Gregg Lukenbill

Sacramento Raiders? 'It was a done deal'

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AP

Sacramento Raiders? 'It was a done deal'

Between 1987 and 1990, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was looking for a new home for his team after a failed venture in Los Angeles. Armed with plenty of land and a $50 million commitment from City Council, Gregg Lukenbill and his Sacramento Kings partnership were in the running. 

It’s all water under the bridge now. Davis, along with plenty of other primary players from the deal have long since passed. The Raiders eventually moved back to Oakland where they’ll stay for the next two years, before relocating again, this time to Las Vegas.

How close did Sacramento come to landing the Raiders? According to Lukenbill, it was happening.

“It was a done deal,” Lukenbill said on The Kings Insider Podcast. “We got the City Council on a 9-0 vote to give Al Davis $50 million for the franchise fee to move here.”

In a strange twist to the story, Davis would have become the managing partner of the Sacramento Kings, as well as retain most of the ownership of the Raiders. 

“We would have had 25 percent of the Raiders, 25 percent of the stadium and the Arena and the team, and Al would have had 75 percent of the Kings,” Lukenbill said.

Al Davis as a basketball man? According to Lukenbill, he was all in. 

“Al was very focused on the Kings, we used to talk about it all the time,” Lukenbill added. “He would have been a much better managing partner than I would have, because he lived and breathed that. That competitive DNA was in his spirit everyday, no matter what sport it was.”

In the end, Davis dragged his feet. The Kings couldn’t get all of their partners on board and City Council eventually pulled their funding. 

The Raiders moved back to Oakland before the 1995 NFL season. Lukenbill lasted until 1992 as the managing partner of the Kings until selling to Jim Thomas. 

Davis wasn’t the only Oakland-based owner Lukenbill spoke to about their professional team. Before landing the Kansas City Kings, he first tried to lure the Oakland A’s to Sacramento. 

“Ironically, I talked to Charlie Finley in 1978 and he was willing to sell the A’s to me for $10 million dollars,” Lukenbill said. “In the 70’s, $10 million was more than I had, I can tell you. He said, ‘listen, when you get real, give me a call, I’m willing to deal.’”

Hiding in the weeds behind Arco Arena II, there are the remnants of the foundation of a baseball field. Lukenbill and his partners had big dreams of the A’s, Raiders and any other professional team they could wrangle into Sacramento. 

Lukenbill and his group were able to secure the Kings and nothing more. Eventually minor league baseball and soccer settled into the Capital City, both finding overwhelming support from Sacramento sports fans.