Not content with having moved up their city council meeting on a new Kings arena plan to March 26, the city of Sacramento is now planning to hold a public forum on the plan next Thursday, March 21. Which means the plan has to be ready by then, leaving only eight days to figure out what the heck they’re going to build, and how the heck they’re going to pay for it.
This is a “very tight timeframe,” city manager John Shirey understated last night, but then, his job right now appears to be putting a happy face on a process that, by any standards, is pretty nutso. Among the things that Shirey told the Sacramento Bee yesterday:
- There have been hours of conference calls between one of Shirey’s staff, city arena finance consultant Dan Barrett, and a top officer from would-be Kings buyer Ron Burkle’s private equity firm, and “things are moving along.”
- Burkle and Mark Mastrov haven’t asked for a larger public subsidy since David Stern said Friday that they need to increase their bid for the Kings. (Though since at last report Burkle and Mastrov were already asking for more than the city wants to give, it’s tough to say exactly what this means.)
- Negotiators haven’t settled on an exact site at the Downtown Plaza location, or an exact price tag on how much an arena would cost.
- Nobody knows how much public money will be required, though future parking revenues are still expected to be the bulk of the city’s contribution. Shirey said he doesn’t think “we’re going to be far off from last year in terms of value,” despite the fact that the arena would displace some parking spaces, because the remaining parking spaces would be more valuable at a more central location.
- He wants there to be a better way of replacing those lost parking revenues than in last year’s plan, which won’t be hard given that last year’s plan threw up its hands in the end and said it would rely on “other sources.”
That doesn’t sound so much like “moving along” as “we’re all agreed on what we haven’t agreed on,” but hey, benefit of the doubt here. The trick, obviously, isn’t just to come up with a site and a price — anybody can do that if you’re not too picky about whether the site and price will be the final one — but a funding mechanism that 1) actually will be guaranteed to pay for the thing regardless of what happens with parking revenues, and 2) can pass the city council.
Speaking of the council, one councilmember, Steve Hansen, said yesterday that while he’s glad there will be the public meeting next Thursday, “Coming down to City Hall is not the same [as holding neighborhood meetings]. We can’t afford to cut corners on a public process.” And Hansen warned that if there isn’t enough community input, he doesn’t know if there will be enough information for the council to vote on March 26. Not that that’s stopped the council from voting on things like this before, but several new members were elected last fall, including Hansen, who has been publicly wary about agreeing too quickly to a dicey arena financing plan. Next Thursday is shaping up to be very, very interesting.