Virginia Beach, huh? Grab a shovel, a good novel, some suncreen. This is only the latest chapter in the simmering Kings arena/relocation drama that will persist into the upcoming season, perhaps into subsequent seasons, and is sure to involve at least another half-dozen or more cities.
Anaheim. San Jose. Kansas City. Vancouver. Louisville. Seattle. Las Vegas. Tampa.
More than half of the above-mentioned locales already have existing modern sports and entertainment arenas, and later this afternoon, officials in Virginia Beach, Va., are expected to publicly entertain the possibility of building a new facility and becoming the latest suitor of an NBA franchise.
They're still here. They're still preparing for another training camp. They're still hawking tickets and merchandise and pursuing sponsorships and partnerships, but frankly, that's not good enough anymore.
Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof need to show something. Scream. Shout. Sob. Throw a temper tantrum. Tell their critics to jump off a building. Do something, anything, to demonstrate that they haven't fled the market, that they are aggressively engaging local businessmen and politicians in arena discussions, and in the aftermath of the $391 million arena plan they rejected last spring, that they are willing to consider other options in the ZIP code that not so long ago was considered NBA royalty.
Their silence on this Virginia Beach situation is killing them. The carefully crafted comments issued last week in response to these latest arena/relocation reports would have been fine in a market without Sacramento's arena history. But you can't simply write off a recent past that includes a near-move to Anaheim, followed by the implosion of a downtown deal that initially received the Maloofs' very public blessing.
"The sole focus of everyone within the Sacramento Kings organization continues to be to put a winning team on the court as we look forward to what promises to be an exciting 2012-13 NBA season," the statement from Los Angeles-based publicist Eric Rose read in part.
OK, understood. After six seasons without a postseason appearance, no one quibbles with giving DeMarcus Cousins some help. But Sacramento needs more. Sacramento is asking for some clarity here, not a long-term lease agreement in a crappy facility, but some sense of commitment. Are the Maloofs interested in recapturing their market? Are they game for another shot at this? Or not?
When the article in the Hampton Roads Business Journal broke last week – with unnamed sources indicating the Kings' majority owners would attend today's meeting in Virginia Beach – a simple "no truth to the rumors" would have done wonders both for the local psyche and for ticket sales. An emphatic denial would have temporarily tabled the relocation issue, and in effect directed attention toward the upcoming season.
Unless, of course, the Maloofs plan to attend the City Council meeting in Virginia Beach. Then they were smart to stay mum. Team officials Monday, however, continued to insist the reports were inaccurate.
Might they send an unofficial emissary to the meeting? That wouldn't shock me. Nothing relating to the Kings arena situation should shock anyone anymore. For that matter, anyone who believes he can accurately predict the Maloofs' next act doesn't know the Maloofs. This is a family of five, and – as with most large, emotional clans – contrasting opinions are more the norm than the exception.
That said, after speaking with numerous sources these past few days, as of Aug. 27, 2012, this is my take: The Maloofs are fixated on fixing their team, are receptive to taking on financial investors, are intent on maintaining majority ownership, and as for an arena, they still don't know what they want.
As for that chatter about renovating Power Balance Pavilion? The suggestion that George Maloof advanced in conversations with reporters last spring? Let's just say it's been a very quiet summer. Members of one prominent group advocating a Power Balance makeover are still trying to arrange a formal meeting.
"We're ready to help in any way we can in advising the ownership group relative to the arena issue, whether it's a renovation or a new project that makes sense," said Greg Van Dusen, who was an executive with the team when the Kings relocated from Kansas City in 1985 and currently serves as spokesman for a group that includes an architect and engineer involved with the construction of Arco Arena I and II. "We're passionate about the Kings. We brought them here. We've been working on this pro bono for 3 1/2 years. That's not a complaint; it was our decision. We just love the Kings and want the team to stay in Sacramento."
The cost. The funding. The political climate. The business climate. The main elements in these arena discussions remain the same, regardless of location. But for the fans to buy into anything they're selling, the Maloofs have to be present and prominent. And moving forward, Sacramento needs to know that, at the very least, the folks here will get a hometown discount.