Arena deal still not final between city, Kings

The arena deal between the city of Sacramento and the Kings still isn’t done, although officials continued to insist Friday that the project is on track.

For the second day in a row, city officials delayed the release of documents detailing the terms of the deal for the $477 million arena at Downtown Plaza. The papers have to become public by this evening if the City Council is going to vote on the deal as scheduled May 13. The council must have at least 10 days to review any proposed city contract of at least $1 million.

Assistant City Manager John Dangberg wouldn’t say if that deadline can be met, but said the prolonged negotiations won’t lead to delays in completing the project.

“The Kings and the city and their finance teams are working diligently to finalize agreements and draft details,” he said. “The things we are working on now do not jeopardize the October 2016 opening of the facility.”

A day earlier, Kings President Chris Granger said the agreement was “99.9 percent done.”

Basic terms of the deal were unveiled two weeks ago: The city plans to contribute $255 million, mostly from borrowing against future parking garage revenue. The Kings would put in $222 million; the team’s contribution would be in addition to the $36 million it spent buying Downtown Plaza.

While the building is scheduled to open in 2016, the NBA has given the Kings a one-year grace period. If the arena isn’t done by 2017, the league could buy the Kings and move them to another city, per an agreement with Vivek Ranadive and the rest of the team’s new ownership group.

Finalizing the deal, and securing the City Council’s approval, are the steps holding up the demolition of the eastern portion of Downtown Plaza, the arena site. Newly filed documents reveal the steps the Kings took earlier this year to make sure the project wasn’t derailed by its political opponents.

Campaign finance records show the team spent $232,000 in the first quarter to bankroll a pro-arena political action committee launched by Mayor Kevin Johnson. Most of the money was spent hiring Sacramento’s Nielsen Merksamer law firm, national political consultant Chris Lehane, Region Builders executive director Joshua Wood, Sacramento political consultants Townsend Raimundo and Kaufman Campaign Consultants, and national polling firm Hart Research Associates.

Foes of the city’s subsidy, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, spent $57,000 in the first quarter in a failed attempt to place a measure on the ballot requiring a public vote on sports subsidies. The funds went to the Sutton Law Firm of San Francisco and Los Angeles to sue the city clerk after she rejected STOP’s ballot petitions as legally flawed. A judge upheld the clerk’s decision.

Most of the opponents’ funds came from two sources: Sacramento agribusinessman Chris Rufer, who philosophically opposes public funding for the project, and the Western Electrical Contractors Association, an alliance of nonunion contractors angered by the Kings’ decision to use mostly union labor to build the arena. Rufer and the contractors donated $25,000 apiece.

Rufer and the contractors also donated tens of thousands of dollars to last year’s signature-gathering efforts by subsidy opponents. The largest donor to that effort was Chris Hansen, the investor who tried to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle. He secretly donated $100,000 and was fined for violating California campaign-finance disclosure laws.

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