Sacramento releases financing plan for NBA arena

September 8, 2011 - 4:20 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A task force established by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson recommended a rough plan Thursday to raise $400 million to build a downtown arena, a key step in the city's efforts to keep the NBA's Kings.

The plan announced by the Think Big Sacramento committee gives a menu of financing options to build an entertainment and sports complex near downtown, with the NBA franchise as the primary tenant.

The group proposes a three-way plan combining user fees with public money and private investment to generate $400 million without broad tax increases. The proposal also includes ideas about leasing city parking spaces to a private company, which could generate millions more.

The NBA has given Sacramento until March to come up with an arena financing plan or it will consider allowing the Kings to relocate, perhaps to Anaheim.

The plan will be presented to the City Council next week.

Johnson's efforts this spring to rally public support and $10 million in corporate sponsorships helped delay what looked like an all-but-certain relocation of the Kings to Anaheim. The team agreed to wait a year and give Sacramento another chance to craft an arena plan.

Sacramento is a relatively small NBA market and the aging Power Balance Pavilion where the Kings play lacks many of the profit-boosting features seen in newer arenas. In addition, the state capital lacks large corporations such as those that have helped other cities finance arenas. The economic downturn has left few politically viable sources of public money and voters in 2006 overwhelmingly rejected a sales tax increase to finance an arena.

This spring, NBA Commissioner David Stern was so dubious about another Sacramento arena push that he characterized it as an "eye-roller," and when Anaheim city officials offered $75 million in bonds to lure the team it seemed the Kings were headed south to Orange County.

Johnson, himself a former NBA All-Star, was able to win one more chance for Sacramento and the city assembled the study group to pull together a financing plan.

The Think Big proposal includes no broad-based taxes, said Chris Lehane, a political consultant who served as director of the study group.

"The public has made that clear and we respected that," Lehane said.

The report is the clearest sign yet that the city can develop an arena while still protecting taxpayers, Johnson said.

Backers say developing the arena would generate more than 4,000 construction jobs, bring an additional 3 million potential customers downtown each year and generate more than $7 billion in revenue over its lifetime, all without a general tax increase.

"The majority of funding will come on the private sector side and not on the public," the mayor said in presenting the plan before the Sacramento Press Club.