Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Survey tells only part of story on arena costs

It's becoming clear how Sacramento will try to raise the $387 million needed to build a new arena and keep the Kings from relocating to Anaheim.

On Thursday, the Sacramento City Council will get the findings of a survey showing favorable support for an entertainment complex in the downtown railyard.

But more important than data collected from roughly 700 respondents is that the survey provides a road map for how a deal might get done without direct taxes.

Respondents from Sacramento city and county – and El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties – were not asked if they would support taxes requiring a public vote. There appears to be little confidence that a countywide vote on a new tax could be won.

Instead, questions posed between July 18-21 by pollster Paul Maslin – commissioned by Mayor Kevin Johnson's arena task force – hinted at new taxes on hotel rooms. The survey also raised the prospect of a sales tax on goods sold within a new arena.

Personal seat licenses for the arena were mentioned, as well as a $2 fee on every ticket sold at the arena.

Despite the promotion of a regionwide approach for an arena, the survey questions reveal that the city of Sacramento will likely carry the financial responsibility of making an arena deal happen.

None of the questions indicated that Yolo, Placer or El Dorado counties would play a direct financing role.

Instead, respondents were asked if they supported the city of Sacramento contributing public land at or near the arena site to help with financing. They were also asked about "using the proceeds from the sale of land owned by the city of Sacramento outside of the arena site."

This could include city property in the downtown railyard and near the Crocker Art Museum, among other locations. The survey showed strong support for these methods, but a Bee story on Sunday generated more than 800 reader comments – some of them critical of the idea.

Other funding methods may include the construction of digital advertising signs around the arena, with the proceeds going to the debt service of the building.

A cellphone tower could be placed on the arena roof and leased for profit, as well as cellphone towers around the city.

How about collecting fees from city-owned parking lots for the arena? Or placing new billboards on publicly owned land along major freeways? Or leasing city-owned parking garages to private firms whose lease payments – at least in part – would go the arena? Or finding foreign investors for a Sacramento arena?

Maslin will tell council members that respondents in his survey strongly supported all the funding methods mentioned here.

But not mentioned were what the NBA and the Kings owners might contribute to an arena.

I predict that question will loom largest of all.

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