Opponents counter that the scheme is ‘all wet’
SACRAMENTO, CA – In a surprising development in the controversy regarding a new sports arena in Sacramento, a novel solution was unveiled today by the Sacramento Kings owners, the Maloof brothers. Flanked by various interested parties, including Mayor Heather Fargo, developers and a few shipbuilders, the Maloofs presented a proposal that stunned reporters at the scene.
The plan, apparently hatched by the group after weeks of secret meetings, involves building a huge arena/barge that could float down the Sacramento River. The unprecedented project would be an enormous, but feasible undertaking, insists Kings Spokesman Sam Sturgeon.
“Look, most of the expense in building a new arena is in purchasing land,” said Mr. Sturgeon, adding, “and that’s where most of the political and logistical problems arise. This solution not only renders those huge obstacles moot, it offers many other advantages as well.”
Indeed, officials around the NBA have called it “the most creative arena solution ever.” Commissioner David Stern is said to be testing the waters on the idea — pun intended — as he is eager for any solution that could work, considering the arena problems he’s facing in various cities.
Some not impressed
But not everyone around the NBA is impressed with the plan. Some team owners are wary, predicting the proposal will sink.
Players, too, have begun to voice skepticism, some complaining that they get seasick easily. As Cleveland’s Lebron James put it, “Man, I don’t wanna throw up in the middle of a throw down.”
Even Laker Kobe Bryant weighed in, claiming the Kings were just looking for any advantage they could get over teams, and that they were flaunting the abundance of water compared to L.A. “They want to play on a boat? I’ll show ’em a floater. And a few splashdown dunks too!” he vented.
Kings players are worried as well, mostly about the nicknames they might get saddled with – christenings that could stick through their whole career. Mike Bibby said he fears being stuck with “Mike Bobbing” and that Brad Miller could be renamed “Brad Tiller,” adding, “you know what they’d do to John Salmons, and let’s face it, Douby has enough problems.”
Gavin Maloof said he’d like to see the new floating arena called the “Ship of Kings,” a name he said “could inspire young and old alike, creating a real source of pride for the community.” He then conceded they’d probably just sell the naming rights to the highest bidder. “‘Captain Crunch’ wouldn’t be bad,” he ventured, “at least that would involve a sailing-related logo.”
One big question yet to be answered is where to dock the new floating arena. The favored location so far seems to be just upstream from the Delta King, where, proponents argue, it could be seen and admired by the city, as well as be a great tourist attraction that would boost revenue for old town Sacramento.
But the new arena would not just sit anchored, collecting barnacles. No, plans include floating to different destinations for various games, an idea that is gaining momentum. Proponents say the “royal barge” could even navigate to several locations in one night, “spreading out and diffusing the parking problem,” as Nina Levitt, transportation assistant to Mayor Fargo, put it.
“Sailing to different locations on the river would provide direct access for those areas, a boon for fans who want to minimize driving. At the same time, parking problems would be alleviated, as automobile traffic could be diverted to several points along the river,” said Ms. Levitt. Interestingly, this could include the present day parking lot at Arco Arena. From the old Arena, fans would be shuttled a few miles to where Garden Highway intersects Power Line Road on the river.
According to this plan, the arena would then float south to various points on the river. Other proposed stops include just south of the Tower Bridge, which is close to parking at Raley Field, and at Hood Junction, just west of Elk Grove, probably the southernmost docking point.
In the spirit of “spreading out the parking problem,” another idea floated by the Kings involves Caltrans building a new ramp just north of the Seamus Avenue exit on I-5, where the highway comes very close to the river. The high-tech ramp could deposit cars onto a separate parking barge that the floating arena would tow.
Kings point to advantages
The Kings organization wants fans to know that they would also be welcome to swim or boat in from anywhere along the route, if they chose. There would be many bollards placed around the arena barge, where people who had tickets could tie up their craft, pay a docking fee, and enter the arena.
Swimmers would be provided clean towels, and could even have a pre-arranged package of dry clothing waiting for them. “We want to be open to any ideas that allow our fans to get here in the most carbon-neutral way possible, so we would actually encourage swimming,” said Mr. Sturgeon, “besides, it’s good exercise.”
“This whole scheme might sound outrageous to some,” said Gavin Maloof, “but when you think about it, there are many pluses.” For examples, he offered: “When the Kings sink, fans can stay afloat. Also, the motion of the vessel floating down the river could help the Kings develop more of a ‘flow’ to their offense. And as anyone involved will admit, we want to make a big splash with this new arena, so where better than the river?”
Other advantages, suggested by brother Joe Maloof, were:
• If the game sucks, fans can go out on the deck and enjoy the river, or even take quick trips on the small boats tied to the sides.
• Such an innovative arena will give distinctive character to a mediocre team.
• Team name could be changed to the “River City Sailor Boys.”
• No training facility needed, as rowing in the galley below will provide all the exercise players could possibly want.
But the controversial plan’s detractors say it’s just another maneuver by the Maloof brothers in their overall strategy to leave Sacramento. According to this theory, when the team decides to move, the new floating arena could simply be piloted down the Sacramento River to the delta. From there, they could navigate southeast up the San Joaquin, where the Kings could try their luck in Stockton.
More likely, they would sail on into the San Francisco Bay, say analysts, but most believe that would not be a successful location, since the city already has an NBA team. At that point, warn opponents of the plan, the team would probably just sail on out into the Pacific and try docking at one of the coastal cities to the south.
Some even speculate that the team could continue south and become the first Mexican team in the league. “Why not,” said Josh Hanvey, sportswriter from the San Diego Metro Weekly, “after all, we have a Canadian team, and used to have two.”
Indeed, Latin American countries have fielded teams that have done very well in global competition, and the fan base is growing for good basketball. “I could see the Kings doing well in any number of countries,” added Hanvey, “perhaps playing for a few years in places south of Mexico, and even South America.”
Taking the process to its natural conclusion, opponents say, means the Kings may actually be planning to sail right through the Panama Canal and end up as an Eastern Conference team, where league competition has historically not been as stiff. “That may be all the motivation the Maloofs need,” ventured Hanvey, “a slim chance of actually getting into the playoffs!”