All the buzz and excitement about the glittering Golden 1 Center and downtown development is great for Sacramento.
But it would be tarnished if the old Sleep Train Arena is allowed to languish – and Natomas with it.
It’s up to new Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the City Council and the Sacramento Kings to make sure that doesn’t happen. They all say they’re committed and there are lots of great ideas for redeveloping the site, but there are no definite plans yet.
The city gave Sleep Train to the Kings, along with the 185-acre site, as part of the Golden 1 financing deal. The 28-year-old arena in Natomas seems likely to be demolished; if not, it can’t be used for events that would compete with Golden 1.
At a community meeting Wednesday night, Kings President Chris Granger said that finding the right project is more important than getting one right now. “It’s a long process, and I think the key for us is to do it correctly,” he said. “We want to do something that celebrates the best of Sacramento, moves the city forward, and we’re not just going to take the first deal that falls in our lap.”
That’s a smart approach, but the clock is ticking. And the Kings had pledged in early 2015 that shovels would be in the ground in Natomas by the time the new arena opened in October.
The team has promised a “transformative” mixed-use project, as opposed to yet another auto mall or humdrum housing development that residents don’t want and the region doesn’t need.
Early on, there was talk of a major medical center. But that has died down with Kaiser Permanente’s plans to put a hospital in the downtown railyard. Steinberg says he’d like to see a technology park that creates high-wage jobs.
Regional Transit recently agreed to consider putting a future light-rail line and a station on the land. That should help make the site more attractive to developers.
While it’s important for Sacramento and the region that the central city become a thriving place to live and work, Natomas can’t be left behind and can’t afford to have a big eyesore. After all, it is home to about 100,000 of Sacramento’s 490,000 residents, and the region could use another jobs center close to where people already live.
The doors will shut for good on Sleep Train after Sacramento State has its commencement there Friday and Saturday. The site needs a new life sooner rather than later.