Should Gov’t $$$ Be Used On New Kings Arena?

Are the Kings done in Sacramento? It’s looking increasingly likely, as the team is horrible and playing to a sparsely-populated Arco Arena on a nightly basis. It doesn’t help that Sacramento is also one of the hardest-hit areas in the housing crisis, and cities like San Jose and Anaheim that already have arenas are stepping forward as possible destinations.

Maloof brothers Joe left Gavin right

(It’s a rough time to be a Maloof)

Arco is the second-oldest arena in the league, but finding local funding for a new arena project is proving to be very challenging. There is one avenue that could be pursued, though: What if the Maloofs, the NBA, the city (ex-NBA player Kevin Johnson is now mayor), and the state can convince the federal government that a sports arena is a worthy recipient of stimulus funds?

Is a new sports arena worthy of receiving economic stimulus funds?

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TRUEHOOP’s Henry Abbott made this suggestion on his blog today:

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. politicians are talking about “shovel ready” construction projects that would boost economic activity. Brace yourselves, sports fans and taxpayers: I’m just about certain that in one city or another, we’re headed for a debate about whether or not building a stadium is a good kind of economic stimulus. And it’s a complicated question: This does employ people. But it is also way for government dollars to support the very wealthy in the long-term. (If the Kings make money, the Maloofs make money.)

It’s the last part there that probably would derail such a project. If George W. Bush was lambasted for supposedly helping out all of his rich friends with his fiscal policies, how would the country react if Barack Obama and Congress started doling out government money to help subsidize wealthy owners when millions of people are out of work? The number of jobs a new arena would create might not be enough to overcome that obstacle.

Still, Abbott’s right that this will probably become a topic for debate. Is an arena considered to be “infrastructure” in the sense that is beneficial for all? Besides, there’s so much completely worthless crap in the stimulus bill as it is, why not use some of that money for something that could be beneficial to a community?

According to the SACRAMENTO BEE, David Stern has hired a consultant who is making a proposal for a mixed-use arena in Sacramento that would include the Kings. Stern’s in denial that the team is in any sort of trouble:

“We’re at a pretty good time in the process because the mayor (Kevin Johnson) expressed his support in the strongest terms, the governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has indicated his willingness to help,” he said. “We’re awaiting the proposal from Cal Expo. So we have to look at two things. One is the long-term situation. The other is the short-term situation. Yes, we’re concerned about the economic prospects of the team. But somehow, we have to be more imaginative. We have to keep pushing.”

It’s nice that KJ and Ah-nuld want to help, but what can they do? How can Schwarzenegger justify spending any time and/or money on this when his state is falling apart?

Joe Maloof says that everything will be fine, once they finish overhauling the team into a bunch of minimum-salary guys who will win 8 games a year:

“We had a wonderful run,” he said, referring to the team’s success earlier this decade, “but we have to set that aside. We’ve got a bright future with the young guys, and we want to create more flexibility so we can be very active with trades and getting draft picks.

“We just have to be smarter in some of the players we sign. Look at everything. Look at expenses. Put (ticket) packages together. It’s not easy, not easy anywhere. But we have to get it done.”

Maloof claims he’s not interested in moving the team, but how can it stay in Sactown without an arena deal? The brothers probably don’t want to keep hemorrhaging cash from the team, considering they’re also taking a financial bath in Vegas right now. Moving to a more modern arena within the state seems like a no-brainer.

So what will Kings fans (and sports fans) say if it comes down to either asking for government funds, or skipping town? Should the Maloofs, if they really want to keep the team there, step up with more money of their own for a new building?