"It tore the hearts out of the city when the (team) left the first time and it's just wonderful news to get a team back," said Jerry Brown, who was at KeyArena Monday buying college basketball tickets. "I feel sorry for the people of Sacramento, they have good fans there, but we want our team back."
Ironically enough, it will be Bennett that has a say in whether Seattle returns to the NBA portfolio as the head of the league's relocation committee.
Caught in an awkward spot is the Kings' basketball team itself, some of whom have Seattle ties. Guard Isaiah Thomas grew up in Tacoma, Wash., and before the Kings played in New Orleans on Monday was already feeling the discomfort of being wedged between two cities.
"It's just a little weird (but) at the same time I love Sacramento, I love everything about it. Love the fans, the organization just brought me in with open arms. That's all I really know in this league is Sacramento," Thomas said. "But then I am from that area back home, it's just kind of a different situation. Whatever I say about Seattle, Sacramento fans might be mad at me and whatever I say about Sacramento, Seattle fans might be mad at me. I just love both cities.
"It's out of my control."
The saga of the Kings' future in California's Capitol city has dragged on for nearly three years and now faces its most daunting challenge.
Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million NBA/NHL arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. No construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured. The arena also faces a pair of lawsuits, including one from a dock workers union because the arena is being built close to port and industrial operations.
Hansen's group is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The remaining $200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest.
Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.
"While there is more work ahead, this is a major step toward bringing the Sonics home," McGinn said.
Sacramento fans hope this is not the final chapter in their quest to save the Kings. Johnson has once already saved the Kings from relocation when he made a pitch to the Board of Governors and bought the city time to broker a deal that appeared to solve the team's arena woes. But the Maloofs backed out of that tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown venue with Sacramento last year.
Already, Johnson and other politicians have started wrangling for the Kings again.
California state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, wrote a letter to state officials dated Tuesday — and released to several news outlets — asking them to detail how much money Ballmer's Microsoft company earns on state contracts.
"I cannot stand idly by while a prominent out-of-state company that has significantly profited from business with the State of California actively attempts to acquire and remove one of my State and region's leading private assets," he wrote in the letter to Fred Klass, director of the state Department of General Services.
Johnson said recently he's heard from various parties interested in trying to put together an ownership group that would keep the team in Sacramento, but only with a new arena. He is expected to unveil more about his plans as early as Tuesday.
"We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members. We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise," Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said in a statement on behalf of the family.