It normally doesn't happen, not in the sports business.
Normally when a sports franchise demands a new stadium or arena and they don't get it, it's only a matter of time before they leave and the fans of that team are left with a feeling of dejection. The process is long and painful, a cloud of inevitability hanging in the air the entire time.
Tell that to the city of Sacramento, CA.
Today Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, the Maloof brothers, and the NBA reached a tentative agreement on an arena deal that would keep the Sacramento Kings in the city. This caps an improbable push by a city to keep its only major sports team amidst the deck stacked against them.
A year ago this would be seen as impossible.A year ago the King were all but gone.
Around this time last year the Maloof brothers, who own the Kings, were trying to work out a deal to move to Anaheim, CA. They implied that the Arco Arena, where the team plays, was just too old of a venue to remain competitive in the league. The Maloofs even went as far as trademarking the term 'Anaheim Royals' before formally filing a relocation bid with the NBA Board of Governors.
To say that this provoked a response from Kings fans would be an understatement.
Spearheaded politically by Mayor Johnson and on the ground by people such as radio host Carmichael Dave along with former Kings players such as Mitch Richmond and Chris Webber, a campaign was launched to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Mayor Johnson prepared to formally plead the case for his city in front of the NBA while Carmichael Dave helped to launch a grassroots effort called 'Here We Stay.' Businesses such as Jiffy Lube publicly supported the 'Here We Stay' effort. Soon the social media front was opened with Kings fans showing support on Twitter using the hashtags #HereWeStay and #HereWeBuild. Webber on a broadcast of TNT Network's 'Inside The NBA' made a public plea to keep the team in Sacramento.On the last home game of the Kings' 2010-2011 season fans held a 'Here We Stay' rally inside Arco Arena after the game.
Even with all this happening there was a sense that it was all for naught. That started to change.
During the April 14 NBA Board of Governors meeting concerning the potential move Johnson, a former NBA player, made a strong case not only with coming up with a $10 million commitment from local businesses to support the team, but also with a potential buyer of the team in billionaire Ron Burkle. That push was enough for the NBA to not approve the move then. The Maloofs were given two extensions to their bid while the league investigated both their and Mayor Johnson's proposals.
On April 29 The Maloofs chose to withdraw their relocation bid and on may 2 announced that they stay in Sacramento for one more season while working with Mayor Johnson in coming up with a plan for a new arena.
Now today, after so many doubters told Kings fans that it was useless, they have plan. It's not all done yet though.
The city council of Sacramento still has to vote on a provision of the proposal that would lease public parking lot space to a private company. If it passes then only a few procedural votes would stand in the way on the Kings fans and victory.
This is something special and rare. A city fought tooth and nail to keep their team and actually won. Risky as it was for a first term mayor like Johnson to do it, he and his city stood tall and now stand last.
Sacramento, I tip my hat to you.