Dream BIG

By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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Some may be familiar with the effort going on now to try and come up with the financing to build an entertainment and sports complex in downtown Sacramento. It has been tabbed Think BIG Sacramento. They have now thought “big” enough to include many of Sacramento’s outlying communities such as Lincoln and Rocklin. It is spearheaded, at least in part, by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Sports fans remember Mayor (KJ) Johnson as a former NBA All-Star basketball player with the Phoenix Suns and collegiate star at the University of California, Berkeley. The concept of the new complex was apparently triggered when the owners of the Sacramento Kings indicated they would move their franchise to Anaheim, if the city of Sacramento didn’t come up with a suitable replacement for the Power Balance Pavilion (formerly Arco Arena) presently located in Natomas. Johnson began working on the idea and traveled back to New York in the spring to plead his case with the National Basketball Association and the team’s owners, the Maloofs. Johnson convinced the NBA and the Maloofs that his plan for a new sports center was on solid footing and that led the team’s owners to agree to keep the Kings in Sacramento for at least one more season – but now comes the hard part. The latest media release from Think BIG Sacramento was a Public Synergies Report. The report indicated the estimated cost of this new structure would be $387 million, to be funded both publicly and privately; however, that could be where things get tricky. The Public-Private Partnership shows the Kings being the anchor occupant of the new complex, and the taxpayers being the owners – multiple revenue streaming required. It should be pointed out, this plan was developed even though Sacramento had all but given up on keeping the Kings in town. Johnson indicated he believed the entertainment and sports center would be an economic boon to the community with or without the Kings. However, not everyone is on board with this idea, especially taxpayers who could care less about the Kings franchise. Evidence has shown such a complex can financially benefit an area. It has been demonstrated in other municipalities where such facilities have been built, and there is definitely a following for professional sports. Dave Butler of the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce said destinations such as the proposed multiplex do bring in money. “This has been done in other communities across the country and was ultimately a good thing,” said Butler. Butler also stated the area benefits from having the Kings playing in Sacramento. In this economy, nearly $400 million to build the complex isn’t chump change. While lawmakers in Washington fight over whether or not to print a couple trillion more dollars the Sacramento area has no such option. In fact, if the fed prints more money it will drive up the price of the multi-use complex, and drive down the economy – even Wall Street is bothered by this. However, my hat is off to Mayor Johnson and his willingness to “think big” even when the odds do not appear to be in his favor. I also credit the local chambers of commerce for offering their support, in theory anyway, but they have to be feeling a bit uncertain when the time comes for the private sector to put money on the table. The Maloofs claim they’ve spent millions in their efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and Anaheim is betting they’ve already “thought big” enough to lure them south. Whether or not this proves to be reality or just an unfulfilled dream remains to be seen.