If a sparkling new arena rises downtown and a major hospital springs from the old arena site in Natomas, it would be the very definition of a victory for Sacramento.
The site of Sleep Train Arena, set for demolition once a new downtown arena opens in the fall of 2016, would be one of the city’s largest redevelopment areas. A 2011 city staff report said the land – 100 acres the city is granting the Kings as part of the arena deal and 84 acres already controlled by the team – could be “ideal” for a major medical center. A hospital would provide good jobs and possibly offer more competition in the region’s health care market – both of which are badly needed.
City leaders are aggressively recruiting Kaiser Permanente to build it. The courtship became more public at the annual State of Natomas event Monday, when council members Angelique Ashby and Steve Cohn appealed to Kaiser Permanente officials. Ashby, who represents Natomas, said that she has met with Kaiser officials several times and told The Bee’s Ryan Lillis that she believes there’s “a very good chance” that a hospital will eventually be built at the Sleep Train site.
Officially, however, the medical giant isn’t anywhere close to committing. It does say that its existing Sacramento Medical Center in Arden Arcade must be upgraded to meet state earthquake safety standards, so it is exploring whether to retrofit it or to look into other options, including building a new hospital somewhere in the region.
However real it is, this proposal highlights how essential it is to finish reinforcing the levees to protect the Natomas basin from catastrophic flooding. Until that is complete, a building moratorium won’t be lifted – and any major construction will have to stay on the drawing board.
Local residents have done their part for the massive levee project, raising their own property taxes to help fund $410 million in upgrades along 18 miles. Another 24 miles of levee work, estimated to cost $600 million, has yet to be fully authorized and funded by the federal government. Thanks to the persistent efforts of local officials and members of Congress, the logjam has broken in Washington, D.C. Last October, Congress finally passed a new water projects bill that authorized the work to begin.
This glimmer of hope also serves as a reminder of the importance of not neglecting Natomas in all the excitement about the new arena. Redeveloping downtown is important, but so is making sure Natomas isn’t left in the lurch once Sleep Train Arena is imploded.
If a medical center isn’t in the cards, another positive project is necessary. The clock is ticking for city officials to focus on figuring out the best option available.