Arena three-way still a sketchy proposition

I suppose it’s rude to roll your eyes when the Mayor or Chris Lehane, K.J.’s point man on all things arena, says something like, “This is the biggest thing to happen to Sacramento since the Transcontinental Railroad.”

Is an arena going to be more important than the Sacramento International Airport? Bigger than Regional Transit? More integral to the local economy than any one of the Los Rios Community College campuses?

Anyway, by now you’ve heard the rough outlines of the proposed three-way: arena “users”—meaning ticket holders and the team itself—will be responsible, more or less, for a combined third of the more or less (though probably more) $387 million estimated cost. Private investors, corporate sponsors, etc., will kick in a third, and the “public,” meaning government, will kick in a third. Three, it’s a magic number.

As for the “public” portion, the big boys are looking into tapping the revenue from city parking structures, or even privatizing them, and/or selling off city land for development and using the proceed for construction.

All of the options talked about so far seem awfully specific to the City of Sacramento. Which is weird since the vast majority of people who use the arena live outside of city. Is the city going to be the only “public” partner?

Lehane told me that the folks in the ’burbs will likely pay their share through ticket surcharges and the like—part of that “user”-generated pot of money.

But when I asked City Councilman Rob Fong—a veteran of Sacramento arena boondoggles—if maybe Roseville or Elk Grove or Woodland should also give up some of their parking money too, he said, “Why not?”

My guess is that a lot of the folks in those towns would answer his question to my question with another question: “Why?”

Which is what a lot Sacramento residents are asking, too.

“How can we dedicate than money to an arena when we’re cutting police and fire services, and letting our parks go, and closing pools and cutting library hours?” asks neighborhood activist Rosanna Herber.

So far, the arena discussion has been mostly between politicians and chambers of commerce and the big labor groups. “I think the neighborhood voice is really missing in all this,” Herber said.

It’s people in the neighborhoods who can go off script and ask the questions that need to be asked. Why has there not been a serious debate about whether it’s better to build at the Arco site in Natomas? Will the city be alone in guaranteeing the construction bonds?

Most importantly, if the city has the ability to raise $100 million or more, what else could we do with that money?

Compiled from Snog.