Business & Real Estate

Kings launch plans to build at old Arco Arena site. What exactly? That’s still uncertain

See this bird’s-eye view of Sleep Train Arena

Watch drone video of Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas, taken in September 2017.
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Watch drone video of Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas, taken in September 2017.

Three years after they moved downtown, the Sacramento Kings are expected to take a key step Thursday toward finally fulfilling their promise to redevelop the largely unused Sleep Train Arena site.

The team said it is filing an application with the city to rezone the massive 183-acre site for a variety of potential uses – one of which could be a zoo, which is an idea Sacramento Zoo officials recently floated for the site.

The Kings’ application does not offer details about what may go on the site, but includes zoning for the possibility of 1.2 million square feet of commercial and retail, as well as employment or office sites, and notably, up to 2,000 housing units.

The team hopes to conduct what likely will be a yearlong environmental review process, and have the land ready for development this time next year. That will make the site easier to pitch as “shovel ready” to tenants or buyers, they said.

“This flexible master entitlement plan represents an important step in the process towards entitling the Natomas site to attract an end user that supports our region,” the team’s chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis said in a press statement.

“We have collected feedback from city leaders, stakeholders and interested parties to develop a dynamic plan that is capable of adapting to a broad range of opportunities. We look forward to continuing to develop this plan in coordination with the community and city leaders.”

Natomas Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who has pushed the team to do something big at the site, with a focus on high-paying jobs, said this week she has been briefed, but has not seen the Kings’ plans, and will expect the community to have questions.

“It’s a concern to me that it does include so much (potential for) housing,” Ashby said. “That is not what I believe their interest was for that space.”

“But it is encouraging to have the dial move forward, and to have a proposal to work with.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg expressed an interest in working with the Kings and others on getting on the site’s development focus.

“What I like is that we’re going to start making some decisions about this important piece of land in our city,” he wrote in a text. “I want to help all the competing interests find a great solution.”

The site is huge, about the size of 80 downtown blocks, and likely will be built in phases over years. The Kings basketball team played there from 1988 to 2016, before moving to Golden 1 Center arena in 2016.

Kings officials in 2015 said they were receiving project and concept proposals from would-be developers, but were turning them down, saying none represented the type of cutting-edge concept the Kings and Natomas leaders are looking for.

“We are going to say no 10 times before we say yes to something,” then-Kings President Chris Granger said in 2015. “Our shared goal is to do something that makes a difference. That happens with high-value jobs, with something that is reflective of our region’s strength.”

The site has been discussed for a variety of repurposing projects, including a major medical campus or hospital, a corporation or high-tech campus, or a higher education campus, as well as mixed-use development.

Ashby and others at the city tried to woo Kaiser Permanente several years ago to build a new medical complex there. The health care company instead chose the downtown railyard as its upcoming Sacramento expansion site.

The city earlier this year unsuccessfully pitched the site to Amazon as a landing spot for its coveted HQ2, or second national headquarters, site.

Earlier this week, Sacramento Zoo officials said they would like to explore moving the zoo to the Sleep Train Arena site. The zoning application the Kings are submitting to the city allows for that type of use on a portion of the project site, but Kings officials had said they have had no contact with zoo leaders.

Team officials declined this week to say whether they are in talks with any potential builders or tenants.

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