Bill would force Kings to pay debt before packing up

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Like a desperation shot at the buzzer, three California lawmakers rolled out a bill on Monday to derail efforts by the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association to leave town.

In Anaheim the Kings, potentially rebranded as the Royals, would play in Honda Center, which will be refurbished with proceeds from up to $75 million in lease revenue bonds recently approved by Anaheim's city council.

The debt would be sold in a private transaction pending the NBA's approval for relocating the Kings, a spokeswoman for Anaheim said.

The bill by the three legislators would bar professional sports teams from entering relocation agreements unless their owners fulfill financial obligations to their host cities.

"No one is saying sports franchises, like any other business, shouldn't be able to move to another city. However, taxpayers in one city shouldn't be left holding the bag for the benefit of another city," said California state Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, one of the three lawmakers.

The legislation introduced by Steinberg, who represents Sacramento, would apply to relocation agreements entered into on after the start of the current year if approved by two-thirds of lawmakers and signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The effect of the bill would be to require the owners of the Kings to pay off $77 million in debt from a loan made by Sacramento before the team could leave town.

"Sports fans give so much to their teams and if that includes loans financed by taxpayer dollars, those loans should be repaid before teams relocate," said Assemblyman Richard Pan, one of the lawmakers behind the bill.

"Here in Sacramento, we're fanatical about our Kings but not to the point of saying, 'Thanks for the memories, don't worry about that $77 million,'" said Pan.

A spokesman for the Kings issued a statement that said "Thirteen years ago when the Maloof family bought the team from Jim Thomas they assumed the obligations and terms of the loan, and they intend to fully abide by those documents."