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Serious talks about new Sacramento arena begin today in Dallas

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 - 7:29 am

Sacramento's arena talks kick off today, as officials with the city, the NBA, development group ICON/Taylor and arena operator Anschutz Entertainment Group meet in Dallas to discuss the particulars of how to build a new sports facility in the downtown railyard.

According to a memo written by City Manager John Shirey, the parties will have a "preliminary technical discussion."

"Following this discussion, we will lay out the process and timeline that formal discussions and negotiations will take place," Shirey wrote. "Our collective goal is to reach a definitive financing plan by the end of the year."

One party that won't be included in today's talks is the Sacramento Kings, who would likely be tenants in the new facility.

"We've decided to let the NBA take the lead on this, but we are in very close contact with the league and are briefed regularly when new updates are available," said team spokesman Chris Clark.

Kings co-owner George Maloof, asked about the Dallas meeting, said, "We weren't invited."

"They're going to meet and they're going to get back to us," he said. "That's been the process. It's a little strange, but we're anxiously awaiting what they have."

He said the city and the developers have been extremely busy and "we've left them alone," adding that the Kings' owners have not been approached with a proposed annual rental fee.

"Nobody's put a number down," he said.

Leading the National Basketball Association's negotiating team is Clay Bennett, the owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bennett also led an NBA contingent to Sacramento earlier this year; it helped persuade the league to keep the Kings in town for another season while an arena project was developed.

The sides will meet in Dallas because it is a "middle location that works for all parties, including Clay Bennett," said Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The role of Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG, in the talks is also noteworthy. The firm invested $53 million in the construction of Kansas City's Sprint Center. It operates the facility, keeping the profits; if profits exceed a certain threshold, the revenue is shared with the city.

Sacramento officials have been in talks with AEG for weeks about the firm's interest in a project here. An AEG spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

City officials said they were eager to begin the arena negotiations.

"The sooner we begin meetings with the NBA, the better," Councilman Rob Fong said in an emailed statement.

Johnson said "the fundamental approach being taken by Sacramento's team will be to put taxpayers first when it comes to reaching an agreement that will represent a real return on the public investment, defined as jobs and economic development."

Meanwhile, Shirey has also put together the team of outside advisers that will help the city evaluate a menu of financing options for the $387 million project.

One of the most significant funding options being discussed is the leasing of city-owned parking garages and spaces.

Acting as the chief consultant on that issue will be Walker Parking, a company with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and several other U.S. cities. According to Walker's website, it is the "largest parking consulting and design firm" in the country.

The city's negotiating team throughout the arena talks will be made up of Johnson, Fong, Shirey, Councilman Steve Cohn, Assistant City Manager John Dangberg, City Attorney Eileen Teichert, finance consultant Dan Barrett and attorney Paul Jacobs.

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