Local political, business, labor leaders back arena deal
Mayor Kevin Johnson’s late-night triumphal return from Orlando was followed by a 5 p.m. press conference Tuesday in which scant new details were released, but local business, labor and political leaders confirmed their backing of the arena deal announced Monday.
“We have a handshake agreement – we have the framework of a deal,” Johnson said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done … (City) Council has to ask the tough questions.”
He said the plan to build the entertainment and sports complex will be made available on March 1 to the public, and a crucial City Council vote March 6 will determine whether the arena will become a reality.
“We’ll have a very robust and energetic conversation no doubt on March 6,” Johnson said. “I’ve told every council member (to) poke holes in it.”
Standing with Johnson at the press conference were City Council members Steve Cohn, Angelique Ashby, Rob Fong and Jay Schenirer.
Cohn, who opposed previous arena plans, lent his support to the current effort, which could see an arena in operation as early as September 2015.
“This one is different because this one is fair to all parties and particularly from my standpoint, it’s fair to the taxpayers of this great city,” Cohn said. “This is going to be something that really will be a win for all of the taxpayers in our city, and I think is a big win.”
He added that this is the first time he has felt that the arena deal will move forward.
Johnson said the breakthrough in the talks in Orlando came late Saturday, when he asked the Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings, if they were committed to Sacramento.
He said the brothers – Joe, Gavin and George – unanimously confirmed their support to stay in the city, with George Maloof, who was a driving force behind last year’s potential move to Anaheim, saying, “if it’s a good deal.”
Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said the business community and labor leaders are on the same page.
“For the first time, we’ve got something … that truly will change the way this region and this community looks at the urban core,” he said. “We’re well on our way, and it’s a tremendous, tremendous victory.”
Despite the all-around congratulations, the breakdown of the financing is not yet confirmed, and Johnson said it will be premature to discuss financing – specifically which percentage of the overall deal will be financed by the city – until the deal is finalized.
David Taylor, whose ICON-Taylor group will handle the construction of the entertainment and sports complex, said design work will get under way as soon as funds are available – an anticipated four to five weeks.
After that, the environmental review process will be the main focus, allowing construction to begin by the end of the first quarter or the early part of the second quarter of 2013.
The goal is to have the complex finished by the beginning of the 2015 National Basketball Association season in September.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.