Four days before the Sacramento Kings' deadline to ask the NBA for permission to leave town, Mayor Kevin Johnson will plead the city's case to the league's team owners.
Johnson said Thursday he will address the NBA board of governors in New York on April 14. The Kings are negotiating a move to Anaheim and have until April 18 to ask for permission to relocate.
The mayor's priority is to explain the importance of the Kings to Sacramento and promote efforts to build a new arena.
Should the Kings seek a move, the league's team owners would decide in a vote later this year whether to accept the application. Past relocation requests by other NBA franchises have been approved overwhelmingly.
Beyond urging that the Kings stay here, Johnson wants to convince the league that Sacramento should be first in line for a new NBA franchise.
"The opportunity to speak straight to the NBA is a huge step for our community," the mayor wrote on his blog Thursday. "It puts our destiny exactly where it belongs: back in our hands."
Johnson said he is planning on bringing "a contingent of Sacramentans with me who can speak to the seriousness of our efforts to build a new arena and support a team."
The mayor is expected to discuss the city-sponsored development team analyzing an arena project and promote a grass-roots fan campaign that began this week.
Developer David Taylor and arena builder ICON Venue Group are moving forward on their city-backed financial feasibility study for a new arena in town. That work will press ahead, regardless of whether the Kings leave for Anaheim.
A report from Taylor and ICON is expected in late May.
Meanwhile, the "Here We Build" campaign has pledges totaling more than $200,000, supporters said Thursday. The money has not been collected yet, but if it is, supporters said it could be used to purchase commemorative bricks outside a new facility or to shore up ticket sales for Kings games next season if there is a next season.
"This is an outlet for Kings fans to finally let their voices be heard and tell city officials and local leaders they have failed," said sports radio personality Carmichael Dave, who launched the effort minutes after the Anaheim City Council voted Tuesday to sell $75 million in bonds to pay Kings relocation expenses and to fund improvements to Honda Center, the team's presumed future home arena.
And should the Kings decide to leave for Anaheim, supporters hope the effort will show the NBA that Sacramento's fan base can support another team.
"I would like for us to go out with a roar rather than a whimper," Dave said.
In addressing the league's owners, Johnson is following the advice of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.
The NBA's Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans in 2002. The following January, the NBA agreed to grant Charlotte an expansion team the Bobcats who began play in the 2004/05 season.
Johnson spoke recently with McCrory, who had also lobbied the league's board of governors. McCrory's advice to Johnson: convince the owners that your city is serious about building a new arena and that you're confident an ownership group will emerge for a new team.
The Bobcats' downtown arena, Time Warner Cable Arena, opened in 2005. A hotel and leisure tax, along with significant private investment, helped fund the estimated $260 million cost.
While Sacramento is working on its arena study, no serious discussions have taken place over finding a new ownership team here, if the Kings leave.