El Dorado Hills business owner Kevin Nagle attended his first Sacramento Kings game in 1994. He remembers a team long on desire but short on victories.
Despite the team’s losing record, he said, “The fans were passionate and Arco Arena was consistently sold out.”
The former Lakers fan — he moved from Minnesota to L.A. before calling the Sacramento area home — embraced his new team when the Kings made the playoffs in 1997, and still smiles when he recalls Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson and Doug Christie.
And though that victory was more than a decade ago, the President and CEO of Envision Pharmaceuticals continues to rally behind his Kings. He leased a 20-seat “luxury box” suite at Power Balance Pavilion and, at a Town Center reception last month featuring Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings owner Gavin Maloof, Nagle bought four additional season tickets and donated them to the mayor’s office.
“The Kings are the only professional team in this market,” Nagle said. “We have to demonstrate that we have untapped support in the suburbs and beyond.”
Nagle joined other business leaders earlier this year to put his money behind the team; the group contributed $10 million in new corporate sponsorships. His unwavering support has earned the attention of Mayor Johnson, who said at the Town Center event, “Two months ago we were fighting to keep the Kings in Sacramento and I’d never heard of Kevin Nagle. Now I consider him a friend.”
The key to keeping the Kings is a replacement for the aging Power Pavilion, formerly known as ARCO Arena, according to Maloof.
“What we need to do now is get this darn arena built. My family loves this team. We want to stay right here,” said Maloof, who promised to put a quality team on the court next season and to “spend some money and start winning around here.”
Nagle said he knows that corporate support won’t be enough to get a new arena. He envisions a grass-roots campaign to shift attitudes about the team and the sports complex that’s needed to keep it in Sacramento.
The complex would host the Kings some of the time, but most of the schedule would be dedicated to other sports and cultural events that could attract and benefit the entire region, he explained.
Despite the fact that Sacramento has more than 2.2 million people and is the 20th largest market in the country, Nagle said, “We lose a lot of concerts and sporting events to San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. The current arena doesn’t meet their needs.”
Nagle credits the Maloofs for demonstrating “the courage to stay and give us one last opportunity … to finance a new entertainment and sports complex.”
“You can’t say that of other franchise owners over the years,” he said. “Some literally moved in the middle of the night.”
If Johnson’s effort to fund a new sports complex fails, Nagle said he’ll understand if the Maloof family moves the team to Anaheim. “It’s their team and they have a right to move it.”
But Nagle doesn’t think it will come to that. “I have gotten to know the mayor and have confidence that he has amassed the right team this time.”
El Dorado County Supervisor John Knight and District 1 Senator Ted Gaines have agreed to serve on a coalition of 71 political, business and labor leaders from six counties to explore arena financing.
Nagle has some ideas to bring to the table, “as do many others,” he said, but wouldn’t expound, other than to say that a mix of public and private investment will be required. “We simply ask that everyone maintain an open mind and think of the big picture,” he said, adding that the resulting facility will create jobs and benefit the entire region.