City Council says ‘yes’ to new arena plan
With a triumphant shout, Mayor Kevin Johnson cast the final vote in a 7-2 decision in favor of a financing plan to build a new entertainment and sports complex and keep the Sacramento Kings in town for another 30 years.
Cheers, applause and chants of “SAC-RA-MEN-TO” broke out among the more than 250 people in council chambers Tuesday at the end of a four-hour-long City Council meeting that culminated in what Johnson called “a historic vote.”
“Every one of you in the community did not give up,” Johnson said. “People far and wide all played a role and came together. I think we met every milestone along the way, and we made every minute count.”
Johnson and City Council members Angelique Ashby, Steve Cohn, Rob Fong, Jay Schenirer, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell voted in favor of the financing plan.
Council members Sandy Sheedy and Kevin McCarty voted against the plan.
More than 500 people came to City Hall Tuesday – filling the overflow seating in the lobby and a room in Old City Hall – to hear the details of a $400 million financing plan developed over the past year by members of the Think Big Committee, city staff and private consultants hired by the city.
After the first hour of public comment, the opposition to the arena was outnumbered by support by three to one, according to the speaker count from City Clerk Shirley Concolino.
“The financial world is crashing around you, and you are looking to add more public debt,” said Bob Blymer, executive director for the Sacramento County Taxpayers League.
Many speakers opposed to the arena echoed Blymer’s comments, saying the public portion of the financing – which would come largely from a proposed parking monetization plan – would be a mistake.
“We won’t be able to continue (this project) without additional funding,” Sacramento resident John Burger said during public comment. “Your treasurer said you’re considering ‘evaluated risk’ in this situation – well, your risk managers need risk managers.”
Supporters of the arena included business owners, Kings fans and longtime Sacramento residents who encouraged council members to vote in favor of the financing plan.
Linda Budge, vice mayor of Rancho Cordova, encouraged council members to support the recommendation and to move forward with the entertainment and sports complex.
“It’s important for our region and for our citizens. We want people to grow and thrive,” Budge said. “The last thing we want to do is foul out at the end of regulation.”
Lee Perkins, a former radio personality, said the arena is not just for sports, but for children’s events and music events as well.
“We are talking about building a world-class city and a world-class facility,” Perkins said.
Johnson said at his weekly press conference Tuesday morning that he expected “a robust discussion” at the council meeting, and he said after the meeting that he was not disappointed.
“It feels like we’re having our own Super Tuesday here in Sacramento,” Johnson said.
When public comment concluded, Sheedy opened the discussion of details of the financing plan with questions directed to Assistant City Manager John Dangberg.
“There are a lot of assumptions built into these numbers,” Sheedy said. “Aren’t these funding sources really volatile? My feeling is, if something goes wrong with one or two sources, the money just won’t be there.”
Sheedy asked Dangberg questions about the method for calculating the number of jobs that would result from building the arena, as well as questions clarifying how revenue from the sale of public land could be used – other than for an arena.
“When you start taking the people’s land – that is a use of public funds that could be used elsewhere,” Sheedy said.
A staff report released by Sheedy’s office Monday questioned the reliability of the estimated financing numbers in the term sheet, and some speakers – both in support of and in opposition to the arena – referred to it in their comments Tuesday.
“Shame on any council member who would put their interests ahead of the best interests of the city,” said one Sacramento resident who didn’t state his name. “If you do, you will be doing a very Sheedy job.”
Ashby, Schenirer and Rob Fong each spoke briefly in support of the financing plan, yet each acknowledged the risks involved in building an arena.
“We need to strike a balance between not losing a team, doing the best for Sacramento and not letting Natomas be forgotten,” Ashby said.
When Darrell Fong and Pannell announced their support, they were met with loud applause from the audience.
City Manager John Shirey told council members that, with their approval of the financing term sheet, city staff can move on to the next steps toward building the arena.
Those next steps include continuing the search for a parking operator to take over the city’s parking assets and starting the “predevelopment” stage – which includes the design of the new facility and laying the groundwork for getting construction under way.
Included in the final vote was authorization for $850,000 from the city’s parking fund to pay for consulting services to take the city through the predevelopment stage to groundbreaking, which is proposed to begin in late 2013.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MeiissaCorker.