Passion, Culture and Sports: A Vote for the Underdog

Erika Bjork, co-chair of Metro EDGE's Regional Action Committee shares the #1 reason you need to be at next Tuesday’s City Council Meeting – more than just a new entertainment and sports complex is on the line.

** UPDATE: Sign the petition to vote YES here

One doesn’t have to be a sports fan to understand that the March 6 Sacramento City Council vote has broader implications than if the NBA’s Sacramento Kings remain in the River City. This vote will decide if bands like the U2 or Beyoncé will ever perform in Sacramento and if families will have a place to take their children to see Disney on Ice. More importantly, the vote will decide if Sacramento finally wants a catalyst to trigger redevelopment in downtown.

Sacramento has long been an icon of prosperity and manifest destiny from its early days during the 49er Gold Rush to serving as the capitol of the ninth largest economy in the world (at one point we were the sixth). In the 1990’s it served as a place for young couples eager to buy homes and start families to prosper during skyrocketing real estate prices in the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, the current image of Sacramento is a place with one of the highest mortgage foreclosure rates and a local economy still dependent on government jobs. Forbes recently voted it “one of America’s most miserable cities.” Sacramento right now is an underdog - but who doesn’t love an underdog.

In a recent poll, 46 percent of young professionals picked work-life balance over their careers. Key factors include culture, arts, number of people under 35, nightlife, cost of living, commute time, entertainment and sports. It is for these reasons that cities such as Austin, Portland, Salt Lake and Denver always rank high. With its amazing recreation, tree-lined streets and vibrant dining scene, Sacramento provides for nearly all of these factors. But nightlife and entertainment are two key areas where this city is lacking.

Recently, Metro EDGE held a “Business of Basketball” mixer to talk about the $422 billion dollar industry of sports. More than 120 people attended to learn the economic and cultural impact a sports team has on a city. Sacramento Kings SVP of marketing and broadcast Craig Amazeen and Sports Illustrated writer Sam Amick spoke about the impact professional sports have on a city. Because of our sports team, the Sacramento Kings, 1.9 million people exposed to Sacramento through the national TNT TV broadcast, 1,200 people employed by Maloof Sports and Entertainment, and the team has the potential to bring $7 billion to the local economy as a result of redevelopment of the Railyards.

Other cities, including nearby San Francisco, have demonstrated the value of sports on a culture and economy. Since the opening of AT&T Park in 2000, the China Basin district of San Francisco has seen a boom in development and revenue. This once vacant and industrial waterfront now serves as home to over 1,900 housing units and provides thousands of jobs through new campuses for UCSF and Salesforce.  San Francisco has also realized the power of sports during the SF Giants World Series win. An increase in tourism to $485 million took place in 2010 and local businesses saw a boost of 75 percent in business during Giants home games. Some credited the tourism boom to simply people watching the series on national TV and seeing the amazing weather in October. Culture, tourism and revenue are the reasons San Francisco is bringing America’s Cup to the bay which will result in over 8,840 jobs and $1.4 billion in revenue; third only in economic impact to the Olympics and World Cup. But one key influence of the new ballpark has been the recruitment of young professionals living in the area. SF Giants CEO Larry Baer recently stated at the State of the Downtown Breakfast that 48 percent of Facebook’s employees live and commute from San Francisco specifically because of the quality of life provided in the South of Market neighborhood.

Power Balance Pavilion (formerly ARCO Arena) was opened in 1987 and built for less than $40 million; the lowest of any NBA venue. The venue holds 17,317 for a basketball game and has featured concerts including entertainment legends U2, The Eagles, Prince, Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Garth Brooks and Elton John. In its heyday, more than 200 events a year would be held at the arena. But, Power Balance Pavilion is also one of the oldest venues in the NBA - and it shows. Known for horrible acoustics and lack of loading docks, major performers have acknowledged they won’t return, providing the Oakland Coliseum and San Jose’s HP Pavilion the closest arenas for a Sacramento audience. In 2009, NCAA declined for the first time in 15 years to bring March Madness to Sacramento because of its “shabby conditions.”

Next Tuesday’s city council vote will determine if the City will lease its parking to a private operator to secure approximately $200 million for the construction of a new entertainment and sports complex (ESC) in downtown Sacramento. Cities such as Pittsburgh and Chicago have taken similar steps with mixed results. Advocates support the initiative as a means to generate investment for the ESC without increasing taxes; a key criteria set by Mayor Kevin Johnson early in the process. If approved, the private parking agreement would be a 50-year lease and include some exceptions to county and metered parking. Some have raised concerns associated with selling these rights, noting the general fund could be affected by as much as $9 million each year or that the City will sell short this potential future revenue. However, it should also be considered that a new ESC would create 3,700 construction jobs and 400 more permanent jobs that are currently housed at Power Balance Pavilion, $11.3 million annually in fiscal benefits during the construction period alone and bring 3.1 million visitors to downtown once doors open.

With a March 1 deadline for NBA teams to file for relocation, Anaheim and Seattle have both expressed an interest in the Sacramento Kings. The March 6 vote is a make or break situation. A “no” vote would all but end the process and signal the departure of professional sports from Sacramento, let alone a primary tenant should the city ever be able to build a venue in the future. Considering Sacramento is one of only 30 cities to currently be home to a NBA team and its lack of corporate support for a NFL or MLB team, the likelihood of bringing another professional sports team to Sacramento could be decades away.

More importantly, this vote may represent what type of city Sacramento wants to be in the future. Perception alone of a declining city can drive young professionals away. As the underdog, Sacramento may need to take a risk and beat the odds to be a thriving environment for young professionals as well as all its residents.

Info for Tuesday’s City Council Meeting2012 at 6:00 p.m.
City Hall, 915 I Street, First Floor, Downtown Sacramento

Tuesday, March 6,

Watch Live Online or on Metro Chamber Channel 14

Note: Speaker slips are located inside the chamber should you wish to comment. Public comment allows for individuals to speak 90 seconds on agenda items for public record. It is highly recommended you arrive early to hold a place in line should you wish to speak.

Here are the players and their contributions to a city-owned $400 million downtown entertainment and sports complex (ESC):

AEG - A world-renowned entertainment group that built Staples Center and turned the O2 into one of the most successful venues would operate and manage a new sports complex. Unconfirmed reports show that the city is asking AEG to contribute up to $40 - $60 million towards the project.

City of Sacramento – The city of Sacramento would own the new ESC and it would be built on land donated or acquired by the city. The city is expected to contribute close to $200 million towards the development and building of the venue, but also reap a lion’s share of the revenue through property, income and sales taxes generated by the downtown development.

ICON venue group - Known for building fan-friendly and affordable sports complexes including Denver’s Pepsi Center, ICON would build a new venue. ICON has partnered locally with David Taylor to build the downtown project.

Maloof Sports and Entertainment – Maloof Sports and Entertainment is the entity that owns and operates both the Sacramento Kings and Power Balance Pavilion. Led by majority owners the Maloof family, local ownership also includes Joe Benvenuti, Bob Cook, John Kehriotis and Dave Lucchetti. Recent reports speculate the Maloofs  will contribute nearly $150 million towards the project.

NBA – Since the failed Q and R measures in 2006, the NBA has stepped in to lead negotiations between Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings. Commissioner Stern has taken an especially active role including embedding NBA marketing and sales staff in the Sacramento King’s office following the Maloof’s initial attempt to ask the Board of Governors to approve relocating the team in 2011.

Sacramento Railyards – The 240-acre Railyards would serve as the location of a new ESC. It is the largest urban infill sites for a metropolitan of its size in the country and also in a prime location to link mass transit in a modern transportation hub. Inland America finalized a deal with the city for a 24-acre parcel that would be home to a new ESC.

Think BIG Sacramento – Led by executive director Chris Lehane, Think BIG Sacramento is a regional initiative to create jobs and economic growth through a Sacramento ESC. This volunteer coalition led by key leaders, business executives and citizens has been a primer driver towards public awareness and economic impact reports.