23 August 2012

Are the Sacramento Kings moving to Virginia Beach?

According to the Hampton Roads newspaper Inside Business, there apparently is a deal in the works to get the Sacramento Kings, who have been looking for a new home after the deal to build a $391 million arena and entertainment complex in the capital of California fell apart, to move to the city of Virginia Beach. The deal is said to be hammered out by the Maloof brothers, who own the franchise, Comcast-Spectacor and representatives from Virginia's largest city with an announcement expected for Wednesday, August 29.

Continue reading for more details, whether or not it is a wise decision and what is could mean for the league.

Comcast, which owns Global Spectrum, a company that manages and operates sporting venues nationwide,  will guarantee a lease for 25 years, according to the report, for likely naming rights to the new arena and for broadcasting the games, likely meaning starting a new Comcast SportsNet RSN in the Hampton Roads area. Live Nation, the concert promotion giant, is said to be involved in the negotiations as well. The arena would likely be financed by a $1 hike in the lodging tax from the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motal Association.

Virginia Beach's mayor, Will Sessoms, has said that Comcast, Live Nation and Global Spectrum "have come to the city" and that if the deal went through, "they would guarantee us a professional sports team."

The Kings have moved to Cincinnati and Kansas City (with some games in Omaha) before moving to Sacramento after the franchise was founded as the Rochester Royals in 1945.

The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitian area, commonly nicknamed "Hampton Roads," is the 36th largest metro area in the United States with a total population of 1,671,683 as per the 2010 Census. It is the third largest metropolitan area in the country with no professional sports team.

I'm not sold that a sports team can succeed in Hampton Roads. It's not a huge market, smaller than Sacramento, has a large military presence and its strongest industry is tourism (went to Virginia Beach and loved it, the beach is awesome) . I think that the Kings, if this deal does go through, would have made more sense moving to Seattle, which may be building a new arena, is a much bigger market and has a rich NBA history, or moving back to Kansas City, with a new arena in the Sprint Center vacant.

As for its effect on the league, realignment would be assured for obvious reasons if this deal worked out. What I would guess happening is that the Portland Trail Blazers are moved to the Pacific division of the Western Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks would be moved to the Northwest division in the West, moving the Toronto Raptors to the Midwest division, the Washington Wizards to the Atlantic with the newly-moved Kings taking Washington's spot in the Southeast.

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