Marcos Breton: Sacramento's poised to take bold steps on arena

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Sometimes it takes an out-of-towner to help you see your city more clearly.

On Tuesday, in a speech before Sacramento's business and political leaders, the CEO of the San Francisco Giants did that for me. As Larry Baer spoke at Memorial Auditorium, a sense of pessimism endemic to Sacramento began to fade.

The many obstacles facing efforts to build a downtown arena suddenly seemed less daunting than they have.

Yes. San Francisco built its downtown stadium with private money that Sacramento doesn't have, but that doesn't matter.

Yes. The Kings ownership tried to leave town and has let the on-court product go to pot for several years. But that doesn't matter, either.

Yes. The Giants built AT&T Park during the prosperity of the late 1990s that's a far cry from today's double-digit percentage unemployment in Sacramento.

Who cares?

What matters is the will of a community to do something big amid the obstacles, the opposition and the reasonable voices who say it cannot be done.

That's the case in Sacramento today as it was in San Francisco not too long ago.

In 1992, the Giants had a deal to move to Florida until Baer called Peter Magowan, then the CEO of Safeway, and persuaded him to try to stop the move.

It was a private-sector version of what Mayor Kevin Johnson did last April, when he persuaded the NBA to give Sacramento one more year to make an arena deal work.

Listening to Baer on Tuesday were business leaders in Sacramento who don't have the cash that the Giants owners have, but who are cooperating for the first time.

It's easy to throw stones at the local effort just as it's easy now – when AT&T Park is a smashing success – to forget that many San Francisco factions were against the ballpark even though it was privately financed.

Admittedly, it's hard to see how the misfortunes of the Kings can change with the current ownership. Despite strong public support and increased attendance at the former Arco Arena, the Kings' dismal on-court performance reflects an ownership group paying the minimum in player salaries and saying as little as possible with respect to staying in Sacramento.

There is no comparison between them and the Giants owners.

But Baer faced the same situation in San Francisco with previous Giants owners who weren't just talking about moving away – they were gone until Baer and Magowan stepped in.

The political will to do something similar – to do something big – is in place in Sacramento.

When Baer finished his speech on Tuesday, I sensed a feeling too often missing in the capital city – optimism.

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