It's time to say thank you and goodbye to the Sacramento Sports Commission.
Over nearly a quarter-century, it has brought some big-time events to the region. But its finances are a mess and it has no realistic path to repay the $400,000 to the city and $150,000 to Sacramento County that it borrowed to host the World Masters Athletics Championships in July 2011.
This evening, the City Council should approve a plan to reassign the commission's duties to the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bureau is already doing some work in sports and its finances are much more stable. Bureaus in many other cities successfully handle sports marketing and event management. This shift is the only way for taxpayers to get their money back.
The death knell for the commission came in an audit, received by council members in September, of the nonprofit foundation formed by the commission to administer the events it recruits. City Auditor Jorge Oseguera found that the foundation had diverted some of the city money for other expenses, that it had run deficits for the past five years and that it had more than $1 million in liabilities, not counting the loans.
Under the plan proposed by a task force of city and county officials and endorsed by City Manager John Shirey, the city would sign a 10-year contract with the Convention & Visitors Bureau, which would get $141,600 a year, collected from hotel room taxes, that now goes to the sports commission. In return, the visitors bureau would reimburse the $400,000 owed to the city by May 1, 2017.
There would be another important benefit for the public. The visitors bureau's books on sports marketing would be more transparent; it would have to report to the city how it spent the money, unlike the sports commission.
Sacramento County supervisors are to sign off in January on the plan, which is supported by sports commission Executive Director John McCasey.
It's unfortunate that the final chapters in the commission's history will apparently be its failure to repay the loans and its failure to make it past the first round of consideration to host the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2014 or 2015.
Yet, its earlier accomplishments shouldn't be forgotten: the Olympic track and field trials, the Amgen bike tour and several college championships a total of nearly 50 events since 1995 with an estimated economic impact of nearly $70 million.
Sacramento is still a sports city that ought to continue hosting major events. But that ambition has to be cultivated in a way that protects taxpayers and gets the most return on their investment.