The Taylor show
“Now is the time to see where we go from here.”
That was Sacramento City Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy’s parting comment right after the big unveiling of superdeveloper David Taylor’s arena “feasibility study” in front of council last week.
Bites thought that remark pretty much summed up the whole show—vaguely positive, but it didn’t actually mean anything.
Also weirdly profound, or profoundly weird, was City Councilman Rob Fong’s observation that “We’ve never been this far.”
Bites got a little chill when he said it. Like all of us in the council chamber just drank the purple drank, and the whole trip was accelerating out of low Earth orbit. “Dude, we’ve never been this far … ”
The thing about the arena feasibility study, put together (for free) by Taylor and his partners at Icon Venue Group, was that it said almost nothing about the actual feasibility of building a new arena. There were lots of numbers—tallying up square footage, luxury mini suites, concession stands and urinals; it was essentially a description of what a cool arena looks like. None of it really meaning anything—least of all the estimated (bargain) price of $387 million.
If anything, the Taylor show should have raised more doubts on the city council dais than it eased. For example, the proposal completely forgot to leave room for the long-planned intermodal transit hub—tying together light rail, Amtrak, buses and maybe one day streetcars and high-speed rail—that has been the critical piece of the “transit village” vision for the redeveloped rail yards for the last decade or so. Whoops.
And of course, the study lacked any information at all about how to pay for an arena. Never mind that’s what most of us thought “feasibility” meant.
The lack of financial details is partly because the Maloofs, thinking they had a get-out-of-town-free card, didn’t want to open the books. Only when the NBA told the team owners “no go” did they submit to start sharing some financial details with the Taylor team.
But Bites figures that Taylor also didn’t want to talk revenue until Mayor Kevin Johnson printed up the brochures and rented the hall for the next carefully choreographed superspectacular mayoral initiative: a “regional commission” to come up with a package of public subsidies to pay for the arena, one which avoids the word “taxes” and, Bites suspects, short-circuits the need for a vote by taxpayers.
And while the Taylor report acknowledged that there is a place called Natomas, that’s about as far as it went. Well, that, and Taylor thinks the Arco site—you can call it Power Balance if you want—would make a great “corporate campus” when the Kings move downtown and leave a giant blighted hole in the neighborhood. Or it could be a hospital, or a university. Or an auto mall.
Who’s going to recruit those companies? And what will the city have to pay in tax breaks and other incentives to bring them there? And what will be the cost to taxpayers of retrofitting Arco acres for its second life? No one knows.
And does anybody really believe—as Taylor asserts in his study—that the difference in infrastructure costs between building an Arena in Natomas and building an arena downtown will be only $3 million? Or that it really won’t be necessary to spend a few mil on parking?
Bites knows one thing for sure. We’ve never been this far. Wherever that is.