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Town Hall on arena ideas draws 80 people

 About 80 people turned out for a town hall meeting Thursday night to weigh in on plans for a new entertainment and sports complex. Business leaders and residents presented their ideas to Mayor Kevin Johnson’s "Sacramento First" arena task force at the Sacramento Public Library downtown.

The task force is assigned to analyze developers’ ideas for the complex. The 12-member group includes real estate, finance and communications executives. Task force members are not paid.

Johnson told the audience a new complex needs to generate jobs. “We’ve got to create jobs; we’ve got a down economy,” he said.

Chris Lehane, the task force’s co-chairman, echoed that point. “This is about economic development for the city of Sacramento,” he said. “This is about jobs.”

Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, pushed for downtown as the site of an entertainment and sports center. A downtown location could encourage people to walk to the arena, he said, which would take people out of their cars.

“We do believe that now is the time and downtown is the location,” Ault said.

Steve Hammond, chief executive of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, also urged the task force to consider putting the center downtown. That would help the bureau attract about 17,000 conventioneers, he said. Right now, It’s difficult now for the bureau to bring in those large conventions because the arena is far from hotels, Ault said.

Meanwhile, Noel Martin, the president of the Natomas Chamber of Commerce, asked the task force to select Natomas for the center. He said many Natomas businesses support the idea of a new arena at the ARCO Arena site. “When it comes to location, we feel the Natomas area is superior to all other sites,” he said. The land is available at that site for redevelopment, he added.

Ed Wiggins, a Sacramento small business owner, said he favored putting a new entertainment and sports center on K Street. “The K Street corridor from the mall to the Convention Center is really important,” he said.

Lehane said recently that the task force expects to make its recommendations to the City Council in mid-March.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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