The Sacramento Kings returned from the dead Tuesday.
One day after the Kings declared they aren't moving to Anaheim, the phones started ringing and the team was swamped with ticket requests. It put out a help-wanted notice for 20 people to sell tickets and sponsorships, scrambling to make up for weeks of idleness while the team's status was in limbo.
A special team dispatched to Sacramento from NBA headquarters in New York began advising the organization on marketing, sponsorships even personnel decisions.
Across town, Mayor Kevin Johnson held a press conference to emphasize his commitment to developing a financing plan for a new arena to keep the Kings in town permanently.
The NBA has given the Maloofs the league's blessing to relocate the team if an arena plan isn't in place by next March.
Johnson pointedly said the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, must contribute financially to the new arena.
While the amount the Maloofs would contribute is unclear, "they've got to participate in some shape or form," Johnson said. "It's got to be real, where our community feels it, and I think they're up to that challenge."
Where will the money come from? The Kings' owners don't have "a big checkbook" for an arena, as George Maloof put it Monday. And finding tax revenue to fund a project that could cost $350 million will be extremely difficult.
"It's a big challenge," said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.
Despite the uncertain long-term outlook, interest in the team has revived amid the euphoria of the Maloofs' decision. The Kings began taking applications for season tickets late Monday, weeks later than usual.
The demand "has been overwhelming," said Kings spokesman Troy Hanson. "It's outpacing our expectations."
The NBA followed through on Commissioner David Stern's pledge to put "boots on the ground" in Sacramento and help revive the Kings organization. A nine-person squad from the league's TMBO program for "team marketing and business operations" arrived to help the Kings gear up for next season.
"We're helping out in ticket sales, you name it," said Brian McIntyre, one of the team leaders and Stern's senior communications adviser. "Obviously there's work to be done here. We've got a finite amount of time."
McIntyre dismissed any suggestion that the Kings are in disarray, saying, "We go out to a number of teams and help them out." The group from New York is working cooperatively with the Kings organization, he added.
But Bill Sutton, a Florida sports-management consultant who helped develop the TMBO program, said the effort the league is making in Sacramento goes well beyond the ordinary.
"When a team comes this close to moving, that's a crisis situation," Sutton said. "There's a special need here."
The league will also work closely with the Kings and Sacramento officials on arena funding, Stern said.
There's little doubt that any arena plan would require a sizable public contribution. And it's far from clear where the public money would come from. Elected officials are working to create a joint powers authority, or JPA a regional government agency that can finance projects more easily than an individual city or county.
A JPA built Raley Field. The $40 million in bonds is being paid off through revenue from the stadium, but the backing of the city of West Sacramento, and Sacramento and Yolo counties made the project more attractive to investors.
"Nobody will buy revenue bonds unless bond buyers look at it and say, 'This is a safe investment,' " said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, a supporter of the new arena project.
But it's a big jump from a Triple-A baseball stadium to an NBA arena. Sacramento's arena could cost $350 million. There's no way it could generate enough revenue to operate the team and pay the debt service, said Warren Smith, a former River Cats executive who worked on the Raley Field development.
That's where public money would have to come in. But a JPA, or any governmental entity, would have trouble scaring up public dollars for an arena without voter approval.
California law says local tax increases must be decided at the ballot box. Although certain "user fees" don't require a vote, the definition of what constitutes a fee was narrowed sharply by the passage of Proposition 26 last fall, said Peter Detwiler, staff director of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
Getting voter approval tripped up the last big arena effort, the 2006 sales-tax increase for a downtown building that was overwhelmingly defeated by Sacramento voters.
A broad tax increase for an arena would be a tough sell when recession-weary voters are worried about "schools or streets or child care or whatever," Dickinson said. As a county supervisor, he chaired the JPA that built Raley Field.
Many elected officials are awaiting the outcome of the feasibility study being conducted by ICON Venue Group and Sacramento developer David Taylor, tentatively set to be delivered to the City Council on May 26. The report is expected to outline potential funding strategies.
"Let's look at the Taylor options first. The priority is to identify funding sources that are not general tax increases," said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.