The lead owner of the Sacramento Kings promised Monday that the team won’t forget about its current home in Natomas after it moves downtown next year.
With city officials anxious about Natomas’ post-Kings future, Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive said the team expects to have a vision for the neighborhood by December. “We’re hoping that by the end of the year, we’ll have chosen a path,” Ranadive said in an interview with Sacramento Bee reporters and editors.
Following a briefing by Kings officials last month, members of the City Council said they didn’t believe the Kings were moving swiftly enough to redevelop Sleep Train Arena and the area around it. “I don’t want to wait until 2016 and the team is gone ... before we have a plan,” said Councilwoman Angelique Ashby at the Feb. 24 council meeting. “That is unacceptable.”
Ranadive and Kings President Chris Granger said the team isn’t dragging its feet on a plan for redeveloping Natomas, the team’s home since it relocated from Kansas City in 1985.
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“We’re going to give it the same care and thought and investment that we are giving to the downtown,” Ranadive said.
Granger said “it’s in our best economic interest to have a plan sooner than later. This isn’t something that we’re just putting on the back burner.”
The team has its hands full with construction of the new arena and a next-door hotel at Downtown Plaza, Granger said. Nonetheless, he said, “We have every intention of moving (Natomas redevelopment) forward in a thoughtful and meaningful way as quickly as we can.”
The team owns 84 acres surrounding Sleep Train and will receive an additional 100 acres of city-owned land adjacent to the arena, as part of the city’s $255 million public subsidy for the new arena under construction at Downtown Plaza. The $477 million arena and the adjacent hotel are scheduled to open in October 2016.
Team officials have said preliminary ideas for the Natomas site include a hospital or medical complex, a higher-education campus or a corporate technology park. Ranadive would only say: “We have some big ambitions for that area. We are looking at a couple of possibilities. ... We are having confidential conversations.”
Under the Kings’ agreement with the city, they can’t keep Sleep Train operating as an arena in competition with the new downtown building.
Granger said the Kings hope to provide the City Council with an update in late summer or early fall about the Natomas plans.
Groundbreaking on the new arena took place last October, and the first steel columns and beams were installed in early March. As for the hotel, Granger said, “We’re already prepping. Obviously, the demolition is done and the foundational work has begun already. I would expect more earnest groundbreaking within the next four weeks or so.”
The 16-story hotel, to be located immediately north of the arena, will include 250 rooms and 69 condo units, plus office and retail space. The Kings and their development partner, JMA Ventures, also plan to overhaul much of the western half of Downtown Plaza, which is still in business.
Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.