The Sacramento City Council gave its official go-ahead on a new entertainment and sports complex at last night’s city council meeting. The 7-2 vote marks another major milestone in the years-long effort to secure both a new arena for the Sacramento Kings and a long-term commitment by the team to stay in Sacramento.
“This is absolutely a game changer,” said Michael Ault of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
This effort to bring home a deal came after fourteen marathon months of work by Mayor Kevin Johnson, city staff, and stakeholders. As a result of their diligence, there was little question of the outcome before the meeting. Nearly everyone predicted the proposal would receive at least the five votes it would need for approval. But the margin was surprising to everyone gathered in the Chamber for the final vote.
“My heart has always been with the Kings,” said Council Member Steve Cohn before announcing he would support the ESC. “But until this deal my mind wasn’t.”
The morning before the vote, Mayor Johnson told a group of reporters that the city is “on the verge of doing something very special.”
Huge crowds turned out to witness a vote that was billed as historic. Lines stretched far outside City Hall as the throngs of Kings supporters jockeyed for a seat inside the council chambers. Those who were unable to join the council inside were able to watch the preceding via simulcast outside.
Some who gathered were excited to keep the Kings in Sacramento, others were there hoping to watch a vote for economic activity and construction – both of which could mean a job.
Estimates provided by the city say that construction of the ESC could bring 4,100 jobs to the region.
It’s Johnson’s hope that the new entertainment and sports complex would transform and revitalize the downtown area.
According to estimates promoted by the city, the new downtown ESC would mean $7 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years, including hundreds of thousands of additional occupied hotel rooms every year.
While the approval of the framework provides the pathway for the new ESC, the ground breaking and start of construction is likely still more than a year off. During that time, the city will be working to finalize the deals with AEG, the Maloof Family, and others.
The total cost of the project is expected to be roughly $390 million, with the city contributing $255 million through parking fees, possible land sales, a fund raising campaign, and perhaps borrowing against future revenues generated by the ESC.
“I have a lot of questions that I’m going to ask (during the rest of the process),” said Councilman Darrell Fong. “And I’m going to poke holes in this. And I have no problem changing my mind and voting no if the terms don’t turn out to be in the best interest of the city.”
Council Member Sandy Sheedy, said she couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for the ESC while the city was in such dire fiscal times. She also took issue with the concept of Public Sector tickets. Under the terms of the arena, the City of Sacramento is entitled to 10 tickets to every home Kings game, as well as rights to non-Kings events.
“This is absurd. The last thing people want are free tickets to politicians. I don’t know who asked for this,” said Council Member Sandy Sheedy. But she said that it should quietly go away.