City Beat

Sports Basement to buy downtown Sacramento building, open store next summer

Downtown Sacramento has finally landed a major retailer that city officials and business leaders have been after for years.

The city has reached a deal to buy a vacant building at 730 I St. for $5.4 million and then immediately sell the property to Bay Area-based retailer Sports Basement for the same price, officials announced Thursday. The City Council is expected to approve the deal at its meeting on Tuesday.

If approved, the new Sports Basement could be open by next summer.

Sacramento County owns the site and is also expected Tuesday to agree to sell the building to the city. The county and city have been in negotiations since last month.

The county has owned the 70,000-square-foot building since 1996. Sports Basement agreed to buy the property from the county in 2011 for $4.5 million, but that deal later fell apart.

The city is buying the property from the county because Sacramento code permits the city to sell a property without accepting multiple bids if the deal is found to be in the best interest of the city, according to Leslie Fritzsche, an economic development manager with the city.

“Sports Basement was sought after by many different places in the region,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the central city. “This is definitely a positive sign for the revitalization of downtown Sacramento.”

Besides the Macy’s at Downtown Plaza, the area has very few national retailers. Michael Ault, head of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said landing Sports Basement “will send a great message to those interested in investing in this market.”

“It will be a draw from a regional standpoint,” he said. “Cultural amenities are what will make this district evolve into a real destination.”

According to a city staff report, Sports Basement plans to spend $5.5 million renovating the building and another $1 million in “startup capital,” city officials said.

Sports Basement plans to hire 60 permanent employees at the store and open up by the summer of 2015, according to city documents. Sports Basement sells all types of sporting goods and outdoor gear. The chain operates six stores in the Bay Area.

A spokeswoman for the store did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The building – a former Bank of America branch and temporary city office – stands roughly two blocks from the site of a new sports arena under construction at Downtown Plaza. It’s also along “an under-utilized thoroughfare that people have traditionally just used to build up speed to jump on I-5,” Ault said.

Sports Basement is planning to use a parking lot adjacent to the building for athletic demonstrations and will use its store for community events, Ault said.

“Bringing life back to some of these dead parts of downtown is absolutely what we need,” Hansen said.

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