City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 14, 2012
Sacramento arena vote expected to pass easily tonight

The City Council appears ready to overwhelmingly support moving forward with the arena process tonight - with one councilman predicting the vote could be unanimous.

City staff is asking for permission from the council to dive into deeper talks with the 10 private firms interested in leasing downtown parking, the key piece of the financing plan for a new sports and entertainment complex. Tonight's vote is seen as an incremental step in the arena process, setting up a pivotal Feb. 28 meeting at which the council would vote to approve or reject the facility's full financing plan if one is cobbled together by then.

While four council members voted last week to place the parking element on the June ballot - a move that likely would have killed the arena deal - at least one of those council members said he will vote in favor of moving forward tonight.

Councilman Kevin McCarty told me he is in favor of moving forward on talks with the parking firms and sees tonight's vote as "procedural." He said the vote "could pass unanimously."

Still, McCarty - as well as others on the council - is "withholding judgment (on the arena plan) until I see all the facts."

"Show me the money," he said.

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said she is also interested in seeing the proposed arena financing plan. While saying she hasn't made up her mind on how she is voting tonight, her desire to see the funding plan in two weeks indicates she might vote to move forward.

"Tonight is ceremonial, as far as I'm concerned," she said. "I want to see what the (financial) numbers are going to be. Right now, nothing has been explained."

Sheedy wouldn't say what it would take for her to support the arena plan, but said, "We all want to see the city move forward and want to see the general fund (budget) made whole."

City staff are hoping to fetch as much as $200 million in upfront cash for the arena by leasing downtown parking spaces, garages and enforcement. The city is also expected to seek the sale of land near Power Balance Pavilion to help finance the project.

The city is in negotiations with the NBA, the Sacramento Kings, arena operator AEG and the arena development team for the rest of the funding.

Perhaps the most pivotal peg of the deal - at least to the City Council - is replacing the $9 million in annual revenue that parking operations now contribute to the general fund, which pays for most basic services in the city. City officials have not said how that money will be replaced.

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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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