Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: On arena issue, Bee is out front, in-depth

Published: Sunday, Mar. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1E
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 4, 2012 - 11:55 am

It's been a "Groundhog Day" cycle since the late 1990s as Sacramentans have debated, promoted and ultimately killed multiple proposals to build a new sports and entertainment arena to replace the aging arena in Natomas.

Remember all of them? First it was going to go in the downtown railyard, then Natomas, the K Street mall, Cal Expo and now, again, as a project to jump-start development of the railyard.

If you troll Bee archives you see a litany of headlines about the death of a deal, coverage of the failed sales tax initiative, and political involvement ranging from two mayors to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and former Gov. Pete Wilson. Even former Sheriff Lou Blanas and developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos were involved.

Many questions remain about the agreement reached last week between the city, the NBA and the Maloof family-owned Kings. Yet at this point, for Bee reporters Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis – along with their editor, Mary Lynne Vellinga – their reporting is informed by years of research.

These four, along with columnists Ailene Voisin, Marcos Breton and a handful of other reporters, have traveled to cities including Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Mo., Memphis, Tenn., San Antonio, Houston, Salt Lake City and, more recently, Anaheim, New York, Seattle and Orlando, Fla., as they either reported the news or researched economic impact and financing of stadiums.

From that coverage we've reported that a new arena "does have (business) impact right around it on the ground usually," said Vellinga, The Bee's business editor. But "in terms of broader economic impact, it just moves dollars around; it doesn't create a net economic effect."

We've explained why it's more difficult to finance arenas in California than in many other states and offered analysis after analysis of the various financing mechanisms.

And we've given you the story first.

The arena is one of the most important local stories for us to cover this year. If the arena moves forward, it will do so because of a decision to commit significant public resources to make it happen, with the hope it becomes a catalyst for railyard development. If it doesn't, it will stir considerable disappointment in parts of the community and affect the region in less tangible ways.

"It is a really important issue for the community and we have to make sure we are following it carefully and holding elected officials accountable and team officials accountable," said Deborah Anderluh, senior editor for Page A1. "It's not just a financial issue, it's a cultural issue, too."

Last weekend Bee City Hall reporter Lillis reported from Orlando to keep you abreast of negotiations to reach an arena deal before Thursday's deadline.

From the emails, letters, online comments and other reaction we've seen, community interest is huge. On Monday, a deal was reached just in time for a scheduled online chat with Breton and Kasler. More than 2,300 of you joined that chat, asking questions and offering opinion, and we reprinted a short version in Tuesday's newspaper. Generally chats have hundreds of participants, not thousands.

Many of you want details. Ardent opponents email us regularly, asking that The Bee step up its watchdog work. Now that we have real details to analyze – a "term sheet" with agreed-upon numbers was revised only last Wednesday and made publicly available for the first time Thursday – we're providing that analysis. On Page A1 today, for instance, Bizjak examines the millions of dollars and detailed work that needs to be done on the railyard before an arena can open.

But let's be clear: Even with a year of work done on this latest deal, our region is in the early days of the arena process. The City Council will vote Tuesday, but if it votes in favor, that vote will be an agreement to a nonbinding list of terms, not a legally binding contract.

I know many of you have questions about the deal. So do we – and we'll be working to get the answers.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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