Kings installing flurry of digital billboards promoting team on Sacramento freeways

The Sacramento Kings are constructing six billboards along freeways at city entrances.
The Sacramento Kings are constructing six billboards along freeways at city entrances. City of Sacramento

The Sacramento Kings have moved quickly in recent months to erect an ambitious network of digital signs at key freeway entrances to the city to promote their team brand and their new downtown arena.

The team has built four digital signboards since September and has applications pending with the city for two more. The aggressive billboard program fulfills one of the more controversial elements of the 2014 deal between the city and the Kings to build the $558 million Golden 1 Center downtown.

As part of that deal, the city agreed to help finance the arena and to allow the Kings to build up to six digital signboards on city land, rent-free, essentially doubling the number of digital signboards in the city limits.

Kings officials, working with Marquee Media Solutions of Roseville, said they intend to use the signs to advertise events happening in and around the arena, as well as to promote the team’s business partners and to sell advertising to other companies.

A Kings digital sign recently went up along Highway 99 in south Sacramento on West Stockton Boulevard. The team also erected a sign at Del Paso Regional Park next to the Capital City Freeway. Another sign went up along Interstate 5 in Natomas just north of the Westlake neighborhood, and a fourth sign sits near the Pioneer Bridge in downtown.

The team has filed an application for a fifth sign along I-5 north of Old Sacramento at the railyard.

It also is proposing a sixth sign along I-5 next to the city water tank in south Sacramento. The city initially nixed that site after residents complained of potential light pollution. The team recently submitted a new proposal for a shorter sign that would only display advertising on its south side, the one pointing away from the residential area next door.

City officials said they will send notices to area residents to allow them to comment. The request will go to the City Council for approval.

A group of arena deal critics sued the city two years ago, calling the billboard rights a secret deal sweetener. A Sacramento court judge rejected that lawsuit, noting that the city repeatedly referenced the billboard arrangement in deal documents, and was not obligated to estimate the potential dollar value the billboards would bring to the Kings.

At the time of the initial deal, in 2013, the city was receiving $180,000 annual rent from other city-owned sites for billboards operated by another advertising company. Extrapolating from that, the city might have been able to obtain $1 million annually if it were to rent the sites to the Kings. The value of an individual billboard may, however, be reduced as more billboards are constructed in the area, city officials say.

Kings representatives point out that the billboards will be running promotional information about the city, local charities and nonprofits, as well as money-making advertisements. Marquee Media Solutions will operate the billboards for the team.

“We’re excited to continue to grow our role promoting Sacramento to the region and the millions of travelers who pass through our city,” Kings President Chris Granger said in a recent press release.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak