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City officials merging plans for arena, transit center

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Sacramento officials believe a new arena can be integrated with a future regional transit center in the historic downtown railyards – making this one of the country’s most eco-friendly sports and entertainment facilities, Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said Tuesday.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Dangberg gave council members a status report nearly halfway into a 100-day technical review of a proposed arena. The $387 million project is on an expedited schedule to be in operation by May 2015.

One of the most critical issues being reviewed is the need to coordinate construction of an arena with the previously planned transit center. Both structures would be built on a site constrained by railroad tracks to the north, the freeway to the west, I Street to the south and downtown buildings to the east.

Building two "very intense pieces of infrastructure" on the 33-acre site poses challenges, partly because they are both so big, Dangberg said.

"We believe we can integrate these two," he said. "If and when we successfully do that, we have the opportunity to create one of the most sustainable, green, interesting entertainment and sports facilities in the country, if we can successfully integrate these uses and have transit right there at the facility and many modes of transit right there," Dangberg said.

The city has set up technical review teams that are focused on the site itself. The teams are looking at transportation and transit issues, community development issues, economic development and how to reuse the Power Balance Pavilion site.

A town hall meeting on the future of the Natomas site is scheduled for Aug. 11, at a time and place to be announced.

Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office and his arena committee, Think BIG Sacramento, are working on financing options with support from a consultant, Barrett Sports Group, and a finance team made up of staff from the city treasurer’s office and Goldman Sachs.

The city is also looking at urban design issues with the goal of preserving and playing up historic assets at the site, such as the Sacramento Valley Station historic train depot, the Railway Express Agency Building and the historic Southern Pacific Railroad central shops.

City staff wants to create a legacy project that uses urban design elements to connect to those assets and new opportunities for downtown revitalization, he said.

"We have a very, very rich history on the site as the terminus of the Transcontinental (Railroad). And we need to treat it in a very special way that creates a development that is uniquely Sacramento and distinctly Sacramento," Dangberg said.

"It is not another disposable arena that we see in so many cities, but something that will be here for many, many decades or a hundred years as our central shops have remained in place and really a permanent part of our urban fabric and history,” he added.

For example, city staff wants to keep key site lines between the central shops and the depot and take other steps to ensure historical compatibility throughout the project, he added.

A downtown location without a large addition of surface parking on-site will allow the city and businesses to create a "street-to-seat" experience. By using existing parking located away from the site, people will see restaurants, bars, shops and establishments with entertainment on their way to the facility. This would provide more opportunities to stay downtown before and after games and other events. This is expected to help revitalize and activate downtown, a key element of the project, he said.

"If we don’t achieve that with the amount of investment that we’re putting into this, we might as well not bother putting it in the downtown," Dangberg said.

City staff will present the 100-day technical review on Sept. 13, rather than Sept. 6, because of the Labor Day holiday.

At that time, staff will discuss predevelopment costs the city will incur and provide a critical path and preliminary schedule to the City Council. Dangberg also has been talking with the city attorney about the process to select a development team. Think BIG Sacramento will provide a list of financing options.

Johnson’s chief of staff, Kunal Merchant, gave a presentation on the mayor’s arena committee, Think BIG Sacramento, and an update on the group’s work.

Think BIG Sacramento is a 72-person committee brought together to facilitate arena development before the National Basketball Association’s March 1, 2012, deadline for teams to file for relocation next year, he said.

An estimated 3,700 temporary construction jobs and 400 jobs for facility operation are expected to be created by the project, he said.

However, Sacramento resident Mac Worthy, one of two people who provided public comments on the issue at City Hall Tuesday, called into question the number of jobs the project would bring and predicted civil unrest if more people don’t get jobs and improve their living conditions soon.

"We need jobs here. This thing ain’t going to give us no jobs," he said. "The next two years (are) going to be the critical part, here…. Wake up, people. People (are) tired of being down, without a roof over their head, without enough money to go to the grocery store and buy food, can’t even buy gas."

Think BIG Sacramento will host a four-county bus tour and town hall meeting Thursday to tell regional residents about the possible benefits of a new arena. A "Capitol Corridor Impact Report" will also be released.

The tour will start at 10 a.m. at the California Welcome Center, 2085 Vine St. in El Dorado Hills, then make stops in Davis and Roseville. A town hall meeting at 3:30 p.m. at Vision Service Plan, 3333 Quality Drive in Rancho Cordova, will be the last stop, according to a press advisory sent out Wednesday afternoon.


Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt. 

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