SBD/Issue 86/Facilities & Venues

Sacramento Arena Task Force Open To All Seven Proposals

Sacramento Arena Task Force Could
Combine Ideas From Several Proposals
Sacramento First arena task force co-Chair Chris Lehane Friday said that his group is "not yet putting any proposal ahead of the others" among the seven submitted to build a new sports and entertainment center for the NBA Kings, according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Lehane: "This is not about a shining arena for the Kings and NBA. It is about what is best for Sacramento. The Kings and the league have backed other proposals in the past, and those have not come to fruition." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in a blog on his Web site wrote, "The review process will determine which proposal or proposals best puts Sacramento First." Lehane said that the task force "may consider cobbling together ideas from several of the proposals and from their own research when they make a recommendation to the mayor." Bizjak noted "five of the seven proposals shared a unifying factor, making the case that the venue belongs downtown where it would enliven the urban core." Meanwhile, NBA officials "created shock waves by announcing they already back one of the plans." The proposal spearheaded by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos includes a "complicated land swap moving the State Fair to the Arco Arena site in Natomas, turning Cal Expo over to private developers, and leveraging income from those moves to help finance an arena in the downtown railyard." Baltimore-based Moag & Co. CEO John Moag, a consultant working for the NBA on the arena project, said that the proposal "stands out among the seven ... because it includes something other proposals don't: deep-pocketed private partners to jump-start the project financially" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16).

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? In Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote under the header, "Is Land-Swap Arena Proposal Too Bold For Sacramento?" It seems an "amazingly clever and innovative deal -- and too good to be true." Putting aside the "environmental questions and neighborhood opposition, it's unclear whether the state can sell Cal Expo to one group without putting it out to competitive bidding." Also, the new arena "would go up on city-owned land at the railyard -- though the city is headed to arbitration with the railyard developer over the value of that land." The developer, Thomas Enterprises, "has its own arena bid competing against the Kamilos plan." Breton noted Kings Owners the Maloofs are "on board" with an arena plan "for the first time," supporting the Kamilos plan. The new Kings arena at that location "would be paired with a new transit station that could be the hub of a revitalized downtown," and Cal Expo "could become a thriving commercial and residential area instead of a worn-out fairground." Breton: "It's a bold vision that transcends our sensible-shoes landscape" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/17). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial stated it is "appealing that Arco could be reused as a Cal Expo exhibit hall, instead of tearing it down or building housing on this floodplain property." But there also are some "open questions about how this deal would be structured." The city "has lent the Kings" $70M, and Moag said the loan would be "retired" as part of the proposal. The NBA insisted that it is "not expecting the city to 'forgive' the loan," but the editorial wondered, "If not, what will be the source of funding for retiring this debt? And what would the city get out of this deal, in exchange for giving up land?" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16).

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