Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Ruling clears way for Sacramento to move on arena project

As they say in sports, that is just about the ballgame.

A tentative ruling Tuesday by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei effectively clears the last significant hurdle stalling the construction of a downtown arena that many hope will be a catalyst to reshape Sacramento’s urban core.

It’s highly unlikely that a final court ruling, possibly coming as early as today, would suddenly change course.

The city of Sacramento had argued in court that it needed to take possession of the abandoned Macy’s men’s store at the Downtown Plaza even though the purchase price for the building hasn’t been settled. If not, demolition could not begin in May and the arena could not open in the fall of 2016 as promised to the NBA.

Cadei agreed: “There is an overriding need for the city to possess the property prior to the issuance of a final judgment in the case, and the city will suffer a substantial hardship if the application for possession is denied or limited.”

It’s amazing to consider that it took Sacramento more than a decade to get to this point.

Assistant City Attorney Matthew Ruyak summed it up best Tuesday when he said: “This is a major milestone.”

Indeed, it’s a milestone for a city that was written off in the national press last year as it strained to prevent the most recognizable Sacramento business – the Kings – from moving to another city. It’s a milestone considering the list of failed arena projects too numerous to count before Cadei’s tentative ruling on Tuesday.

It’s a milestone for the politics of a city that was as unified and strategic in the last year as it was disjointed and befuddled before.

It’s a milestone for a downtown core with a centerpiece – Downtown Plaza – that had been allowed to rot and spread blight like a disease to surrounding blocks best avoided day or night.

It’s a milestone for Mayor Kevin Johnson, who struggled mightily amid petty politics to rally Sacramento behind a cause that was tailor-made for his talents of salesmanship and convincing very rich people to invest in his city.

It’s a milestone that alters an old image of Sacramento as a cowtown where nothing much happens amid endless studies and focus groups that lead to nowhere. Sacramento saved the Kings when most thought the team would go to Seattle. Sacramento fought off a Seattle billionaire’s campaign to throw the arena process into chaos by forcing a public vote on the issue when one wasn’t needed. Sacramento rid itself of the terrible former Kings owners and forged a partnership with a group of innovators eager to invest here.

This is a major milestone because there was no other plan to remake downtown and keep the Kings. This was it, the long shot that wasn’t supposed to happen – until it did.

But there is no time to celebrate because now comes the hard part: Making good on this promise once and for all.

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