A great article from Comstock’s Magazine detailing the inside movements to keep this transformative project on track.
The new downtown arena is on track for a 2016 opening. Already embraced by business and city leaders as a catalyst that will ultimately launch a regional renaissance, Sacramento’s long sought and hotly debated entertainment and sports complex is finally taking shape. Despite one recalcitrant property owner, a pesky signature gathering effort and the usual parking and traffic naysayers, the project long known as the downtown arena now has an ownership group, a strategic plan and — most importantly — a public/private funding mechanism. But it’s also coming to life under an ambitious timeline, and there are still question marks looming over a number of project elements, including public transportation, land procurement and the timing of the environmental impact report.
The National Basketball Association has mandated that Sacramento’s new $448 million arena be completed in time for the Kings’ 2016 season, moving the team from its current location in neighboring Natomas and causing a whirlwind of activity in the Sacramento City Planning Department. Whether the city has the expertise and necessary staffing to expedite the seemingly endless approval process is a legitimate concern, and under the NBA’s tight deadline, there is little leeway for red tape or squabbling à la City Council.
Assistant City Manager John Dang-berg insists the city’s staff will not hinder the project. “Don’t call it bureaucracy,” he says. “Call it efficient public service.” He says that because the city already completed a great deal of work planning for the arena to be built in the city’s undeveloped railyards (a project that was proposed in 2012), the staff’s systems for permit review, inspection and approval is already established.
Additionally, much of the real estate procurement process has so far been problem free, save for one chunk of property demanding extra attention. Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza, located between 4th and 7th streets and L and J streets, was purchased last year by real estate development firm JMA Ventures. Moreover, the company had already financed a feasibility study for placing an arena at the site. When plans by former Kings owners to move the team to Seattle became public in January, that feasibility report was quickly in the hands of new potential Kings buyers and the NBA board of directors. The completed study also hastened the beginning of the required environmental impact report (EIR), which should be completed by next summer.
It should also be to the timeline’s advantage that, this time around, the city isn’t acting as the developer, as it did for the scuttled railyard plan. The new ownership group, Sacramento Basketball Holdings, has the responsibility of hiring the environmental consultant, general contractor and architect. The owners will be paying $190 million plus any costs that drive the project over its $448 million budget. The city’s share is $258 million, and it will own the arena once it’s completed.