With the cratering of a Kings arena deal, Mayor Kevin Johnson is looking elsewhere to jump-start downtown development, and understandably so.
But the latest venture by the mayor's Think Big Sacramento task force needs to be carefully handled if it is to become a success and a source of regional pride. The launch of its latest project on Monday, alas, does not bode well on either front.
The mayor announced Monday he has asked Think Big to examine marketing Sacramento as home to a major league ballpark, and has enlisted Kevin McClatchy, chairman of The McClatchy Co., owner of The Bee, to help in that effort.
Although Think Big says it is casting its net widely, its most obvious candidate would be the Oakland A's, a team that wants to leave Oakland but has been hitting roadblocks trying to move to San Jose.
Having another pro team in Sacramento would be a regional coup, but there is no indication the A's are interested in moving to Sacramento. The team said as much Monday.
Hosting the A's, or any other major league team, would also present complications. West Sacramento is home to Raley Field, which hosts the Sacramento River Cats, a Triple A team affiliated with the A's and the most valuable team in the minors. Under Major League Baseball rules, the A's would have the right to send the River Cats elsewhere if the A's moved here.
If the River Cats were forced to abandon Raley Field, taxpayers in West Sacramento, Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento would be on the hook for paying off remaining bond payments on the stadium. The Raley Field bondholders would make sure they got paid, which could throw all of these local governments into fiscal crisis.
Could Think Big attempt to lure a major league team to Sacramento other than the A's? It could, but again, the A's have some territorial rights here because of the River Cats. The A's and the Savage family, the owners of the River Cats, would surely want assurances their interests wouldn't be harmed.
What about expanding Raley Field to host the A's? Couldn't that be done?
Sure, anything is possible. But Think Big's press release Monday didn't mention West Sacramento. It listed the railyard as "an optimal MLB-ready location to maximize job creation and economic impact to downtown and the region."
Inexplicably, it appears that neither the mayor nor Think Big made much of an effort to reach out to West Sacramento or Yolo County leaders before unveiling their baseball plans.
In an interview with The Bee's editorial board, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said he was out of the country and only learned about the venture after receiving a phone message from Johnson on Sunday.
Cabaldon didn't mince words, calling the Think Big plan "a fool's errand" and a "distraction with no chance of a payoff."
"There is so much we could accomplish together if we worked together," said Cabaldon, who sits on Think Big's executive committee, a group that he said hasn't met in months. "The way it was done was a blow to regional diplomacy."
Cabaldon is right. There is much the city and region could accomplish if it worked together on the railyard a true regional asset whether it be recruiting prospective employers, building an entertainment district or luring a sports team. But to truly think big, the mayor and Think Big need to pursue projects that will unite the region, instead of dividing it.