For more than a year, Southern California grocery tycoon Ron Burkle and his business associates have pursued a plan to build a new arena in Downtown Plaza to cement the Kings' future in Sacramento.

On Thursday, that interest finally burst into the open. Standing on a stage at the Memorial Auditorium in front of 3,000 cheering Sacramentans gathered for his State of the City address, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced that Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov were teaming up on a bid to buy the Kings and construct an arena at the site of downtown's lagging open-air mall.

The bid for the team, which will be filed with the National Basketball Association today, will serve as Sacramento's counteroffer should the NBA board of governors next month reject the Kings' deal to move the franchise to Seattle.

While the amount of the Burkle and Mastrov bid was not revealed Thursday, the mayor said it would be "very strong and competitive." Seattle hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer have a binding agreement with the Maloof family to buy the Kings in a deal that values the franchise at $525 million, or about $341 million for the 65 percent they control.

A source familiar with the Mastrov offer said it's expected that the NBA will look over the proposal and forward it to the Maloofs, who have the right to "entertain" other offers as backups in case the NBA rejects the Seattle bid. Beyond that, the process isn't quite clear.

"It's not like there's a manual for how to do this," the source said. "This is somewhat unprecedented in the history of the league."

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