Region ponders a dull future without the Kings - or any pro sports team
For many, this city's biggest selling point is its proximity to other, more exciting places, like the cosmopolitan hills of San Francisco or the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe.
But for almost three decades, there has been one thing people didn't need to leave town for: professional basketball. For Sacramentans, the Kings are more than just an NBA franchise. They're a sign that the city is not second-rate.
Fair-weather fans here are scarce; devotees have stuck with the Kings through miserable season after miserable season. The team is central to the vision of local politicians, planners and builders to make their downtown a more vibrant urban center with a new arena. The mayor, Kevin Johnson, is a former NBA star and one of the team's biggest supporters.
But now, after years of tormenting locals by flirting with out-of-town suitors, the Kings' financially troubled owners have reached a deal to sell the team to a Seattle investment group. The buyers want to bring the team north and rebrand it as the Supersonics, restoring a franchise that bolted Seattle five years ago.
The pending loss of Sacramento's only big-league sports franchise is a blow to a city with a long-standing inferiority complex. It didn't help that Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to move here while he was governor, commuting by private jet from Los Angeles instead.
"They already call Sacramento a cow town," said Alice Morrow, 55, who was tending bar in the city's Midtown neighborhood. "And now we're not even going to have a professional team?"
Situated in the northern reaches of the Central Valley, Sacramento helped anchor California's gold rush and was the final destination for the first transcontinental railroad. More recently, the capital city has been an epicenter for suburban growth.
Today, it's alive with farm-to-table eateries, hip cocktail lounges and artisan coffeehouses that attract plaudits from the elite of the food-and-drink-obsessed Bay Area.
Such amenities mean "the world doesn't end if the Kings do leave," said Roger Niello, president and chief executive of the Sacramento Metro Chamber and a former legislator.
But even those who eagerly defend Sacramento's charms — which include a bounty of majestic trees and the gleaming white Capitol nestled in a 40-acre park — admit that losing the Kings would be a setback.
"If the Kings go, what do we have to look forward to?" ...