Sacramento's drive to keep the Kings took a dramatic turn Saturday when a new group, aligned with the owner of Downtown Plaza, proposed to buy the team and build a $400 million arena on the shopping center site.

A source close to the situation said the group was lining up deep-pocket investors to work with the mall's new owner, JMA Ventures, and present a credible alternative to the Maloof family's efforts to sell the Kings to a group planning to move the team to Seattle.

"We want to make a run at the Kings if we can afford the price," said the source, who insisted on anonymity because the plan remains in its early stages.

JMA spokesman Jeff Nead confirmed the mall owner is interested in the arena project – and has been contacted by more than one investor group considering a bid for the Kings. He declined to identify any of the investors.

"They want to work toward saving the team," Nead said. "JMA has been getting calls from a number of people."

Downtown Plaza has been mentioned at least twice before as an arena site, with City Hall staff members concluding in 2004 that it was likely too expensive. But Nead said a feasibility study performed recently by AECOM – an architectural-engineering firm that has designed several NBA arenas – showed considerable promise.

Sources close to the Maloofs but not authorized to speak publicly say the family has been negotiating a possible sale to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. Yahoo Sports and Comcast Sports Net have pegged the price at $500 million to $525 million. The family, through its spokesman Eric Rose, declined to comment on the situation Saturday.

The Downtown Plaza proposal followed a week of frenzied media reports over the fate of the Kings, with most individuals close to the negotiations refusing to be quoted publicly.