Five arena myths

If you’ve spent time lately listening to talk radio, reading the local daily or hanging around the office water cooler, you’ve heard the talk: Sacramento must finance and build a new $400 million arena, and do it now, or the Kings will leave for Anaheim or some other town where they’ll be given a proper home.

Now, we love the Kings as much as anyone. But in their zeal to push a stadium deal on a reluctant public, arena supporters have gone a bit overboard overstating both the problem and its urgency. It’s time for a reality check. Let’s look at a few of the myths currently making the rounds:

Myth No. 1: “A new arena will promote economic growth.” Economists don’t agree on much, but there is a strong consensus that sports arenas don’t boost the economy. They don’t even produce enough new jobs or new tax revenues to justify their construction costs, let alone the ongoing costs for infrastructure and operation. They don’t boost the economy, as numerous studies show.

Myth No. 2: “The tax burden must be shared.” The idea that an arena could be paid for by taxing not only Sacramento but also the surrounding communities is a popular one on sports talk radio, but it’s a nonstarter politically. It’s naive to think two-thirds of the voters in cash-strapped Placer, Yuba, Sutter and Yolo counties are going to tax themselves to keep the Kings in Sacramento when voters here aren’t willing to do so, as polls have consistently shown.

Myth No. 3: “Arco is obsolete. Built in 1988, Arco is not the decrepit wreck some have claimed. Whatever minor problems it has could be fixed for much less than $400 million.

Myth No. 4: “The Maloofs are ready to move the team.” The Maloof brothers, who own the Kings, have stated that they’re not anxious to leave, and we believe them. Why? Because Sacramento is an excellent NBA market, and it would be difficult to find a better one. (Think Anaheim is better? Ask the Clippers, who opted to share the Staples Center with the Lakers rather than stay at the Pond in Anaheim. And speaking of aging arenas, the Pond’s only five years younger than Arco.)

Myth No. 5:The Kings are essential to our identity as a community.” The Kings are fun. The Kings are exciting. But at the end of the day, they’re entertainment. The team is nowhere near as important as good schools, police, flood protection or any of the other necessities the community could better spend $400 million on.

When it comes to the arena negotiations, Sacramento needs to have some pride. For 20 years, this city has shown itself to be an outstanding market for the NBA—so much so that if the Kings left, it’s likely another NBA team would want to play here. If the Maloofs want to stay, they need to show some leadership and let the community know what they’re willing to do and how much they’re willing to spend to solve the arena problem. If they’re expecting a free ride, we should be prepared to let them go.