No one can accuse Vivek Ranadive, principal owner of the Sacramento Kings, of thinking small.
While his mission starts with putting a winning team on the court – which might be enough for many fans – his dreams for the city go way, way beyond that.
In a meeting Monday with The Sacramento Bee editorial board, he expounded on his vision for NBA 3.0 – and even for “Civilization 3.0,” the title of his forthcoming book.
Ranadive, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, said the new arena being built downtown will be the most technologically advanced ever. Fans who opt in will be “recognized” by the arena, directed to their seats and the shortest concession line and presented with special offers and information.
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Likewise, he envisions the surrounding mixed-use development as the “smartest block on the planet” – not just a collection of chain stores, but a gathering place for Sacramento that will be a model for what a 21st century city can be. He sees the controversial Jeff Koons sculpture, which he embraces, as only one piece in a public art collection that stretches across downtown.
He wants to make basketball the second most popular sport in his native India, and has already taken steps to making the Kings India’s favorite NBA team. In January, he was part of a delegation of corporate CEOs who went with President Barack Obama to India.
Yet even as he pursues this exciting global vision, he has some very important business closer to home.
That includes making sure taxpayers get a fair return on their investment of at least $255 million in the arena. It must be a good deal not just for the “whales” who bought into the team, but also for the minnows – the folks who are making the arena possible.
Much of the economic boost from the arena would come from the surrounding $500 million development. Ranadive and Kings President Chris Granger acknowledged the “chatter” that they may seek another city subsidy – which would be problematic – but said it’s too early in the budgeting process to know for sure.
Ranadive must also make good on a pledge to Natomas residents and business leaders that well before Sleep Train Arena is shuttered when the new arena opens in 2016, there is a smart and doable redevelopment plan. He promised to give the Natomas site the same care, thought and investment as downtown.
Some owners of sports teams are content with having guaranteed primo seats, getting fans’ adulation and making some money. Clearly, that isn’t enough for Ranadive – and that could be very good for Sacramento.
He wants to use the team, the arena and his own vision to propel Sacramento forward on its business climate, on education and more – to turn the city into a “hub of ideas.”
It’s a lot to take in, and turning dreams into reality isn’t always easy. But he says: “I’m not a guy who sees obstacles.” Given his track record, it would be foolish to bet against him.