Marcos Bretón

Are private players already lining up to help make Sacramento a ‘destination city?’

Sacramento is moving forward to renovate its convention center, pictured here near K and 13th streets in 2013.
Sacramento is moving forward to renovate its convention center, pictured here near K and 13th streets in 2013. Renee C. Byer

A major renovation of the Sacramento Convention Center has gotten a lot of attention this week, but there is an even larger, behind-the-scenes play to bolster the capital as a destination city that’s in the works.

Opinion

An improved convention center is important, but even more important is that some in Sacramento are contemplating bigger things than conventions to bring money and people to town.

They see Sacramento becoming a prime venue for music festivals and concerts that attract millennials by the hundreds of thousands. They see Sacramento finally activating its sleepy riverfront. They see art, food, wine and beer as magnets drawing people into a state capital that still needs to be seen with new eyes by tourists from across California.

And they see the possibility of private companies like the Kings playing a much larger role in the marketing and promotion of Sacramento.

Imagine this: What if the Kings – in partnership with Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the world, and SMG, one of the largest convention-venue management companies in the world – were hired to market and promote concerts, conventions, music festivals, arts festivals and other prime events in town?

Live Nation and the Kings already are bringing major music acts to Sacramento at Golden 1 Center with great success. If Sacramento contracted those two entities to expand on their partnership, to market and promote events at the city-owned Community Center Theater and Memorial Auditorium, the possibilities are intriguing.

They are intriguing enough for Sacramento officials to be quietly studying the idea of having these three powerhouse private players potentially assume large roles in the promotion of Sacramento as a destination.

“The real story here is that it took (Mayor Darrell Steinberg) to find a (way) for Sacramento to try to be better,” said Barry Broome, executive director Greater Sacramento Economic Council.

It was Steinberg who talked to the city into a more modest enhancement of the convention center, one that would leave enough money for the city to create a special fund to bolster other civic amenities.

The “Destination Sacramento” fund would set aside $22 million to invest in projects such as making the riverfront more accessible or giving Old Sacramento a facelift. Steinberg said he believed the fund could include another $20 million or more through other funding sources, including naming rights for the convention center.

“In Sacramento, we typically do one big thing at a time,” Steinberg said. “I think the message here is we want to do many things at a time.”

In that spirit, Steinberg and other officials are looking at partnering with the Kings, Live Nation and SMG to potentially take over some duties that previously were handled by the city.

“We haven’t made a decision yet or any recommendations,” Steinberg said.“I want to make sure we do right by hard working people and at the same time we fully maximize our potential to utilize these incredible cultural and entrainment assets.”

Steinberg said he might be ready to make some decisions on partnering with these organizations in “a few weeks.”

Broome said private investment is key to Sacramento’s future. He said Sacramento’s convention business never fully recovered from the economic downturn and has seen a 30 percent decrease in the past five years.

Meanwhile, cities such as Indianapolis have become major players.

“The future of visitation in this community is not conventions,” Broome said. “We think our city and our region could become a real center of excellence for music. If we have the Kings and Live Nation running our visitation platform, and if that performs the way Golden 1 does, then we get a measure that helps us develop the river. By 2020, the brand and reputation of this community can finally be elevated to where it deserves.”

Marcos Bretón: 916-321-1096, @MarcosBreton

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