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Sacramento Kings owners in talks to buy Sacramento River cats

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The Sacramento River Cats play the San Francisco Giants in an exhibition game at Raleigh Field in West Sacramento on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. This is the Giants' first-ever game at Raleigh Field.

The Sacramento River Cats play the San Francisco Giants in an exhibition game at Raleigh Field in West Sacramento on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. This is the Giants’ first-ever game at Raleigh Field.

Sacramento B file

Some may be surprised by the expected announcement that Sacramento Kings owners are buying Sacramento River cats, but they shouldn’t be.

The deal, which has been in the works for several months, makes sense for the NBA’s Sacramento team, the Major League Baseball team, and both property groups.

For the Savage family-led group River Cats, selling their family business to a local owner with deep pockets is a good thing, especially since their franchise has seen a drop in attendance since losing the entire 2020 baseball season to COVID-19.

Conversely, any move to bring River Cats under the control of the Kings owners could create marketing and advertising synergies between the two organizations.

This deal also indicates that despite criticism of the Kings’ basketball operations for years of consecutive losing seasons, the franchise led by Vivek Ranadive continues to make significant investments in the region. After buying the team, his group invested heavily in Golden 1 Center, the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, and Downtown Commons.

Sources confirmed that the two sides had held discussions since the end of last year, and the deal is nearing completion. They confirmed that the purchase price is in the $100 million range and that the owners of the Kings, along with some additional investors, are participating in the bidding for the River Cats.

Neither property group will comment on the deal until it has been formally approved by Major League Baseball and the local state joint authority authority tasked with funding Sutter Health Park, home of the River Cats. But sources close to Kings and River Cuts familiar with the deal confirmed the deal’s basic outlines and motives behind it.

Kings footprint grows

When completed, the footprint of royalty in the urban heart of Sacramento will be significant.

The Kings headquarters are located downtown a short drive from Sutter Health Park, on Sacramento’s west side of the Sacramento River. The entire area is part of a single urban core near Old Sacramento and downtown Railyards, where the Sacramento area has deposited a significant amount of investment and hope for the future.

In that context, a Kings-River Cats merger of sorts makes more sense.

But the deal would also herald the end of an era.

In just over 20 years, the Savage family has made River Cats a local enterprise — first by providing the financial investment that led River Cats to open for business in 2000, and then as a subsidiary of Oakland A.

How does sport change society?

This was the dream of the late Art Savage and his wife, Susan Savage.

Together, the Savages have created the best minor league baseball experience in America by providing fans with great summer evenings of family entertainment in the shadow of the gleaming Tower Bridge. The Savages teamed up with Warren Smith and Bob Hemond, entrepreneurs who were trying to bring Triple-A baseball to Sacramento.

The results were a dream come true until Art Savage died of lung cancer in 2009.

The Savages’ son Jeff stepped in, even if running the team wasn’t necessarily his dream, and he’s been running the show with his mom ever since.

Despite the lack of success on the field, the Kings created a great fan experience at Golden 1 Center.

Under Ranadev, the Kings responded responsibly and mercifully to intense protests after the murder of Stefon Clark by Sacramento police in 2018. When Ranadev took the microphone in the center court at Golden 1, surrounded by Kings players in the turbulent days after Clark’s murder, speak eloquently In expressing his condolences to the Clark family and the wider Sacramento community.

Triple-A baseball is all about the community, and the mission of the Junior League Baseball owners is to focus on marketing, advertising, community development, and fan experiences. River Cats player personnel will continue to be managed by the San Francisco Giants, the parent club of River Cats since 2014.

According to sources, Major League Baseball is reviewing the proposed deal. So is the Combined Powers Authority, consisting of West Sacramento, Yolo County and Sacramento County, which approved $39.99 million in taxable rental income bonds used to fund the River Cats stadium in 1999.

If this deal goes through, we must remember the savages of creating a beautiful rest in the Sacramento area. River Cats games have become a summertime ritual for families and baseball fans. The savages became respected members of the Sacramento business community.

Hopefully their dream of Team Triple-A flourishes in the Sacramento area under new ownership.

This story was originally published July 26, 2022 12:08 pm.

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Marcus Britton oversees the Sacramento B editorial staff. He has been a journalist in California for over 30 years. He is a graduate of San Jose State University, a baseball Hall of Fame voter and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.

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