A group led by Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is on the verge of purchasing the city’s minor league baseball team for approximately $90 million, according to people familiar with the terms.
It would be the highest price ever paid for a minor league team. The deal, which includes the River Cats’ Sutter Health Park, would expand Ranadive’s real estate development in downtown Sacramento and the surrounding area. The ballpark was built and opened in 2000 at a cost of $46.5 million at the time.
A Kings official did not respond when asked to comment.
The River Cats are a Triple-A minor league franchise of the Giants, who play at Oracle Park in San Francisco, about 85 miles from Sacramento. The minor league team, which was affiliated with the Oakland A’s until 2014, has been owned by the Savage family since 1998.
The founder and former chief executive of software platform TIBCO, Ranadive has invested heavily in Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, home of the Kings, and the surrounding shopping area. The River Cats’ 14,014-seat ballpark is across the Sacramento River and less than a mile away in the city of West Sacramento, which was incorporated in 1987.
The price tag of nearly $90 million would dwarf other recent MiLB sales, and the real estate component is boosting the asking price. Earlier this year Endeavor (NYSE:EDR) purchased three minor league affiliates of the Atlanta Braves—including a Triple-A team—for $47 million.
Ranadive and his group bought the Kings and their old arena in 2013 for $534 million, saving the NBA team from a move to Seattle. The Golden 1 Center, which opened in 2016, cost $534.6 million, with the Kings contributing $284 million and the city the remainder via a bond issue and parking funds.
The River Cats were purchased by Art Savage in 1998 and relocated to Sacramento from Vancouver prior to the 2000 season. Art Savage died of lung cancer in 2009, and the team remains in the family. Susan Savage, his wife, is the majority owner while his son Jeff is chief executive.
The ballpark and the land around it, including the parking lot, are owned by River City Land Holding Company, LLC, of which the Savages are the lone directors and officers. It was incorporated in 1999.
The River Cats averaged 3,994 fans last year as COVID-19 health and safety protocols restricted full capacity until mid-June . The team has won five Pacific Coast League titles and three Triple-A championships, most recently in 2019– in which the club averaged 7,849 for 70 home dates — before the pandemic hit and canceled minor league baseball for the entire 2020 season.
When the ballclub moved to Sacramento in 2000, Savage built the ballpark for a total cost of $46.5 million via a mix of private money and $40 million of public bonds issued by the River City Regional Stadium Authority. They were to be repaid in a leasing agreement by user fees at the ballpark on tickets, concessions and advertising. No public tax dollars were allocated, but because of COVID there has been limited revenue coming from the stadium the past two seasons to repay the bonds.
A 20-year, $15 million naming rights deal with regional supermarket chain Raley’s helped defray more than a third of the original cost of the project. Sutter Health purchased the naming rights for an undisclosed amount in 2019. The ballpark has been upgraded several times in recent years to include a party deck, Diamond Club behind home plate, 2,798 club seats and 36 suites.
It is surrounded by burgeoning business and residential growth, according to a spokesman for the West Sacramento mayor’s office, and speculation is that the ballpark parcel could eventually, at least in part, be used for a mixed-use real estate project.
The possibility that a new ballpark downtown near the arena was quashed on Wednesday by a spokesman for Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg.
A parcel of land in that area was set aside to build a home for a possible Major League Soccer expansion franchise. Although that expansion evaporated when prospective owner Ron Burkle pulled his support last year, a scaled-down soccer stadium is progressing to house Sacramento’s minor league soccer squad, the spokesman said.