Thinking Big to overcome a shrinking economy

Gathering support for a new entertainment and sports complex
By: Staff Report
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Amidst the hope that a new sports and entertainment complex will bring an estimated $7 billion to the area over the next 30 years, a number of chambers of commerce have offered their support, including the chambers in Lincoln and Rocklin. However that support has largely come in the form of a letter for the entertainment and sports complex being planned. The hope is not only that “thinking big” will attract visitors from outside the area, but create as many as 4,000 new jobs in the process. “The diverse groups getting on the think big bus reflect the great mosaic that is the Capitol region,” said Chris Lehane, executive director of the program, “with the common denominator being the imperative of thinking big, acting big and being big when it comes to jobs, jobs, jobs.” Dave Butler, volunteer chairman of the board for the Rocklin Chamber, said there is a general feeling among those in his organization that the Sacramento Kings franchise does benefit the entire region surrounding the capital city. He said the Rocklin Chamber signed on with an interest in perhaps selling tickets to Kings’ games and finding potential sponsors. With these concepts in mind the local chambers delivered letters of support in joining Sacramento Mayor, and former NBA player, Kevin Johnson to explore the idea of a new complex. Butler emphasized the new center would also be about entertainment and conventions, and not just a sports arena. “As a destination for visitors and conventioneers it brings more money and additional economic benefit from extended stays,” said Butler. “Also, a facility downtown to the capitol corridor means you can ride the rails from Rocklin to downtown.” Butler said with the Kings’ facility located in Natomas means visitors have to take the freeway, and use the parking on site. With the convenience of rail those going to games or other events can simply ride the train to and from the complex and not have to use their cars. Think BIG, as the program has been called, released its Capitol Corridor Impact Report analyzing three years worth of attendance data to what is referred to as the Power Balance Pavilion. It indicated that the majority of attendees visiting the complex would come from outside the city of Sacramento. Although there is data to support the economic benefits to Sacramento and the surrounding area, there was also raised some concern over what happens to Natomas once that facility is abandoned. Think BIG has formed a committee made up of such notables as State Assembly member Richard Pan, and senators Darrell Steinberg and Ted Gaines to address this issue. Sacramento City Council member Angelique Ashby was named co-chair of the committee, along with Pan. “Assembly member Pan and I are excited to have a committee of regional partners ready to work with us as we address the future of the current arena site in Natomas,” Ashby said. “The goal of this subcommittee is to work concurrent to the larger committee’s efforts in addressing regional impacts associated with building a new arena.” Of course, not much has been brought forward as to what such a facility would cost to build, and where that money would come from. “I know there are a lot of folks not without significant concern about regional funding and where those dollars would come from,” said Butler. “We’ll participate and help shape the plan but we’re not committing to any funding.” Therein lays the rub and likely what triggered the formation of Think BIG in the first place. When the Kings threatened to pull out of Sacramento unless a new sports arena was built a great deal of discussion ensued over what to do to prevent that. With the economy struggling there wasn’t much support to commit a lot of tax dollars to such a project. Butler said his group hasn’t been asked to submit anything as to how to address the cost factors involved, most of the talk has been as to the benefits of such an entertainment and sports complex. But Butler remains optimistic when looking at how such facilities have benefitted other regions across the country. Some of that data can be found at “This has been done in other communities across the country and was ultimately a good thing,” said Butler, “the question is how do you get that funded. Once you’ve established benefit how do you pay for it, we’ll see.” Letters of support were submitted by the following chambers: Citrus Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Folsom Chamber of Commerce Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce Roseville Chamber of Commerce Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Slavic-American Chamber of Commerce Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce