Under a lot of sunshine and with just as much pomp, a line of bigwigs last week planted shovels into what used to be the middle of Downtown Plaza. After years of trying, this was the official groundbreaking of a new NBA arena.
Just an hour or two later, former President Bill Clinton took the stage of ARC Pavilion at UC Davis, stumping for Democratic political candidates in front of 4,500 people.
And as Clinton finished his speech, students from professor Tim Howard’s Communications 158 class sat outside Del Norte Hall at Sac State and wondered: “Why not us?”
“We’re sitting here at a university in the capital of California, and we don’t have a place big enough for those events,” said senior Ben Terry, a public relations major.
Terry and his classmates took on a project this fall: running a campaign to persuade the student body to approve a $219-per-semester fee to fund a new $125 million arena on campus. Students will vote on the proposal Dec. 2 and 3.
There are plenty of reasons some students will vote against the fee hike. If it passes, the mandatory campus fees placed on students at Sac State will be the sixth-highest of any university in the CSU system. The extra fee will amount to a 6 percent increase in cost for the average student. And the fee will go up every year to reflect inflation.
And then there’s the issue of who will get to enjoy the arena. This year’s freshman class may still be in school when the doors open. But most of the students voting on the fee won’t get to walk through the arena’s doors until after they’ve graduated.
The budding public relations reps and political minds in Howard’s class have a reason or two for the arena to be approved. They said that while the 5,000-seat arena would serve as the new home for the basketball and volleyball programs, just 20 percent of the events at the facility will be sports-related. The rest would be speeches, concerts and class events. And they’d hold graduation on campus instead of at Sleep Train Arena.
Kate Baskins sees the arena as an important step in the development of a community at Sac State, historically a commuter school. The facility would stand next to The Well, a fitness and health center that students voted to fund in 2004. “It would be a hub for students and the center of campus,” she said.
They’re trying to create that kind of hub with the downtown arena. City officials were relieved when a judge tossed out a ballot measure that could have forced a vote on the arena plan. Baskins, Terry and their classmates don’t seem bothered by the prospect of a vote at Sac State.
“We don’t want to say, ‘Here’s a $219 increase, have fun,’” Terry said. “We want to make sure people really want this.”