New NBA commissioner tours Plaza, attends Kings game, expresses confidence in arena plan

New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver toured the proposed site of the new Sacramento Kings arena late Wednesday, not long after declaring he’s confident the venue will get built despite a possible public vote on the project.

Silver visited Downtown Plaza after the Kings’ win over Toronto. He was accompanied by Kings President Chris Granger and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, according to team spokeswoman Laura Braden. He was originally scheduled to tour the mall before the game, but his arrival in Sacramento was delayed by a winter storm in New York.

Earlier, Silver and Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive expressed confidence that the $448 million project, which is considered essential to securing the team’s long-term future in Sacramento, will proceed as planned.

“No worries from the league office standpoint,” Silver told reporters at halftime of the Kings game at Sleep Train Arena. “I’m absolutely confident it’s going to get done.”

Standing next to Silver, Ranadive all but dismissed the possibility that Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, or STOP, could somehow derail the project.

“We’re going to be on schedule with this arena,” Ranadive said. “I know they’re called STOP, but this is a ‘Go.’ ”

STOP and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal last week sued the city of Sacramento over the city clerk’s rejection of their signed petitions calling for a public vote on sports subsidies. The clerk said the wording in the petitions was legally flawed.

Silver, in his first road trip since becoming commissioner Saturday, said his confidence is based in part on his 20-year relationship with Johnson, a former NBA star, and meetings with others involved in the arena project.

“I’ve sat in literally dozens of meetings with lawyers, political advisers, political leaders,” Silver said.

The building is scheduled to open in 2016. The NBA has given Sacramento an extra year’s grace period, until 2017, to complete the job or possibly lose the Kings to another city. That provision was part of an agreement Ranadive’s group made with the league when it bought the team last May, after the NBA thwarted a proposed relocation to Seattle by a group of investors from that city.

Sacramento plans to contribute a $258 million public subsidy toward the arena, planned for the southeast end of Downtown Plaza.

Silver and Ranadive went over arena designs before Wednesday night’s game.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Silver said, adding that he was taken by the “indoor-outdoor look” that would let people standing outside the arena get a glimpse inside.

Silver said Sacramento could host an All-Star Game in the new arena someday.

“First you’ve got to build the building. But we’d love to come to Sacramento with an All-Star Game.”

He added that he and Ranadive are planning a trip to Ranadive’s native India in the spring, in line with Ranadive’s plan to expand the NBA’s popularity there. Other Kings owners are planning to join the trip, including former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, Silver said.

Kings officials were thrilled with Silver’s visit, coming just four days after he succeeded David Stern as commissioner. Silver, 50, had been deputy commissioner since 2006.

“It just says the league is so committed to the ownership here,” said Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro.

“First week on the job and he’s here to see us,” Ranadive said.

Johnson said he believes Silver is closely following the controversy over the subsidy.

Silver “is going to be very pleased with the progress we’ve made” but is also watching for any problems, the mayor said.

“They’re all dialed in,” Johnson said.

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