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Chris Webber, NBA amp up aid for Kings and arena

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Forces now allied behind the Sacramento Kings gathered steam Tuesday in their collective bid to build a more successful team and move the region closer to constructing a new arena.

That effort will be aided by retired Kings player Chris Webber, who said on television Monday night he’s lined up private investors to fund a new arena in place of taxpayers.

"Within the year, we’re going to make some special things happen," Webber said on TNT’s "Inside the NBA." "The goal is to keep the team there."

Webber hinted about his involvement on Twitter Monday after the Kings’ owners announced they’d leave the team here for at least one year to give Sacramento more time to pursue building a new sports and entertainment facility.

"SACRAMENTO! It’s true! One more year!" Webber tweeted. "But trust me! We are working to make it a lifetime!"

Webber has told Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in recent conversations he wants to be involved. But they’re still figuring out what form that might take, Johnson said in a press conference at City Hall Tuesday.

"He’s going to play some role," Johnson said.

Nine staffers from the National Basketball Association arrived in Sacramento Tuesday. They immediately began working at Power Balance Pavilion on the Maloofs’ priorities: season ticket sales and corporate sponsorships, Kings spokesman Troy Hanson said.

"They hit the ground running in assisting with all avenues of business operations," he said.

Maloof Sports & Entertainment launched a hiring blitz of more than 20 people as sales kicked off for season tickets Monday night. Demand has been strong since then, said Hanson, who did not provide details.

Meetings are being set up with the NBA, the Maloofs, arena developers, regional elected officials and Kings’ corporate sponsors to continue building on the momentum and energy unleashed in Sacramento in the effort to keep the team from moving to Anaheim, Johnson said.

"Our attitude today is we can’t let up," Johnson said.

He expects to meet with the NBA this week. The mayor also said he plans to meet this week or next with the Maloofs. His top priority: getting financial statements from the Kings’ last four years. The city of Sacramento and the ICON-Taylor development team needs the information for an arena feasibility study due to be completed by May 26.

They’ve sought the information for months, but the Maloofs held off while making a decision about whether to move to Anaheim.

That meeting couldn’t be confirmed by Hanson.

Support from NBA staff on the ground in Sacramento helps the Maloofs’ organization fill holes left by staff who jumped ship over the last year, and especially in the last month or two, before the decision was made about Anaheim.

NBA personnel will give the Maloofs the capacity to be "aggressive" with ticket and suite sales and corporate sponsorships for the 2011/2012 season, which begins in October, Johnson said.

Some NBA staff may work here for just a week or two, while a few may stay far longer, he said.

The NBA has agreed to support a move by the team if sufficient progress isn’t made on replacing Power Balance Pavilion by March 1, 2012.

The arena study should be able to propose contribution levels and pinpoint possible gaps in available funding as soon as May 26 but no later than July, Johnson said.

The NBA will be involved in establishing the level of contribution by the Maloofs. Many basketball teams contribute financially to new arenas by signing long-term leases, as NBA Commissioner David Stern said Monday.

Johnson said he will tell the Maloofs they’ll need to participate in "a real way" in the public/private partnership that’s expected to be needed to finance a new arena.

"It’s got to be real, where our community feels it," he said.

NBA officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

 

Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt. 

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