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Editorial: Public input will strengthen Sacramento arena project

The planned downtown arena, a once-in-a-generation project for Sacramento, has to be done right. The public would own it, but it needs to really own it.

That only happens if there’s participation all the way through, as the city is promising.

On Tuesday, the City Council is to look over goals, based on community input so far, to guide the arena’s design, construction and operation. The principles include building a facility that is energy-efficient, transit-friendly and the country’s most technologically advanced. Another is to create a year-round entertainment and sports district that is uniquely Sacramento and that strengthens the rest of downtown. Lest we forget, there’s finding the right re-use of the Sleep Train Arena site in Natomas.

The wish list sounds good, but it all comes down to the execution. Will the public be heard when the details get controversial?

The track record so far has raised a few doubts.

While the Kings promised public input into the arena’s design, the team’s majority owner, Vivek Ranadive, announced a concept before the community outreach actually happened.

After we pointed that out in late September, the Kings and city jointly invited the public to a series of events. More than 6,000 people completed an online survey, four focus groups met (each with 20 to 30 attendees) and about 85 people attended an Oct. 5 open house, according to the city. Also, the city used its Envision Sacramento website to collect more than 170 ideas.

The city says ideas from the public are being incorporated into the design of the arena, the public plaza and surrounding development.

That’s a good start. But for this arena to be truly embraced by the community, the public needs to be involved all along the way.