Mayor Kevin Johnson: New arena is a “front-burner” issue
Mayor Kevin Johnson brought up the possibility of a new sports arena in Sacramento at a press conference Tuesday.
Johnson announced his top-three priorities are public safety, education and economic development, the latter of which a new sports arena could positively impact.
Johnson reiterated that a new arena would be crucial not only in keeping the Kings in Sacramento, but also in terms of creating a "world-class" downtown. Currently, Arco Arena holds more than 200 spectator events each year.
"We got a wake up call with the NCAA when they said we are no longer going to hold big-time college basketball in Sacramento because [we] have an outdated arena," Johnson said.
Last week, after learning about the NCAA’s decision, Johnson said he became worried that Sacramento might lose the Kings and wanted to see a new proposal for an arena at Cal Expo.
The National Basketball Association is now leading the effort to build a new arena at Cal Expo, according to a recent Sacramento Bee article. However, it has been difficult in the current economic climate to find a developer for the plan, said a Bee editorial.
Johnson, however, seems willing to change turn the conversation away from Cal Expo, still not ruling out downtown as a location for a possible arena.
"Before I was the mayor, I would have always liked to see an arena downtown; and now that I am mayor, I would still like to see an arena downtown," he said.
One possible location would be the Sacramento Railyards, one of the largest infill projects in the country, Johnson said. Though technically not downtown, the city is buying about 33 acres of the 244-acre site, enough room to fit both a planned transportation corridor as well as a new arena.
Johnson said it fits into a larger plan to revitalize Sacramento.
"Part of our overall strategy, [which includes] Westfield Plaza and the J, K and L corridors, is how we revitalize the mall, retail, offices and housing," he said.
Johnson also pointed to his time as an NBA player, which he said he doesn’t talk about a whole lot.
"I lived in Phoenix when there was no arena downtown, and I was also part of a team that helped bring an arena downtown," Johnson said. "Phoenix was a ghost town, much worse than Sacramento. If you go to downtown Phoenix now, it’s a whole new town because of the catalytic impact that the arena had [on] downtown. I think the year was 1993; if you look at what has transpired over the last 16 years, [it proves] that [an arena] can galvanize a downtown community."
Downtown arenas have a "multiplier effect" in boosting local economies, he added. However, Johnson said a downtown arena could just be "wishful thinking," and still has not mentioned how the project might be financed.
Maloof Sports and Entertainment was contacted for this article but declined to comment.