Now that the Sacramento Kings appear headed to a new arena in the central city, local officials are working to secure another large sports-related tenant downtown: Bay Area retailer Sports Basement.
The 15-year-old company agreed in November 2011 to acquire the former Bank of America building at Eighth and I streets and open a sports emporium at the long-dormant site.
It has since paid about $300,000 in non-refundable deposits to Sacramento County - the building's owner - toward the $4.5 million purchase.
But the company, often likened to sporting goods giant REI, fell out of contract on the deal a couple of months ago, according to Troy Givans, the county's director of economic development.
Now, he said, county officials are "evaluating our options regarding the property."
But he and others said Sports Basement remains interested in a purchase and there are reports a meeting could be held as early as this week to try to get the sale back on track.
The goal of those talks apparently is to restructure the deal to create "a little more favorable terms" for the retailer, said Leslie Fritzsche, the city's downtown development manager.
She said Sports Basement remains committed to paying the full purchase price for the 70,000-square-foot building that was last used as temporary offices for city staffers. But the company might want to "sequence" payments over a longer period, she said.
There has been no discussion of city funds being used to help pay for the $5.5 million in renovations that Sports Basement said it would be making to the three-story building, Fritzsche said.
Sports Basement executives did not return calls seeking comment. Sacramento real estate broker Ken Turton, who initially enticed Sports Basement to consider expansion in Sacramento, said only that the company remains interested in a deal here.
The main obstacle, officials say, is Sports Basement's plans to open more stores in the Bay Area, adding one in Berkeley and perhaps elsewhere to the five outlets it now has in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Sunnyvale and, most recently, Campbell.
"It's just a matter of them making sure they can manage" all the new stores, said Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which helped to lure the company here in the first place.
Both sides want the Sacramento sale to happen, Ault said.
Ault and other local business promoters said they remain excited about the possibility of the retailer anchoring I Street with a gleaming new store, generating an estimated $800,000 in sales tax annually and adding to the momentum created by various recent developments, including the sale of the Kings to a group intent on building a new arena nearby at Downtown Plaza.
They see a good fit here for Sports Basement, which was founded in 1998 and is known for its large selection of camping, hiking and snow gear along with equipment and clothing for runners and cyclists, all at discounted prices.
The chain also is known as a good corporate citizen, sponsoring local runs and other events, backing youth sports teams and offering classes.
"They are very good businessmen ... and very community-minded," Fritzsche said.
She said the city's success in keeping the Kings here is likely to be a positive when it comes to sealing a deal with the company.
"I think they've always been bullish on downtown Sacramento, and the arena (deal) makes them even more bullish," she said.
Others suggested the Kings developments could play a more pivotal role in luring Sports Basement here.
Garrick Brown, research director at Cassidy, Turley BT Commercial in Sacramento, said he's been deluged with questions and proposals regarding development here since the change in Kings' ownership.
"It was a game-changer," he said of the arrival of deep-pocketed investors eager to improve the team and build it a new home.
He cited the example of one developer who is interested in building multifamily housing along the 16th Street corridor.
"He wasn't getting a lot of play," Brown said of the developer, whom he declined to identify. "But as soon as this happened, his phone began ringing off the hook."
As for the deal with Sports Basement, Brown is optimistic.
"Frankly," he said, "I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen."