Sacramento Mayor Johnson expects to meet arena deadline

02/10/2012 12:00 AM

02/26/2013 11:46 AM

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Thursday he's optimistic the city is on course to have an arena financing plan together before a March deadline – or will be close enough to prove to the NBA the city should keep its basketball team.

"I feel like the city can do its part, and then the negotiations will be between the (Kings team owners) Maloofs, the NBA and (arena operator) AEG."

Johnson said he was not concerned by the closeness of the most recent City Council vote on the issue Tuesday. A bare 5-4 council majority stopped an effort by several council members to put part of the still-evolving financing plan on the June ballot for voter approval.

Supporters of the ballot idea said voters should decide whether to turn downtown garage operations over to private companies in exchange for cash. Arena supporters argued a June vote would cause a delay that could kill Sacramento's chances of building an arena.

"Getting a favorable vote, whether you get it 9-0 or 5-4, it doesn't really matter," Johnson said. "It has said to the NBA that this council and this community are serious about keeping this team here."

Johnson made his comments at a ceremony in the downtown railyard, where he and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento hosted federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood lauded Sacramento officials for their efforts to develop the railyard. He did not comment on the arena issue. His California visit, he said, was focused on promoting high-speed rail. City officials want high-speed rail to connect with the arena, a transit center and other development in the railyard.

With three weeks to go before March, Johnson is shepherding what he calls a "game-changing" local financing concept – the plan to raise roughly $200 million by privatizing the city's downtown garages, parking meters and parking citation enforcement.

Thirteen private companies and investors have expressed formal interest in bidding on the contract. The city would put the $200 million up as the bulk of its share toward an estimated $400 million arena. The city might also sell property to invest in the deal.

City staff will ask the council next Tuesday for the OK to dive into deeper discussions with 10 of those firms. The council eventually will be asked to issue a request for proposals seeking formal bids from the leading private companies.

Negotiations meanwhile are under way among the city, the NBA, the Kings and other private companies on how to fill out the $400 million arena financing picture, Johnson said.

Johnson and other city officials have declined to comment on specific numbers, saying the negotiations are fluid.

"I can't give you any specifics at this time," Johnson said. "We are all throwing out concepts."

The NBA and Kings declined to comment this week on the status of those talks. NBA officials recently said they are holding to March 1 as the date they want to have a financing plan fleshed out. The Kings owners have said, however, they believe that deadline could be extended if a deal is close.

Johnson acknowledged media reports that Seattle officials have joined Anaheim in trying to lure the Kings to their respective cities, but said Sacramento has the upper hand.

"We get a chance to control our own destiny here," he said, "and if we just laser focus on our business, this will be the final resting place of the Sacramento Kings."

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