with an alternate plan," Stern said. "And that's why we have a board of governors, to make difficult decisions like this one.”
No bidding war in fight to get the Kings
Stern said he didn't feel the situation between Seattle and Sacramento would turn into a battle to see who can make the most lucrative bid.
"I don't think it's a bidding war," Stern continued. "There's a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. So there are real issues for the board to consider, about the buildings, about the likelihood they will be built, about the support from the cities.”
Two committees would typically vet both the proposed sale and the move of the franchise to Seattle, but Stern said he has combined the committees into one. The committee will report to the Board of Governors, which is expected to vote on both the sale and the proposed move at its meeting in mid-April.
Stern said the relocation of the franchise requires a majority approval of the Board of Governors and the sale of the franchise would require a three-fourths majority.
"So I did the sensible thing, I combined the committees and said, `You guys figure it out.' We'll see how that works," Stern said.
Sonic great says time to forgive Stern
Former Sonic Shawn Kemp was recording his weekly show on Jet City Stream, when he got the relocation news from KING5.
“It’s one step closer, that’s what this is about, about a community coming together,” said Kemp. “It’s gonna be great for everybody, just hearing that news makes me smile.”
Kemp added that it may be time for Seattle to forgive Stern. “He rubs the different kind of way on people. I really think he’s a respectable person. I’ve worked for him, worked with him, and thought in my heart he wanted to have the Sonics return to Seattle before he retired.”
Kemp admitted that there are still steps in the process, but he’s excited about the prospects. “I want to see the workers at Key Arena have some goodbyes to it. I want to see the people of Queen Anne say the team is leaving, and not all of the sudden disappear.”
“It’s truly going to be a celebration,” says Kemp.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.