Steve Wiegand

On the Lighter Side: Would Kings' departure really wallop region's wallet?

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3E
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 - 9:56 am

I was going to write something expressing my great concern at the prospect of the Sacramento Kings leaving town, but I had trouble getting started.

Mind you, this wasn't because of a lack of great concern. I'm greatly concerned. It's one of the two or three most important issues in my life right now. It's right up there with the continued good health of my family and myself, a just and lasting solution to the country's immigration problems, and whether Lindsay Lohan can finally settle her legal problems and go on to be the Oscar-winning actress we all know she is destined to be.

First I thought maybe I'd take a poetic approach:

'Twas two months before April, and all through the city,

The townsfolk were moaning 'Gee, ain't it a pity;

'The Kings might be leaving, if we don't give battle,

'They'll pack up their balls, and leave for Seattle.'

Or perhaps something Shakespearean:

To leave, or not to leave: that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the future to suffer

The slings and arrows of cruel derision

From towns with shorts-clad hardwood warriors,

Or take arms against these Puget Sound punks,

And, by opposing them, risk future pain from woeful play?

In the end, however, I decided to look at the issue on strictly economic terms. This is the most logical approach. Not everyone in the region is a Kings fan. But everyone in the region is part of the regional economy, and the Kings' departure could have a significant impact on the economy. Of the region. Or not. Also, I couldn't get "Maloofs" to rhyme with "poopyheads."

So, let's take a typical family of four, who attend three Kings games each season. Because of budgetary constraints and the fact Pop is a tightwad, the family opts for the "elite baseline corner" seats on the mezzanine level ("Mezzanine" is French for "nosebleed"). This translates to $90 per game, or $270 per season. Parking is another $10 a game, or $30 per season. Now we come to the eats and drinks. Pop usually knocks back one or two beers; the whole family pushes down hot dogs, popcorn and sodas. Once in a while, Pop springs for churros. It all adds up to another $60 to $75, which brings the total per game to about $175, or $525 a year.

Now, let's say the Kings leave town. This would leave the aforementioned family with more than half a thousand dollars in unspent cash, money they are almost certainly going to sit on and not spend on movies or concerts or miniature golf or braces for Junior. This, in turn, shrinks the regional economy.

Moreover, there is what economists call "the ripple effect." There are dozens, if not scores of Sacramento-area residents whose livelihoods depend on the presence of a professional basketball franchise in our midst. There is the elastic band company in Roseville, without whose product the players' shorts would fall down; the six little old ladies in Hollywood Park who knit the basket nets; the Elk Grove supplier who provides the air for the basketballs.

So far, we've been talking about what economists call "microeconomics." But Steve, you ask, what about the Big Picture? How much would the Kings' departure really hurt the regional economy? The answer is simple: No One Knows.

But there are some numbers you might want to consider when you are deciding whether to be really concerned about the Kings leaving, or really, desperately, passionately concerned.

According to those working to keep the Kings in town, the local economy could take a $188 million annual hit if the team left. That is based on an estimate made in 2008 about what it would cost the city of Seattle if their basketball team left – it did. According to a U.S. Conference of Mayors study, the Gross Metropolitan Product of this region is $93.3 billion. Therefore the Kings' leaving would put a 0.002 percent dent in the GMP. Need more? The Kings have a full-time payroll of about 239. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the current number of workers in the region's nonfarm labor force is about 815,000. If none of the Kings employees found work, that would mean a 0.003 percent bump in the local unemployment rate.

So, there you are. In the next few weeks, ponder the numbers.

Weigh the potentialities. Consider the alternatives. And above all, when listening to all the alternatives that will come forward for taxpayer-subsidized arenas, be concerned. And remember what the first three letters of "concerned" are.

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