The Sacramento Kings are close to reaching an agreement to relocate to Virginia Beach, Va., to play in a proposed new arena to be built by Comcast, according to a report by Inside Business.
However, Kings officials are providing different information.
The Sporting News reported that Kings co-owner George Maloof denied the move on Thursday, saying "We haven't talked to Virginia Beach."
Chris Clark, the Kings' director of public relations, responded to the report by writing on Twitter on Thursday, "Virginia Beach? Huh?"
The Kings, who have not been able to get a new arena approved in the Sacramento area, have been tied to rumors of several potential new locations, including a proposed new arena in Seattle. A potential lease agreement between the franchise and Anaheim was reported in 2011.
"We have been approached by several cities over several years about moving the Kings, and we will not comment other than that," Maloof told Inside Business, a business journal located in Hampton Roads, Va.
Kings spokesman Eric Rose reiterated that by saying, according to The Sporting News, "The Kings have been approached by numerous cities interested in buying the team and relocating it. We are not going to discuss which cities have approached the team and are not going to comment on every rumor. I can tell you that the Kings are 100 percent focused on putting a winning team on the court."
According to the Inside Business report, sources said Virginia Beach city officials and the Maloof family are expected to announce the Kings' intention to move on Wednesday.
Lease payments in Virginia Beach would be guaranteed for 25 years by Comcast, which would get the broadcast rights in addition to being the named sponsor on the arena. The Atlantic Coast Conference has also reportedly agreed to place Virginia Beach on its list of future locations for the conference's tournaments.
"Comcast, Live Nation and Global Spectrum have come to the city," Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said last week, per the journal. "They would guarantee us a professional sports team if the deal goes through."
Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson has worked diligently to keep the Kings in his city, but a proposed $391 million entertainment complex proposal fell apart in April and the relationship between the parties quickly soured.
Johnson announced in April that there were "irreconcilable differences" over financing for the for the proposed downtown sports facility after two days of talks.
"We know this door is closed," the mayor said at the time, adding the city now will try to build an arena without the Kings as tenant.
Johnson said the Maloofs would not provide collateral to refinance their $67 million loan with the city and they would not agree to a 30-year lease at the new arena.
Johnson had tried to renew talks after two weeks of sniping. A week of what he called "hopeful negotiations" again ended in dispute.
Just two months earlier, the Maloofs, Johnson and NBA commissioner David Stern joyfully announced they had reached a handshake agreement for $391 million arena near downtown Sacramento. The deal was proposed to finance the arena from future city parking revenues, the Maloofs and AEG, the corporation which was to run the facility.
Despite term-sheet approval by the city council, the arena project hit a number of snags in April. The Maloofs released a letter to the city outlining flaws in the agreement and discussed those issues with the other owners at the NBA meetings before it became public that the deal had dissolved.
"You can't do a deal with somebody you don't trust," George Maloof, Jr. told The Sacramento Bee of Johnson after the negotiations broke down. "I don't trust him."
On the flip side, Chris Lehane, the former executive director of Think Big, the committee formed by Johnson to attempt to keep the Kings in town, at one point asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the Maloof brothers, according to a USA Today report.
"It is becoming clearer that the foundation of Think Big is built on fabrication and deception," Eric W. Rose, the Maloofs' spokesman, told USA Today. "The name of the organization should be changed to Think Big Fraud."