New life breathed into Sacramento vanity project

March 1, 2013

By Katy Grimes

The NBA cheerleaders at the Sacramento Bee are giddy with excitement today. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced during his State of the City address Thursday that the Sacramento Kings are here to stay, and will get a new downtown arena.


“The Mayor announced that 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov has agreed to make a bid to buy the Sacramento Kings to keep them from moving this year to Seattle,” the Bee reported. Johnson also announced “grocery billionaire Ron Burkle and the owners of the Downtown Plaza have agreed to team with the city to build a downtown arena.”

The plan all along has to build an arena downtown despite public outrage. The other part of the plan has always been for the Mayor and his people to figure out a way for the arena to be publicly financed. That they can’t sell it to Sacramento voters seems to be of little concern to them.

The Bee reported:

In a statement issued just after the mayor’s speech, Todd Chapman, head of JMA Ventures, the company that recently bought the Downtown Plaza shopping mall, said he is thrilled that Johnson, Mastrov and Burkle have put together a bid for the team, and said his company is excited to participate. But he stopped short of saying his company had fully signed on yet.

“We are excited to continue our discussions with the Mayor, City Manager, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle about how Sacramento Downtown Plaza can be a new home for the Kings’ organization,” Chapman said. “Our goal has always been to create a dynamic center for the city in the heart of Sacramento, and an arena for the Kings at Sacramento Downtown Plaza would certainly be a fantastic addition.”

The mayoral announcements should trigger several weeks of intense lobbying by both Sacramento and Seattle, culminating in an NBA vote on April 18 on whether to ratify the deal the Maloof family has struck with Seattle.

Could this just be more wishful thinking by the Mayor who thinks that Sacramento is nothing without a professional sports team?

What’s really going on?

“Despite the failure of numerous efforts in Sacramento to build sports facilities with public money, the-arena project-which-wouldn’t-die keeps getting life breathed back into it by Mayor Kevin Johnson, with the assistance of Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento,” I wrote recently.

“Sacramento’s previous arena deals have been totally discredited by the Sacramento Grand Jury  after voters refused to pass  Measures Q and R, which would have approved a quarter cent sales tax increase and directed the revenues to fund a new sports and entertainment facility.”

“In an effort to obtain public financing, Sacramento City and County of Sacramento officials agreed to put the matter on the November 7, 2006, ballot as Measures Q & R” the Grand Jury wrote. “The ballot measures as written were a blatant attempt to avoid the provisions of Proposition 218 in that Measure R was listed as a general tax (requiring a majority vote) and Measure Q was for distribution of the monies from the tax. Combined, they would have represented a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote.”

Titled, “The Kings and City and County of Sacramento: Betrayal in the Kingdom?” the Grand Jury investigated the arena issue because they wanted to find out “if the City and County of Sacramento deceived their citizens regarding their dealings with the Kings.”

“Sports proponents continue to promote the ideology that Sacramento can transform to a ‘world class city,’ by building an arena and keeping the Kings,” the Grand Jury wrote. I’ve been critical of the level of world class city desperation by Sacramento officials and elected politicians for many years.

World class cities are not created with sports teams, and Sacramento is no different.

The Sacramento Kings have not sold out their games for many years. The demand is not there.

The City Council continues to fiddle while Sacramento burns

In a 2009 op ed for the Sacramento Bee, I wrote that the best definition I have found of a world-class city comes from Seattle journalist Bill Virgin, who tracks business and economic trends. He writes, “World-class business cities are those where strategic and tactical decisions are made on everything from new plant investment to developing new markets and products. They’re the cities others watch and react to. World-class business cities are not guaranteed exclusivity in producing the next wave of influential products, technologies and companies – but they’re a more likely incubator for them. And those products, technologies and companies are where new jobs come from.”

Sacramento is not strategically, tactically or decisively developing new markets or products, or putting in new plants for any industry. In fact, businesses are fleeing the city and the state. Politicians instead are obsessively focused on vanity projects, to the detriment of the other crucial segments of the economy.

I wish Mayor Johnson would put the same level of effort into improving Sacramento’s economy and attracting new business, as he invests in the Kings.

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  1. Hondo
    Hondo 1 March, 2013, 09:04

    The sports industrial complex is out of control. The huge metropolitan area of LA has been kept from having a NFL team for the sole purpose of extorting new arenas from every other city in the country. Every city, from Cleveland to Denver was threatened, either they build the team a new stadium or the team moves to LA.
    Only the sports teams in the biggest markets does it make economic sense to build them a stadium(even tho they easily have the money to build their own stadiums). Teams in the smaller markets, like Sac town, Kansas City, Pittsburg, stadiums are a losing proposition. Initially, fans flock to the stadiums. But the best players are always drawn to the bigger money at the biggers cities. Look at Carmelo Anthony. He dumped Denver for NY. Teams in KC, Denver, Sac town, Pittsburg, ect, will never have baseball or basketball championships. After a few years, fans see that their teams will never compete with LA and NY and Boston. They stop supporting the teams.
    A single owner, billionaire Paul Allen of Microsoft who owns the Seahawks, is financially able to finance every stadium in the NFL, along with a couple other leagues. Yet Allen begged and cried that he needed the ‘peoples’ help to build a new stadium. He could afford to pay cash to build at least 20 stadiums(500mil per, times 20, equals 10 billion. He is at worth at least 20 billion)
    If the teams financed their own stadiums,then cities could spend their money on things like schools and roads and hospitals.
    And for any democrat to support taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from schools and health care to pour money into the pockets of billionaires is stunning hypocracy.

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