No one should fault Sacramento city and business leaders for spending a little time basking in the satisfaction of having finally won the long-awaited approval of a new downtown arena.
As they know, city officials and owners of the Kings basketball team that will occupy the arena starting in 2016 have their work cut out.
The city must make sure that its $255 million contribution to the project pays off, and that it doesn’t get overextended. The Kings ownership must make sure the arena gets built as promised by 2016, while minimizing disruption during construction.
But the deal involves much more than the arena. The region’s economy won’t rise or fall on the success of the Kings. But the implied promise of the $477 million arena is that Sacramento’s underutilized downtown core will be transformed for the good.
Kings executives and city officials cannot control what individual landowners do with their property. But downtown landowners should seize the opportunity by offering smart proposals for new housing, retail and office space.
Most prominent among the landowners is the California Public Employees Retirement System, the massive pension fund that owns the hole in the ground at the western entrance of downtown, a few blocks from what will be the new arena. CalPERS needs to make public some plan for the block at Third and Capitol.
Part of the promise, too, is that the arena will employ people in the region, including workers who have had hard times finding jobs. Similarly, the Kings must continue to be an important part of the community, particularly in the schools.
Team President Chris Granger and the ownership group have shown themselves to be accessible. That policy served them well and should continue. To that end, Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Kings have established what they call Sacramento First Community Advisory Council, made up of political, civic and labor leaders, to ensure that the development “achieves transformative economic and community impact for the Sacramento region.” The goal is laudable.
Johnson, council members, City Manager John Shirey and Assistant City Manager John Dangberg understandably have been focused on the arena. They deserve credit for fighting to keep the National Basketball Association franchise in Sacramento, and for negotiating the arena deal.
The arena deal includes six digital billboards. The city was right not to throw out its billboard policy altogether, just bend it to allow these electronic signs on city-owned land near freeways.
Now, city officials must do whatever they can to limit future digital billboards. They also should be mindful of the impact these six signs can have on residents and motorists.
We want this deal to pencil out for the city and the Kings, but not by turning Sacramento into a garishly lit urban landscape like Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
As The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak have detailed in their many reports, the arena was more than a decade in the making. It is cause for celebration, rightfully so. What counts now is how it all comes together.