City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

May 27, 2011
Will Sacramento embrace an urban arena?

Sacramento's latest arena plan depends on us to embrace a truly urban experience. Are we willing to do so?

Most notably, there are no plans to build large parking lots around the arena being proposed for the downtown railyard. Many callers and commenters on the City Beat blog have taken note of that.

Those behind the plan say there are 8,200 parking spaces within four blocks of the site, most of which are owned by the city and are vacant at night, when most events at the arena would be held.

There is also a "Courtside Club Parking" lot in the plan's drawings, but it's unclear how many spaces would be available. A new courthouse is planned for near the proposed arena site, and a parking structure for that facility could also be used for the arena.

Planners predict that 20 percent of those attending events at the facility would take light rail. A light-rail stop is planned for the front of the main entrance to the arena.

Tim Romani, the head of ICON Venue Group, which is playing a lead role in the arena plans, said spending $20 million "on another parking structure is completely unnecessary downtown."

"There is plenty of parking here," said Romani, who told the City Council he has walked around the area at night and taken note of all the available parking spaces.

One thing's for sure: this wouldn't be Power Balance Pavilion, where the arena stands in the middle of a parking lot and thousands of parking spaces are within a short walk of the door.

Those behind the plans see that as a good thing. They are hoping that by forcing people to walk a few blocks, they'll also walk into a restaurant or bar along the way.

At this point, there isn't a whole lot in the way of restaurants or bars near the arena. But Downtown Plaza is two blocks away and City Hall is hoping the rest of the railyard is eventually developed into a vast expanse of housing, retail and entertainment.

The development team also notes that Sacramento is only one of three NBA cities without a downtown arena.

We're still a car culture and many fans have noted to me that they enjoy the ease of getting to and from Power Balance Pavilion. Getting us out of our cars and onto the sidewalks and light rail trains would be a big change for many.

Are we ready?

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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