Members of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s “Think BIG Sacramento” arena committee canvassed the region by bus last Thursday, drumming up regional support for a new downtown sports and entertainment facility.
The committee is about half way through Johnson’s self-appointed 100-day deadline to develop a funding strategy for the new arena.
The combination of a stalled recovery, a tax-shy public and a soft bond market for large public projects has kept Think BIG’s finance subcommittee up late, cooking up creative solutions to pay for the estimated $387 million sports and entertainment complex located in the Sacramento rail yard.
Chris Lehane, executive director of Think BIG Sacramento, told the couple dozen chamber members and media figures at the El Dorado Hills California Welcome Center that his committee is focusing on fee-based funding ideas that target those who use the arena, as opposed to a general sales tax like the one voters overwhelmingly shot down in 2006.
The presentation was light on specifics, but Lehane said fee possibilities include surcharges on tickets and anything purchased at the arena.
“The plan will definitely showcase local products like El Dorado County wine,” said local businessman and arena supporter Kevin Nagle, who was profiled in Village Life last week.
Elsewhere on the tour the example became specialty candy and nuts.
Lehane cited Kansas City as a demographically similar city with a first-class arena that attracts top acts like U2 and Lady Gaga who currently either skip Sacramento entirely or spend a single night here.
“These projects are hard to accomplish in normal times,” said Lehane. “Comparable facilities were built in a very different economic climate.”
The task force’s goal is to create a public private partnership that benefits the entire region, he said.
Debbie Manning, president and CEO of the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks a new arena would benefit the region, and is especially impressed with the committee’s commitment to support local businesses as part of the funding strategy.
The bus tour coincided with the release of an analysis of the proposed entertainment and sports facility’s civic and economic impact on the region. The “Capitol Corridor Impact Report” found that three-quarters of the attendees at the Power Balance Pavilion, formerly Arco Arena, came from outside the city of Sacramento. El Dorado County made up 5 percent of the overall attendees
Lehane said the new arena will bring $160 million per year to the region and create 4,100 jobs, three-quarters of which will come from outside Sacramento.
El Dorado County Supervisor John Knight is one of the 73 Think BIG members. He was present on Thursday and said, “This is a great project and I’m happy to represent El Dorado County, but I’d like to know how we’re going to pay for it without a new tax.”
The bus departed for Roseville, Davis and Rancho Cordova, but Nagle lingered at the Welcome Center chatting with friends and talking about the arena funding process. “We’re vetting a lot of very creative ideas right now,” he said. “Everything’s on the table.
“Today we’re just letting the public know that we want them involved in the process,” he continued. “I was here to say that we have tremendous assets, and let’s use this arena project to promote them.”