Three years ago Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson stood before reporters to say Arco Arena was such an unsuitable venue, the NCAA was bypassing the city as host for its annual men's basketball tournament.
Johnson used that decision to push city efforts to build a new sports arena. Yet as it turns out, the NCAA may have been fine with Sacramento all along.
Officials with the Sacramento Sports Commission and the NCAA told The Bee on Friday that the city has submitted a bid to host men's basketball tournament games in either 2014 or 2015. The city applied last month after it was included on a long list of cities informed by the NCAA that the bidding process had begun.
Even the city's inclusion on that list caught local sports officials off guard.
"We were delightfully surprised and we reacted immediately to the offer (to apply)," said John McCasey, the executive director of the sports commission.
Sacramento is one of about 60 cities to bid to host tournament games, an NCAA spokesman said. Of those, a combined 26 venues will be chosen to host games in 2014 and 2015. The NCAA plans to announce the hosts in November.
While Johnson and other city officials had created the impression that Sacramento stood no chance of hosting NCAA games after its bid was rejected in 2009, NCAA officials said that's not the case. In fact, Sacramento appears to meet the NCAA's criteria to host the event.
The city has an arena that seats at least 12,000 people. It has hotels to house teams, officials and media. And it has an airport.
"We would never have submitted a bid if we didn't think we could successfully host it," McCasey said.
Sacramento State has joined the bid and would act as the host school for the event. McCasey said officials with Power Balance Pavilion are also part of the bid process, but a spokesman with the Sacramento Kings did not respond to a request for comment.
Sacramento has hosted the men's basketball tournament at Power Balance Pavilion formerly Arco Arena four times since 1994. The NCAA last held tournament games here in 2007, an event that city officials said brought $4 million into the local economy.
David Worlock, an NCAA spokesman, said the organization has not determined that Power Balance Pavilion is an unsuitable venue to host tournament games.
"We've been in brand-spanking new arenas and arenas that are older," he said. "We've been in buildings that are used primarily for hockey and in 12,000-seat arenas in cities that are pretty small."
While small by NBA standards, Power Balance Pavilion seats 17,317 for basketball. And Sacramento is larger than some markets that have hosted recent men's basketball tournament games, including Greensboro, N.C., and Omaha, Neb.
"We want as many cities bidding as possible," Worlock said. "We do try to get as many different cities and arenas involved as possible. It's obviously very competitive."