The Kings will announce Tuesday that they are naming the street leading to the front door of the new downtown arena in honor of former NBA Commissioner David Stern, whose persistent, decades-long efforts helped keep the franchise in Sacramento.
Officially, the address of the Golden 1 Center – to be submitted to the city Tuesday for approval – is 500 David J. Stern Walk.
“When I learned we would have the option of naming the road, it was a no-brainer for me,” Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive told The Sacramento Bee on Monday. “There were no other names on my list. David took the NBA to the global level and started the WNBA, but he is about so much more than basketball. He is one of the greatest leaders in the world, and on top of that, the team would not be in Sacramento without David Stern.”
The walk encompasses the part of K Street that stretches from Fifth to Seventh streets, passing the main entrance to the arena. That portion of the street had previously been part of Downtown Plaza and has not been a public street for many years.
Stern, who maintains an office in New York and has worked as a consultant since retiring from the NBA in January 2014, was told about the plan during a visit from Ranadive in April.
“Vivek asked if he could stop by, and I said, ‘Sure,’ ” Stern said late Monday. “He said, ‘In light of your 30 years as commissioner and everything you have done for Sacramento, we’d like to name the street on which Golden 1 Center sits in your name.’ I was deeply touched. I said, ‘Now what do I do?’ He said, ‘You have to come out for the dedication on Sept. 30 and the first home game of the season (date to be determined).’ I said, ‘Sure.’ ”
The city’s community development director, Ryan DeVore, said he anticipated the Kings’ application would be approved.
“I don’t see any conflicts,” DeVore said. “It seems fitting.”
While Stern sounded genuinely delighted when reached in his office Monday afternoon, he ranked the Kings’ protracted, if ultimately successful effort to build a new arena among the most difficult ordeals of his tenure with the NBA.
“I would call it quasi-miraculous, because everyone said it couldn’t be done,” he said. “How many commissioners have walked around Cal Expo and lots of other sites? Then we had the situations with the city, the owners, and eventually, this bake-off in effect between a very able group in Seattle and the extraordinary group in Sacramento. I’m very, very excited for Sacramento.”
Stern’s involvement with the Kings traces to his days as deputy commissioner in the early 1980s, when Gregg Lukenbill attempted to relocate the struggling Kansas City franchise to Sacramento. With Stern’s guidance and tacit support, the Kings moved into a temporary building in Natomas in 1985 and 17,317-seat Arco Arena three years later.
After succeeding Larry O’Brien as commissioner, Stern also oversaw the sale of the Kings to Los Angeles-based developer Jim Thomas and, later, to the Maloof family. Backroom conversations about the need for a more modern arena were underway long before Joe and Gavin Maloof took control of the franchise in 1999, becoming a major public and political issue in 2001, when the topic was broached by Heather Fargo during her first significant speech as mayor.
Within the ensuing 12 years, Stern resisted numerous overtures to relocate the franchise despite more than a dozen failed arena proposals, ongoing discord among the city’s business and political leaders, and the public’s increasing distrust of the Maloofs. In December 2006, the commissioner hired consultant John Moag to evaluate potential locations, and when a possible deal involving the Cal Expo board collapsed in 2010, the former civil rights attorney rolled up his white dress sleeves and became intimately involved with future discussions.
Stern convinced the league’s owners to resist the Maloofs’ proposed relocation to Anaheim in 2011. In 2013, he helped assemble the ownership group headed by Ranadive, a move that thwarted the Maloofs’ sale of the franchise to Seattle’s Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen.
Golden 1 Center is scheduled to open Oct. 4.