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Are the Sacramento Kings Moving to Virginia?

| August 23, 2012
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Well, we talked to one journalist who covers the team closely, who told us this:

“All my sources indicated to me that there is no substance to reports of any connection between the Kings and Virginia Beach. The Maloofs seem to be digging in here.”

Still, there was a bit of a flurry today when some local Sacramento stations reported the Kings are likely moving to Virginia Beach, Va.

From FOX40 News:

A new city has emerged as a likely destination for the Sacramento Kings, and the formal announcement could come next week. The office of the Mayor of Virginia Beach confirmed to FOX40 a basketball team is moving to their coastal city. While the mayor’s office could not confirm which team is moving, a source within the administration has told local outlets it is the Sacramento Kings.

The stories originated with a report on Virginia’s Inside Business site, which relied almost entirely on anonymous sources but got detailed enough about ostensible plans to imbue it with a certain ring of truth:

Media giant Comcast will guarantee a 25-year lease on a new arena, supposedly for naming rights and for broadcasting the games, sources said…

City officials and the Maloof family are expected to announce Wednesday that the Kings will land in Virginia Beach, sources said.

Virginia Beach-based Meridian Group, a marketing communications firm, is expected to handle the public relations for the announcement.

To finance the arena, the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association has indicated it would support a $1 hike in the lodging tax, sources said.

In addition, the Atlantic Coast Conference has agreed to place Virginia Beach on its list as a future venue for college ACC conference tournaments.

A well-known concert promoter – Live Nation – is associated with the deal for the new arena and the team’s relocation to Virginia Beach, sources say.

The new arena will be built across from the Virginia Beach Convention Center, adjacent to the former Norfolk Southern Corp. rail track and a proposed site for a light rail station.

“Comcast, Live Nation and Global Spectrum have come to the city,” Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said. “They would guarantee us a professional sports team” if the deal goes through.

Almost immediately, some began questioning the story. From Bay Area News Group journalist Daniel M. Jiminez…

 

From Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who was heavily involved in crafting a deal to keep the team in the city, which fell through in April…

A discussion ensued on SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty site. One blogger debunked the details published in the original Inside Business story:

None of this makes any sense.

1. Virginia Beach may be the biggest city in Virginia, but it’s smaller than Sacramento and a much smaller media market. The Hampton Roads area has approximately 1.6 million people, about half of the Sacramento metropolitan area. Sacramento is also the 19th largest media market in the country, while the Norfolk area is 42nd. (Source)

2. The Maloofs don’t have any money to build a new hotel. They might say they do, but actions speak louder than words.

3. The article says the Maloofs own the Palm Hotels. This is false, as they lost most of their stake and now just own 2%.

4. The Maloofs would not announce a move 2 months prior to the season starting, particularly to a city where no arena has been built. Ticket sales would absolutely plummet, boycotts would start, etc.

5. David Stern very recently said that if the Kings wanted to move to Anaheim, they would not be allowed to. That’s in one of the biggest media markets in the country, and one with an arena already built.

6. The likely costs of relocation would cost more than the city of Sacramento asked from the Maloofs to build a new arena in Sacramento, which they shot down.

7. About a billion different things need to happen before a team can move. The team must apply to relocate, the Board of Governors needs to approve, a new arena needs to be built, numerous contracts need to be signed. None of this has happened yet.

I could go on, but I don’t think I’m going to get super upset over this likely false report. I sincerely doubt that Virginia Beach poses any threat to the future of the Sacramento Kings. Full post

So what do the Kings have to say about all this? From CBS Sacramento:

We haven’t talked to Virginia Beach,” Joe Maloof told CBS13.

Kings spokesman Eric Rose also wouldn’t confirm the report, but said the team has drawn interest from several cities through the years.

“The Kings have been approached by numerous cities interested [in] buying the team and relocating it. We are not going to discuss which cities have approached the team and are not going to comment on every rumor. I can tell you that the Kings are 100 percent focused on putting a winning team on the court,” said Rose in an email to CBS13.

Rose also denied the Maloofs will be at a news conference in Virginia Beach next week.

 

The Sacramento Bee is now on the case, and this report would only seem to add to the mystery. The headline: “Many Virginia Beach leaders just learning about NBA team”

Political leaders in Virginia Beach either declined comment or said they had learned of the possibilty of the Kings moving from reporters and from a press conference the mayor called today to announce that Comcast would present a proposal next week to bring a professional team to town, but that no specific team was named.

Terry Kelley, vice president of the Meridian Group, which reportedly will handle public relations for the plan, said in a phone message that he could only confirm there will be a press conference next Tuesday after the Virginia Beach council meets.

“As far as the Sacramento Kings, I’m not privy to any of those discussions,” Kelley added.

Comcast Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman issued a statement saying that his firm and Live Nation “are always looking for new opportunities to expand our business in the area,” but declined to provide specifics about what is planned for next week.

“We will refrain from making any comments until we are in Virginia Beach on Tuesday,” he wrote. “At our presentation on Tuesday we will elaborate our collective plans for a new arena. Despite preliminary reports, no specific professional sports team from any league has been identified as the potential tenant for this building.”

The city’s vice mayor, Louis R. Jones, said the council had been contacted about a proposal to move a team there but added that he knew few specifics. Full article

 

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