City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

July 3, 2012
Mayor Johnson: Arena 'Plan B' won't work, focus will broaden

Mayor Kevin Johnson's "Plan B" for a downtown arena is officially dead.

AEG, the international arena operator tapped to help fund a proposed arena in the downtown railyard, has determined the project does not make economic sense without an anchor sports tenant. The Sacramento Kings pulled out of a plan to help finance an arena earlier this year.

"The economics just didn't pencil out," the mayor said, describing AEG's concerns. AEG had previously agreed to contribute $58.75 million toward the arena in exchange for operating the facility and receiving a large chunk of the profits.

As a result, the mayor has shifted the focus of his Think Big arena committee to the broader downtown area. The committee will explore whether a proposal to generate cash out of the city's downtown parking operations can be used for other projects, including other sports complexes in the railyard, an entertainment district, corporate offices or a revamped Westfield downtown plaza.

Johnson said the city does not have the resources to do that work on its own.

"Think Big should compliment what the city is doing," the mayor said.

The first task for Think Big is exploring projects for the area in the railyard north of the proposed "intermodal" transit facility. The committee will continue to raise money from the private sector to fund its work.

Kunal Merchant, the committee's executive director, said Think Big had raised roughly $500,000 over the past year. That money largely came from sponsors who also contributed to the effort to help keep the Kings in town last spring.

The key to Think Big's work will be the parking idea. City officials have not abandoned an idea to create a public parking authority that could generate more than $200 million in upfront revenue for a downtown project.

"The fact that we have $250 million, it's got the interest of everybody," the mayor said.

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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


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