City Council says ‘yes’ to new arena plan

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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.

  • Ben Ilfeld

    I’d like to thank our editorial team for getting this up asap. As many of you may know, our hosting company was down much of last night and took our site down with it.

    It took a real team effort to get this and other stories up and laid out on the front page this morning.

  • I find it odd that Sandy Sheedy supported each and every new arena measure including those with tax hikes BEFORE Mayor Johnson took office. Can you say hypocrite? Also, has Kevin McCarty ever voted against job creation or economic development? He talked about saving city jobs while he voted last year to lay those same people off! Again, hypocrite.

  • Che Perez

    This whole ordeal reminds me of children who lack identity without materialism, television and mass media. God forbid this town ever lose the Kings and not have any identity.

  • Remember, as a not so famous ex-radio personality once said, it is for the children. don’t forget the sage, topical quips of Rancho’s vice-mayor . . . Wow. that picture of kevin johnson pumping his fist has got to be one of the smarmiest event of the year.

  • Mark

    Lee Perkins, a former radio personality, said … “We are talking about building a world-class city and a world-class facility.”

    Ha. Most people who throw that phrase (world-class) around haven’t a clue what it means. In no way is a new downtown arena going to make Sacramento ‘world class’. I’m not saying I’m against the arena, but come on, stop with the silly ‘world class’ nonsense already.

  • Mark

    Why is the vice mayor of Rancho Cordova giving her opinions about the arena? The residents of the CITY of Sacramento and not the COUNTY of Sacramento are going to ending up paying for this. The cheapo county residents already had their say at the ballot box a few years back. I would have liked to have polled those in favor of the arena last night to see how many of them actually live in the city, have their business or work downtown and how often they visit downtown. I bet the numbers would have been pretty low. What risk are the the supporters taking on?

    • As if the residents of Rancho Cordova don’t go to Kings games?

      Gee, maybe the backers of Propositions Q and R should have actually tailored their propositions to a simple arena tax, only for the arena, that sunset after completion, rather than an open ended excuse to grow government and spend half the revenue for matters unrelated to the arena (which is what propositions Q and R were).

    • Phillip Kampel

      The County has voted to make a contribution as well. Benefits of having the new facility will extend beyond Sacramento City boundaries. Why should elected officials of neighboring cities not express their opinions? Mark, were you there? Did you watch the live stream? Many of the speakers made a point of saying they ARE Sacramento residents because early on, someone also made a comment similar to yours about non-residents. If you signed up to speak, you could have turned to the crowd and asked the same question in Chambers.

  • nothing like a bunch of people complaining on the internet. Meanwhile both anti arena speakers at the council meeting were outnumbered 3 to 1

    • I am sure more oppositon would have made a difference as obviously the fix wasn’t in. The points made here are nothing new and unless they (the council) are more ridiculous than they appear already, the council was well aware of the opposition and their stance. Oh, i didn’t miss the irony of someone complaining on the internet about people complaining on the internet.

  • Haters always gonna hate! Proud day to be a Sacramentan and Kings fan.

    • Mark

      Calling people who question the financial validity of the arena plan -haters is pretty lame . Maybe they are just better at math than you are? I honestly haven’t made up my mind on the arena deal because I’ve been out of town and too preoccupied with other things to go over it. I’m just critiquing the comments people are making and questioning the supporter’s own financial risk in the deal.

  • You’re correct, I am really bad at math, that’s why I have a master’s in journalism…and the reason I’m unemployed and posting on this site.

  • The beleaguerment of the Sacramento Kings franchise has reached an unprecedented nadir. As boom-or-busters Maloof wither hung-over from the spree of the early ought-‘s which saw much of the financial wagon hitched to Mike Bibby and TNT’s C-Webb, this year’s “young, talented, up-and-coming” squad is on pace to finish the truncated 2011-12 campaign with a winning percentage on par, or worse, with the last three miserable seasons, which have been the worst since the team relocated from Kansas City in 1985.

    Even in the tepid afterglow of the ­guess-what-the-arena’s-probably-gonna-happen-­after-all news, the team has steadfastly maintained the slide it began in 2006 — the year the spectacular election-night trouncing of a city-subsidized arena deal became a referendum on the complete indifference of the majority of Sactonians to ponying up to see a demoralizing crapshow.

    After all the embarrassingly cornball histrionics, the stultifying phumphering, the plodding bureaucracy, the false alarms and raised hopes and dashed expectations and vacillations from ecstasy to panic and back again . . . the Kings are indeed staying in Sac, ensconced (we think) in the yet-to-be-named crown jewel of KJ’s world-class, revitalized downtown. Look for them to open the 2015-2016 campaign in (Rite Aid? just a guess) Arena by losing the first 10 in a row.

  • The message from Q&R’s spectacular flameout was CLEAR…no new taxes to build an arena.

    So, bright humans found ways to make public contributions without new taxes…but then the message morphed into…no use of public assets without a vote.

    I suspect that if $230 million fell from the sky with a note saying…for an arena…a certain segment of City Council (and the community) would find new reasons to object.

    • I suspect that if the Maloof’s won a powerball lottery of 3-4 hundred million…they still wouldn’t be putting their own money into this.

      So if the City refi’s the existing lease revenue bonds, that are currently collateralized with “ARCO” and the the surrounding Maloff property, along with the 25 million security interest in the team…and then allows the Maloof’s to sell off ARCO and the surrounding property as a means to provide theis 75,000,000 upfront contribution….what will be the collateral on the re-fied , 2nd position loan?

      And the county’s contribution can only go to pay for ESC debt service? Not the general fund…what will be the instrument of that debt? More Bonds…against the general fund?

      Details, Details, Details….but of course this won’t be taken as a comment of asking financially prudent questions about a questionable financing proposal. And yes, I am pretty good with math!

    • “But [the team owner]’s blustering threats to move the team if the taxpayers didn’t build him a new ballpark played poorly in a city known for left-liberal progressivism. Opponents portrayed him as a spoiled multimillionaire looking for a government handout, and in four elections voters rejected spending tax money on a new ballpark.”

      Sound familiar?

      This is an excerpt from “Game Of Shadows” (“The Barry Bonds Steroids Book”) outlining the travails of the early-’90s San Francisco Giants, pre- leverage-buyer-outer-Peter Magowan and pre-AT&T Park. The point is, it’s an old story, played out cities everywhere again and again, year after year.

      Until people get honest and stop cobbling together poorly-understood finance terminology to form the basis of their anti-arena and/or anti-sports arguments, and come right out and say that the core of their ire basically comes down to “NIMBY”, they’ll continue to come off like shrill lightweights when faced with sufficient corporate and political gravitas.

    • jeffeff nobody thinks Sacramento has ever been a left-liberal progressive town. It’s a conservative Democratic town. There’s a difference even if you don’t understand it. I don’t see how NIMBY plays into this at all. But anti-sports and anti-rich goomba team owners might.

    • OK — it’s a conservative Democratic town containing some left-liberal progressives, many if not most of whom are clustered smack dab in the middle of the area where the power brokers and the rich goombas (and by the way, they’re Lebanese, not Italian) want to stick a monument to the distilled essence of the dreaded “mainstream”.

      The revulsion of nearly all of my fellow Midtowners, for example, at the idea of having a magnet for the braying, face-painting denizens of Sarah Palin Nation “in their backyard” has been palpable throughout this mess.

    • I had my doubts about the arena, but jeffeff’s succinct analysis makes me a harcore booster, if only to make the Commiecrat “left-liberal progressives” cry. Ah, the delightful double edged sword of public funding. Squeal, Demunists, squeal.

  • Heath Buckmaster

    I know this is such a heated topic – but I truly want to see Sacramento just move forward and DO something. Even if it’s not 100% perfect we’ve got to stop the paralysis and move forward.

    I want to see beautiful developments along the river that bring culture and restaurants and community parks to the forefront…science facilities, children’s facilities, open spaces for people to enjoy nature.

    Easy access to entertainment – whether in an arena or in smaller venues is wonderful – as long as there is ample access, parking, and amenities so that it becomes a destination.

    If I were a city planner I might look to places like Vancouver, BC as a guide for how to create a vibrant and GORGEOUS waterfront / downtown.

  • Marc Ronson

    Maybe I should call a whambulance! Instead of being congratulatory to the mayor and council and community members involved in this process for finally getting something done in Sacramento, everyone is just gonna complain. Maybe if you had a better solution or idea you could submit that and get something done? OH wait, it’s much easier to whine in a forum than do anything about it.

    Those in favor of this plan and arena have been consistently involved in the process for the better part of a year now, actively, and we got something done. It’s much easier to be against something than it is to be for it.

    This arena is about the long term investment in the community. Yes, we’re going to have to figure out the numbers more precisely, and move forward with caution, but projects like this create construction, jobs, tourism, increased tax revenue. I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept to understand.

    Great job Sacramento, KJ and everyone else involved.

    • Thomas Wendel

      It’s not hard to understand. It’s hard to swallow because all the evidence derived from experience shows that the ROI for the community that puts up public funds for these projects is nonexistent. There are lots of projects that might create construction, jobs, tourism, tax revenue, but they’re not all going to result in improved outcomes for the taxpayers who are asked to foot the bill.

  • KJ and his band of Merry Men definitely took a trip down Stockton Blvd on this one.

    I’m still not sure how they can tell us the arena will cost $391M or $3.91B if they haven’t designed the building yet. That estimate is just a WAG. During construction, will they tell us that because some part of the design was so completely unanticipated that we need to either fork over another $300M, or watch Turner go bankrupt? Wouldn’t surprise me.


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