New arena would spur other projects in downtown Sacramento, developer says

Published: Friday, Sep. 2, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

Promoting a downtown sports arena as a potential economic gold mine, a prominent Sacramento developer said Thursday that he and other investors are looking at bringing hotels and other projects to the arena's neighborhood.

"If the arena is a go, there will be private investors, big-time investors," said David Taylor, who is also working with the task force trying to build the arena.

Taylor, whose downtown projects include the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Esquire Plaza, said he might build a hotel by the proposed transit hub, adjacent to the arena site.

Taylor and Chris Lehane, head of Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento arena task force, appeared at a news conference to build support for the $387 million arena. The news conference was held at a gravel lot in the Docks area – one of up to 20 city-owned parcels that the task force says could be sold to generate cash for the arena.

The task force plans to reveal "a range of funding options" next Thursday, Lehane said. The group has until next March to finalize a financing package. Otherwise, the owners of the Sacramento Kings say they'll leave town.

The task force first floated the idea of selling city land in late July, and it could prove controversial. City Councilman Kevin McCarty has said he's worried about assets being unloaded at "fire sale" prices. He also questioned the wisdom of using the cash for an arena when the city has other budget needs.

But Lehane, Taylor and Sacramento home-building executive Jack Reynen said the parcels' value would inflate as buyers become convinced the arena will happen.

And they said the public's investment will be repaid many times over as the arena takes shape – and other projects come to life as a result. Yet it's unclear how much development an arena would spur.

Tom Callahan of PKF Consulting, which follows the hotel industry, said "it isn't a slam dunk" that the arena would create a demand for more hotels. And any hotel would probably require public subsidies, he said.

The task force, however, believes the arena would draw 3 million new visitors a year downtown – and spark an urban revival that would spread through much of the city.

Taylor said even the city's Docks land – one mile south of the arena site – would become attractive to developers and a boon to the community if the arena is built. The land could sell for up to $7.5 million, the task force said.

Much of the Docks area not owned by the city is controlled by developer and lobbyist Darius Anderson, who wants to create a mixed-use project on the site. Anderson is also a member of the task force.

Of the 20 city parcels that could be sold, two others were revealed Thursday: a boarded-up office building on 10th Street and a 1.4-acre lot at Second Street and Capitol Mall.

Taylor said public funding for the arena, including land sales, could hit $200 million to $300 million. That would be more than half the total.

But Lehane insisted the public's share would be less than half the total. He said the project will lean heavily on user fees, such as surcharges on arena tickets. Also, private developers will participate, and the Kings will make lease payments.

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