Poll queries residents about arena parking surcharge

Published: Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

An opinion poll circulating this weekend asks Sacramento city residents whether they would support a $1 to $3 surcharge on out-of-town motorists who park in city garages when sports, concerts or other entertainment events are being held at a planned downtown arena.

The phone survey was paid for by several local businesses in conjunction with Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento organization, said Chris Lehane, Think Big executive.

A parking surcharge on non-city residents is not, however, part of the city's still-forming financing plan for a $387 million arena, a top city official said Saturday.

That plan is scheduled to be delivered to the City Council for review Feb. 28 – two days before an NBA-imposed deadline for a plan to be in place. City officials are working through the weekend on the financing plan, amid ongoing negotiations with the NBA.

If surcharges were to be included in the plan, they could help bump up revenues to finance the arena. It also would mean arena patrons from other cities and counties would be involved in helping financing what is considered a regional amenity. Most attendees at the current Kings arena in North Natomas live outside the city, team officials have said.

Assistant City Manager John Dangberg acknowledged that city officials have in the past talked about surcharges on all motorists at city garages, but said the city is not currently considering parking surcharges.

Instead, it has opened talks with Sacramento County officials about getting access at night and on weekends to 1,900 parking spaces in three county lots near the railyard arena site. That would allow more fans to park closer, Dangberg said, and would boost revenues for the arena financing plan.

County representatives could not be reached Saturday.

The city is proposing to raise the bulk of its share of arena costs by leasing seven city-owned downtown parking facilities to private operators in exchange for an estimated $200 million upfront cash payment. Eleven private companies are in talks with city officials about a potential deal.

By privatizing city downtown garages, however, the city would lose an estimated $9 million in annual parking revenue that currently goes to the city's main bank account, its general fund.

Revenues from the three county parking lots could be used to help plug that shortfall, officials familiar with the financing plan said.

The city also is contemplating selling up to $50 million of city land, including 100 acres at the Natomas arena site, to put into the deal.

Sources say the city has asked the NBA for an $85 million upfront cash contribution from the Kings, and is looking for another $50 million from entertainment conglomerate AEG for rights to operate the arena.

This weekend's phone poll also asks respondents if they believe the city is doing a good job managing its downtown parking facilities or whether the private sector could do a better job.

The poll seeks opinions on whether the city should move forward with soliciting formal bids from private companies for a contract.

One of the first poll questions appears to play up the possibility that the Kings could leave town, asking residents whether they think the city should fight to keep the Kings or to let them go to Seattle or Anaheim, two cities that have expressed interest in luring the team.

The Kings nearly signed a deal to move to Anaheim last year, but NBA officials persuaded team owners to give Sacramento until this March to devise a financing plan for a new arena.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Tony Bizjak

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