Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, hugs San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer before Baer's speech Tuesday in Sacramento.

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'Don't give up' on new arena, Giants CEO Baer advises Sacramento

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 - 12:59 pm

Giants President and CEO Larry Baer has this message for those trying to build a new downtown sports arena in Sacramento: "Don't give up."

Baer gave the keynote speech Tuesday at the Downtown Sacramento Partnership's State of Downtown breakfast at Memorial Auditorium. Addressing a crowd that included downtown backers, developers and politicians, he noted that the Giants organization tried multiple times to build its new ballpark before opening AT&T Park in 2000. Throughout those attempts, the franchise threatened to move twice and voters turned down four funding proposals.

"It can be done, don't give up," Baer said. "You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector."

While the struggles of both cities to build stadiums are similar, San Francisco's situation is different from Sacramento's in many ways.

Most notably, AT&T Park was one of the first ballparks in decades built without significant public financing (publicly funded improvements to nearby infrastructure have taken place and the Giants received a $10 million tax abatement from the city of San Francisco).

Sacramento leaders are counting on an estimated $200 million upfront payment for their project from the leasing of city-owned parking operations. Most of the remaining funding for the $387 million deal is expected to include contributions from the Sacramento Kings, NBA and arena operator AEG.

Baer said the success of AT&T Park extends beyond the stadium.

Housing, restaurants and offices have sprung up in the past decade in the once desolate area of San Francisco near the stadium. Baer and his ownership group are also proposing a nearby housing and office project, which may include an arena suitable for an NBA team.

"If you can get (an arena) started, there will be a ripple effect, there will be a domino effect," Baer said.

That's what Sacramento leaders are hoping for out of a new arena in the vacant downtown railyard.

"We have a chance to make our downtown a destination for the entire region," Mayor Kevin Johnson said.

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