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LA arena operator acknowledges interest in Sacramento sports complex

Published: Saturday, Sep. 24, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 25, 2011 - 1:53 pm

International stadium and arena operator Anschutz Entertainment Group confirmed for the first time Friday that it might participate in the effort to build a sports and entertainment complex in Sacramento.

"We have made the mayor aware that … any assistance he would like to ask us for, we would be interested," said AEG spokesman Michael Roth.

AEG officials met Friday in Los Angeles with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and members of his Sacramento arena team. The mayor described the meeting, the latest of several with AEG, as productive. The mayor said it included discussion of AEG's potential role as arena operator, should the company sign on. "Sacramento deserves the best, and AEG represents exactly that," the mayor said in an email to The Bee. "Bringing on AEG would … guarantee our new entertainment and sports complex is developed and operated in truly world-class fashion."

The mayor's Think Big Sacramento committee has identified Los Angeles-based AEG – or a similar arena operating company – as a pivotal player that could provide tens of millions of dollars in upfront cash to launch the construction project. That company would be compensated later by arena revenues once it opens.

Such an arrangement would not be new to AEG. The company invested $53 million several years ago to help build the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. AEG now runs the building and keeps the profits. If profits exceed a certain threshold, the extra money is shared with the city.

Since the building opened in 2007, the city's share of the profits has totaled an estimated $6 million.

AEG is planning Farmers Field, a $1 billion-plus football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, where it also operates the Staples Center, home of the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams. The company is part-owner of ICON Venue Group, the arena development company that Sacramento city officials hope to hire to lead the arena construction team. The two companies frequently work together on stadium projects.

On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council will consider a proposal authorizing city officials to engage in exclusive negotiations with ICON and its local partner, developer David Taylor, to sign on as the city's arena development team, if an arena financing deal comes together.

The council also will be briefed on a city staff plan to spend $555,000 over the next six months on consultants to help them analyze the finances and legalities of an arena, and to help negotiate deals with the Sacramento Kings and the National Basketball Association.

The council will vote on a portion of that $555,000.

Some of the funds are unused money for city capital improvement projects, money that otherwise could be available for the city general fund, which pays for basic services such as police, parks and fire.

The Kings and the NBA have given Sacramento until March 1 to come up with an arena deal.

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