The ask

They don’t call it the long con for nothing. Getting Sacramento to build the Kings a new arena is taking foooooreeeeeever.

Don’t think the NBA told the Kings they have to stay put for another year because Mayor Kevin Johnson wrangled $10 million in corporate sponsorships for the team. Those commitments are just the taste.

The real deal is that the team is going to be here come October because, as the Kings organization put it in their official statement Monday, “Mayor Johnson has strongly indicated to both the community and the NBA that he is capable of getting the support to build a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports facility that the Sacramento Region and the tremendous Kings fans so rightly deserve. We look forward to seeing Mayor Johnson bring his vision to reality.”

In other words, he promised the NBA a new arena. And now he’s got to get us taxpayers to help him deliver.

We’ll have to wait until the end of the month to get the basic outline of the ask. That’s when most-favored developer David Taylor and his partners Icon Venue Group are to report on their feasibility study.

Bites doesn’t know what the details will look like—just that it will include major “participation” from the taxpayer.

Donations of public land, diverting property taxes from redevelopment areas, waiving fees—these are all possibilities.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of weeks about a “regional approach” to building a sports facility—which Bites translates as some sort of sales or use taxes (hotel taxes, rental car fees, etc.).

Sac County voters overwhelmingly rejected an arena tax in 2006—long before anyone realized that the Great Recession was coming. So why would the outcome be different this time?

Perhaps the team, the developers and the mayor are hoping that we’ll all reflect on just how close we came to losing the team, and that we’ll be better behaved at the ballot box. But Bites suspects they won’t risk a public vote at all.

Are we finally going to blow up the mall? The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Westfield Shopping Centers, owners of the raggedy Downtown Plaza, are finally putting the old beast up for sale.

That’s just two years after Mayor Johnson gave them an ultimatum to do something constructive with the dead mall or sell it. Westfield officials won’t confirm it, but if true, the mall owner could concentrate on the properties it actually cares about, like the Galleria at Roseville.

And hopefully, a new owner would have some plan for retooling the obsolete structure.

That’s not Bites promoting some kind of radical urbanism. The mayor’s spokesman, Joaquin McPeek, said in an email exchange last week that “The Mayor believes the design of Downtown Plaza … tends to reflect 1980s design strategies relevant to suburban malls, and is not optimum in today’s urban center marketplace.”

In the past the mayor has said he hoped for a more “outward facing mall” with more access and less dead space around its perimeter. Bites figures that’s the minimum, and that really the thing ought to be razed, but gets that, as McPeek notes, “redesigning the Plaza would be an extraordinarily expensive project.”

So it may be that the best we can hope for is another mall owner to come in and give the mall a minor face-lift. But given the prospects for an outdated suburban-style mall in today’s retail climate, Westfield may just dump the Plaza for pennies on the dollar to a mall slumlord who specializes in cheap leases and high turnover. Surely they wouldn’t let that happen?