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The Deal: An Exclusive Conversation with Mayor Kevin Johnson about the Kings

SACRAMENTO–

Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying to sign his name to one of the greatest NBA come-backs of all time- getting the Kings to come back to Sacramento in years to come.

“I was supposed to be in Washington D.C. Thursday through Tuesday for the inauguration. I canceled my trip,” Johnson said.

It’s that kind of thing that makes the former NBA star a beloved figure on game night at events like the fan “watch party” at Republic in Midtown. That’s where we caught-up with the Mayor to pick his brain about the State-of-the-Team.

“This is the heart and soul of the purple revolution,” Johnson said.

The mayor says the NBA has promised to let him present a plan to the relocation committee in April. That doesn’t leave much time for him to put together financing with new owners who, he says, must be local.

“We need an ownership to buy the team, and an ownership group who’s willing to do an arena deal downtown. So all of that has to be done in a very short period of time,” Johnson said.

As deft as he was on the court, and as deft as he is in the political arena, so far all the Mayor’s attempts to build Sacramento a new arena have been met with frustration. Still, he says a new sports and entertainment center must be built in Sacramento, and he says it must be built downtown.

But is he willing to give up on the rail yards as that location in favor of someplace like the Downtown Plaza?

“It’s got to be a downtown arena, entertainment/sports center. It’s got to be bigger than basketball, that’s important to us. But the City, we have to be good stewards. And we’ve got to protect the tax payers, and we have to make sure it makes good sense. We’ve done our due diligence on the rail yards site. If it happens to be another site, then we have to do the due diligence. But I’ll tell you, our council, our community we’re up to the challenge,” Johnson said.

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