Sacramento is up against a city that is responsible for Starbucks, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It’s a place that is used as the setting for Grey’s Anatomy and where Frasier lived. Seattle is where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan went "Sleepless."
Well, Tom Hanks went to Sacramento State for a while, so take that Seattle.
OK, let’s face it, Seattle has more “big name” appeal than Sacramento. But in no way does that mean Seattle is more creative, more passionate or more dedicated to its community than Sacramento is. Being involved in this whole Kings relocation saga over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege to meet some incredibly talented local people. From graphic artists, to musicians, to filmmakers, to writers, to media members, to business owners. There are a lot of great folks who make up this community, and they all care about the future of the place they call home. I won’t name any specific person or business because I don’t want hold any higher than another, but they know who they are and the willingness of them to fight has been nothing short of amazing.
It is this fact that makes me proud of what this city has brought to the table as we enter the last leg of this drama.
In Sacramento, we have a built-in inferiority complex thanks to the shadow of San Francisco, and many openly joke about it – embracing the cow town label is a tradition here. But it's clear that when Sacramento is threatened, it responds, and it responds with force. Mayor Kevin Johnson is the elected representative that embodies the fighting spirit. He is the man responsible for getting us where we are today. But if you listen to him closely, he will often refer to the people as the driving force.
To some, that is political speak. But to me, it’s sincere. It’s the willingness of the community he speaks of, the will of a community.
The willingness of Kings fans to pledge money for season tickets at the drop of a hat. The willingness of Kings fans to show up to city council meetings and speak their minds. The willingness of Kings fans to spend their hard-earned dollars to show up at the games despite the uncertainty. The willingness of a business to deck its building out in purple. The ability for the local media to cover this whole thing like champs.
It’s all of that that the mayor is referring to when he says those things. This is bigger than any one person or entity, as Vivek Ranadivé often says. It’s what has made me proud to live here and it shows how important keeping the Kings and building a new arena is to this community.
If the NBA doesn't end up returning to Seattle it would be rough on starving Sonics fans because they do deserve a team. But outside of the diehards, would the city really feel it? A recent study by the Seattle Times showed that the Seattle/Tacoma area ranks in the top 10 metro areas with the lowest interest in the NBA. To be fair, that study was conducted while there was no NBA team in town (2011-12), but the rumblings of a return were going on at the time. Seattle has the Seahawks, the Mariners, the Sounders, the Storm and the Washington Huskies. Would the sports scene and the local economy feel the impact of no Sonics over the long-term? Sure, there are many in Seattle who would say yes. But even if that were the case, it would pale in comparison to the impact that losing the Kings would have on Sacramento.
A new arena at the Downtown Plaza site could potentially attract two million new visitors to Downtown Plaza each year and create $7 billion dollars in economic impact over seven years, according to Think Big. The Kings currently employ 800-1,000 people in our region. The Kings are the one thing (outside of state legislation that makes its way through the Capitol) that gets the city mentioned at a national level. Having the franchise is our key to unlocking professional entertainment outside of basketball. I’m preaching to the choir on these points for most Sacramentans, but my point is this: There is a reason why this city fights the way it does, because this is it for us.
And we are quickly closing in on a conclusion.
We will find out over the coming weeks what the fate of the Kings will be next season. Even if the team should leave, which I don’t believe it is going to, the people of this community have made the battle all worth it. They have risen above the idea that we can’t win because we aren’t as good as the Emerald City. (And there will be ways for fans to get involved and make their voices heard leading up to the NBA Board of Governors meetings on April 18-19.)
This quote from Chris Hansen at his press conference in New York City last week is evidence enough that we can and should win.
“You have to lose something you hold precious and dear to realize how much it means to you,” said Hansen.
In Sacramento, we haven't lost the Kings and we already know how much having a professional franchise means and how precious it is.