Arena logic

Mayor Heather Fargo led the charge throughout 2003 to achieve the creation of a sports-and-entertainment complex in downtown Sacramento anchored by a glorious new arena for the Kings. Her plan—designed to replace Arco Arena while jump-starting the revitalization of Sacramento’s city center—was to fund most of the new stadium by adding surcharges of up to 7 percent to prices at nearby restaurants and bars in downtown and Old Sacramento.

Fargo’s proposal crashed and burned, and rightly so. The $538 million plan didn’t work because it wasn’t fair for business owners and their patrons—i.e., regular citizens—to bear the burden of a new arena.

Well, the mayor’s faulty proposal hardly was given a burial before yet another effort got under way to resuscitate the building of an arena at taxpayers’ expense. A new business task force headed by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce announced last week that it intends to investigate a replacement for Arco Arena. The new group will make its recommendations by the end of February—i.e., just as the NBA season goes hyperbolic as the Kings begin another earnest quest for the championship. We hope the group doesn’t plan to pass along all of the exorbitant cost of the arena from business owners to citizens.

Nobody can doubt that the 15-year-old arena in North Natomas still seems a perfectly fine structure in which to watch basketball, at least for those who still can afford to attend the ever-more-expensive Kings games. But we’re told that stadiums like Arco Arena have a real-world shelf life of only 20 years and that 14 new arenas have been built for NBA teams this last decade.

Because building a new arena somewhere might be inevitable, we offer a few suggestions about its funding and possible location:

“ The Kings organization still owes the city $82 million for the loan it took out on Arco Arena. The Maloof family—with its casino and liquor fortune estimated as being worth $1.1 billion—should pay that down and not assume that the outstanding debt will be forgiven as part of the deal for a new arena.

“ Fargo’s proposal suggested the Maloofs pony up something like $70 million, but that simply was not enough. The Maloofs should pay for at least half of the new arena, no matter where it’s built.

" Any decision about the arena should be made in accordance with how it will affect other redevelopment projects being considered for the 240-acre Union Pacific Railyards and the city center. We understand that an arena could provide a magnet for a revitalized downtown. Yeah, but so could a vibrant mixed-use plan featuring museums, housing, restaurants, offices and parks. Sacramento leaders should be prepared for the possibility that the new arena may well belong out in North Natomas like its predecessor.