Shaq's involvement in Kings could affect arena fight

From the Sacramento Bee - September 23, 2013

“He’s a well known, engaging personality with considerable star power,” said Doug Elmets, a Sacramento political and public relations consultant. “It accrues to the benefit of those who are trying to build the arena....It comes at an important juncture in the effort to build the arena.”

 

In a dramatic move that brings publicity sizzle to the Sacramento Kings - and could influence the looming fight over the team’s proposed new downtown arena - the Kings have brought in NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal as a new part owner. But arena opponents said they don’t believe O’Neal will tip the balance.

The ever-quotable former NBA center will be formally introduced by majority owner Vivek Ranadive at Sleep Train Arena’s practice facility on Tuesday morning.

O’Neal played on the Los Angeles Lakers teams that tormented Sacramento more than a decade ago, and famously dismissed the Kings as “the Queens.” But his decision to join the team’s ownership group could help sell Sacramentans on the proposed $258 million public subsidy for the arena at Downtown Plaza.

“He’s a well known, engaging personality with considerable star power,” said Doug Elmets, a Sacramento political and public relations consultant. “It accrues to the benefit of those who are trying to build the arena....It comes at an important juncture in the effort to build the arena.”

A group trying to block the subsidy, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, has said it’s close to gaining the necessary 22,000 signatures needed to put the subsidy issue on next June’s ballot.

STOP spokesman John Hyde said O’Neal’s presence won’t matter at the end of the day.

“Shaquille O’Neal’s involvement doesn’t change the economic questions at hand,” Hyde said. “It doesn’t change the fiscal questions or concerns.”

O’Neal told USA Today that he’s seen plans for the new arena. His reaction: “woo-wee. That’s all I can say: woo-wee.”

David Carter, a sports-business expert at the University of Southern California, said O’Neal can be a credible spokesman for the pro-arena effort only if he has some understanding of the project. “He’s got to know the ins and outs,” Carter said. “He’s got to have some substance.”

Still, Carter said O’Neal’s involvement should be a positive for the Kings, especially in light of ESPN The Magazine recently declaring the Kings the single-worst franchise in pro sports. The Kings took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s Bee rebutting the claim, saying: “Hey ESPN...Nice Airball. New era. New swagger. The best fans await you.”

Carter compared O’Neal’s involvement in the Kings to Magic Johnson’s ownership role with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“This will create an ongoing splash,” the USC expert said. “It also plays dividends in terms of community relations.”

O’Neal told USA Today that he was introduced to Ranadive several months ago by another part owner, Mark Mastrov, founder of the 24 Hour Fitness chain.

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