Mayor Kevin Johnson laments delay in soliciting bids for downtown parking

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2B

Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday he was concerned that a decision by city officials to delay soliciting interest from the private sector in taking over downtown parking operations could "send a message to the NBA that something is not quite on track" with the city's bid to finance a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson told The Bee's editorial board that he was not consulted by City Manager John Shirey's office before the decision was made a few weeks ago to push back the release of a request for qualifications from Dec. 22 until Monday. And he said he disagreed with the decision.

City officials are counting on generating as much as $200 million in upfront cash for the $387 million arena by leasing downtown parking spaces, garages and enforcement to a private company.

The mayor said the NBA is already "not overly confident" that the city will put together a financing plan for the arena before March 1. The NBA has given the city until that day to have a plan or risk losing the Sacramento Kings.

Delaying the request for qualifications could send a message to the NBA that "maybe things haven't changed in Sacramento," the mayor said, referring to the city's past failed attempts at building a new facility.

"I've been preaching, 'Beat the (March 1) deadline for a year," he said. "Now I'm praying we'll meet the deadline."

Still, the mayor remains confident that the project will get done, saying his gut feeling is that city officials are within $50 million of the project's overall cost, after contributions from the private sector are added to the equation.

"If we can get it close enough, we can figure out a way to get the deal done," he said.

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