The Public Eye

Sacramento State graduation costs soar at new Kings arena

The Sacramento Kings more than tripled the amount they will charge Sacramento State for commencement at the new Golden 1 Center compared to their old home, according to a document obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

Last spring, the university paid $59,842 to hold seven spring graduation ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena.

Sacramento State’s new contract with the Kings Arena Limited Partnership asks the university to pay a base fee of $50,000 plus “additional charges” not listed in the contract to have graduation at Golden 1 Center. University officials estimate those charges, which include traffic management, camera operators, lighting and stagehands will add another $140,595 to the bill – for a total cost of $190,595.

“This is just a new reality for us,” said campus spokeswoman Elisa Smith. “I think we are just trying to make the best of it. We explored every option we could and tried to get the best venue, the best deal we could for our students and guests, and at the end of the day Golden 1 was the best choice for many reasons.”

A prepared statement from the Sacramento Kings organization said, “The costs associated with operating a state-of-the-art arena in the heart of downtown are simply more than previously at Sleep Train Arena in Natomas. Despite that, we were pleased to offer Sac State the flexibility to host multiple graduations while covering much of the incremental cost ourselves.”

Sacramento State last week signed a contract with the Kings, only 10 weeks before the May 19-20 ceremonies. Sacramento State provided a detailed cost breakdown from an internal Commencement Office document in response to a Public Records Act request filed by The Bee.

University officials haven’t determined yet which funds they will use to pay the commencement bill.

“We are looking to redirect funds earmarked for other projects,” Smith said. “We have to find close to $100,000 to pay for it.”

Graduation fees were increased by $13 – to $76.50 – in January in anticipation of increased cost and the move from the Sleep Train Arena, Smith said. But that still left the university short of $94,095, almost as much as the $96,500 the school budgeted for the ceremonies.

The additional costs are estimates that could change. The high cost of the venue could force Sacramento State to look at other sites for future commencements, she said.

“We have to look at other scenarios,” Smith said. “We are in a tough spot. It’s not feasible to have it (on campus).”

Sacramento State held commencement for years at Sleep Train Arena before it closed for good in December.

University officials explored alternative locations, including Cal Expo, Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento Convention Center and Raley Field, but they all yielded fewer guest seats than Golden 1 Center, Smith said.

It would have cost the university $217,000 to pay for labor and maintenance and to rent portable toilets to host graduation at Hornet Field on campus, Smith said.

The contract for Golden 1 Center was signed March 7 after five months of negotiations and mounting pressure from students frustrated that the university had yet to confirm a date or site for their big day.

Students were particularly upset about not knowing how many guests they could invite to their graduations. Initially, university officials told them 12, then six. Smith said that the Kings organization worked with the university to allow nine tickets per student.

“It did cost us more money,” she said.

The school’s December commencement marked the first time Sacramento State set a ticket limit. The policy change was a response to overcrowding at the prior commencement in May, when family members were turned away from the College of Health and Human Services ceremony because Sleep Train Arena had filled to capacity.

Besides Sacramento State, the Elk Grove Unified School District may have nine high school graduation ceremonies at the new arena May 22-24, although no contract has been signed.

“Our graduation ceremony tentative dates have been set and are pending the receipt of the contract and the final approval of the board,” said district spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton in an email.

No board vote has been scheduled yet, she said.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

Sacramento State commencement costs

The Sacramento Kings will charge the university an estimated $190,595 to host commencement at the new Golden 1 Center:

  • Arena rental May 18 for set-up: $10,000
  • Arena rental May 19-20 for ceremonies: $40,000
  • Arena staff (two days): $82,064
  • Transportation plan (two days): $20,302
  • Videoboard operators: $11,028
  • Camera operators: $5,907
  • Hardwire internet service: $600
  • Union stagehands: $7,469
  • Production equipment: $13,226

Source: Sacramento State