What it took to keep the Kings in Sacramento...and the Milwaukee take-away
Sacramento is apparently keeping it's Kings.
So, why do you care?
You do if you're a Bucks fan, because the local NBA team could be in the cross hairs of disappointed Seattle investors who tried and failed to lure the Kings to the Emerald City. Conventional wisdom says this deep-pocketed group still has a hankerin' for hoop and that the Bucks are the league's next damsel in distress, what with the team's quest for "additional revenue streams" (meaning: new arena).
So how did Sacramento do it?
Public money. Public officials. Private intrigue.
The Los Angeles Times goes into the butcher shop to see how the Sacramento sausage got made. The Kings franchise is no stranger to picking up and leaving, having started in Rochester decades ago before lighting upon Cincinnati, and Kansas City/Omaha before landing in the California capitol in 1985. They got a new arena in 1988, one that is now described as inadequate.
The Kings had a rabid fan base, selling out games for years in a row. That's when things were good.
The Bucks had a rabid fan base, selling out games at the old Arena and filling most of the chairs in what we then used to simply call the Bradley Center. That's when things were good.
Seattle will remain the bogeyman as the Kings reacquaint themselves with their new building, place whose whose name will now be accompanied by the phrase "potential NBA suitor". Milwaukee will be portrayed as the town where Snidley Whiplash tied Bango to the railroad tracks, seeing if Dudley Dooright will ride to the rescue.
Will politicians in these parts line up the way they did in Sacramento to help do the Bucks' bidding? I don't see anyone putting up velvet ropes yet to maintain an orderly queue of potential team buyers or elected officials wanting to pitch a public-money commitment to a new Milwaukee basketball facility.
George Petak, party of one?
Milwaukee has a lot of tough questions to answer when it comes to keeping the Bucks: is the BMO Harris Bradley Center truly inadequate? Are the Bucks the only tenant pining for new digs? Who's going to own this team after Herb Kohl, and how much is Kohl willing to contribute to a facility on his way out? How much (if any) taxpayer funding will be needed to seal a deal, and are the locals willing to pony up?
We may have to ask if an NBA team is worth it to the city: we've shown we can back a winning club, but what about when times are lean? Will we pay the kind of dollars teams now charge for tickets? Is the TV market big enough to generate the cash a club needs to be competitive?
Milwaukee lost the Braves in 1965, a team that didn't have a losing season since coming to town in '53. Relocation rumors helped fuel a downtown a the gate which the club's relatively new owners used in turn to justify a move to Atlanta. The die was already cast, though: they knew what a lucrative market awaited them in the southeast U.S., and the new destination was more than willing to build a spanking new ball park. The breakup was ugly, and it left a mark, as did the Miller Park debate that would follow years later when the Brewers said County Stadium needed replacing.
The good news: Milwaukee's talking about this, at long last. Let the discussion continue.