Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson this week took his campaign to build a new downtown arena into the far-flung corners of the region, often considered hostile territory for central city politicians.
With the announcement that he's formed a coalition of 71 political, business and labor officials from six counties to explore arena financing, Johnson has shown he's won the ear for the moment of leaders in communities that often have felt their interests and downtowns are worlds apart.
Whether those officials ultimately will agree on financing remains a mystery, and possibly a long shot.
The group, called "Here We Build," includes 29 elected officials or their representatives spread from from Yuba City to Winters to Elk Grove.
The mayor's group has announced a self-imposed 100-day deadline to cobble together a financial plan. But on Thursday, representatives were vague on how concrete the group's Sept. 8 report will be.
"It might specify a public-private financing plan, or outline a variety of options," said Chris Lehane, a political communications consultant assisting the mayor. "The goal is to provide the public with the path forward."
For months, Johnson and others have been saying some form of public contribution will be needed, possibly including tax revenue.
At a Thursday town hall meeting attended by several dozen residents, some of them skeptical, a city consultant pushed that notion further, saying the public typically has paid 80 percent of the cost for stadiums built nationwide over the past decade.
Thursday's meeting was the first of a half-dozen such public gatherings planned for this summer.
Dan Barrett, a stadium financing consultant hired by the city, said it is too early to know what deal might work here, but he said sales taxes, hotel taxes, food and beverage taxes, rental car fees, tax-increment financing, parking surcharges and land sales have been used in other cities.
Sacramento Kings officials have indicated they are likely to be mere tenants in a new building, owned and operated by the city or a government authority. How much the team will pay remains a big unknown.
In enticing leaders from El Dorado, Placer and other counties to join, Johnson appears to have benefited from fears that the region will lose the Kings without a new arena. Johnson also has taken advantage of what some regional leaders say is their growing belief that the fortunes of Sacramento and the rest of the region are intertwined, and that bigger issues require joint effort.
Committee member Linda Budge, a Rancho Cordova councilwoman, said she considers the proposed downtown multiuse facility to be "critical civic infrastructure" for the region.
In the past, city and county leaders from outside the city of Sacramento have mostly balked at the idea of helping get an arena built.
But more than half of the people who attend events at the current Natomas arena live outside of Sacramento County, Kings officials said. About one-third are from Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Sutter and Yuba counties.
The committee includes Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler, who said he accepted the mayor's invitation because losing the Kings would be a blow to the region's ability to attract new businesses, including to Placer County: "As we are out there selling Sacramento as a great place to live and work, the last thing we need is to be known as the city that lost the Kings."
Uhler said that doesn't mean he's signing up for any increased taxes. He said he wants to see all options on the table but hopes private investment can play a key role.
Auburn Mayor Bill Kirby, however, didn't respond to Johnson's emailed invitation. "It is ludicrous to consider," he said. "I have heard no groundswell of interest from constituents. That is their problem."
But El Dorado County Supervisor John Knight signed up, saying his county needs someone at the table to watch out for its interests.
"I will always ask, with any plan, what's in it for El Dorado County?" he said.
Several Yolo city and county officials are on the committee. But Yolo Supervisor Matt Rexroad, who is not part of the group, said he opposes "subsidized entertainment."
For some committee members, the issue is a balancing act.
Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna is an arena supporter but said it can't be financed in a way that competes with the county's responsibility to fund social services for the less fortunate.
"I don't think there is an inherent conflict," he said. "But I want to apply responsible oversight."