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Arena bus tour rolls out to region

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The arena campaign committee, Think BIG Sacramento, hosted a four-county bus tour Thursday to spread the message that a new sports and entertainment facility will benefit not just the city of Sacramento but the entire region.

The group released a "Capitol Corridor Impact Report" showing 55 percent of the people going to basketball games and other events at the Sacramento Kings’ current facility come from outside Sacramento County. And almost 75 percent live outside the city, committee Executive Director Chris Lehane said Thursday at a press conference in El Dorado Hills.

The report was compiled using three years’ statistics from the National Basketball Association. Actual numbers of arena customers weren’t provided, Lehane said.

In addition, new funding concepts are being considered by the group’s finance committee. One might tie agreements for corporate sponsorships, ads and luxury seats with contracts for those businesses to sell regional products such as wine, fruit or nuts at the facility, committee member Kevin Nagle said.

"Remember to ‘Think BIG,’ buy regional and fight on so we can make this a reality," said Nagle, president of Ohio-based Envision Pharmaceutical Services, which has a location in El Dorado Hills.

The press conference was held in front of the tour bus, pulled up outside the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce in the El Dorado Hills Town Center. Thursday morning, about 30 people took the black limo bus from the Kings arena, Power Balance Pavilion, in Natomas to El Dorado Hills.

The group was made up of Lehane and one other Think BIG member, Kings sponsors, community and business leaders, Mayor Kevin Johnson’s staff, a Maloof Sports and Entertainment employee, Kings dance team members and two new members of the committee’s citizens’ initiative, dubbed "citizen architects."

The figures provided in the report show many people who live outside Sacramento would benefit from a new arena. People living outside the city are also expected to get a large share of the 3,700 construction jobs that would be created, because local construction companies will be used, Lehane said.

Power Balance Pavilion draws about 55 percent of its customers from 15 counties outside Sacramento County.

About 29 percent live in the other five counties in the six-county region. However, a large number come from elsewhere in Northern California. Residents of San Joaquin, Solano, Stanislaus and Contra Costa counties make up 22 percent of the people at games and other events, according to the report.

Johnson and other elected officials, as well as arena campaign committee members, believe more people will be drawn from outside the region if a new arena with more plush facilities is built, Lehane said.

A ticket fee is being considered as one of many options to help fund the arena through a combination of public and private investment, Nagle and Lehane said.

One of the newest ideas is to showcase products and services from businesses located throughout the region at the new arena in exchange for financial support. That financial support might be given by businesses that advertise or become corporate sponsors at the new arena, or that buy club seats or luxury suites, Nagle said.

Arena contracts for products and services could lead to more jobs throughout the area, he said.

Lehane described Nagle as a "key" member of the arena campaign committee – someone who stepped up to offer financial support to keep the Kings in Sacramento at the start of the effort last winter, when Johnson went before the NBA. Nagle was one of the first to view a new arena as a regional asset, and he has encouraged community support at arena meetings, Lehane said.

“Not only has he talked the talk. He has walked the walk,” Lehane added. “This is someone who, in and of himself, has helped make a huge difference in this effort. (He) and the mayor have run a pretty good two-man game over the course of this process."

Two people on the bus were "citizen architect" Troy Bedal and his 8-year-old daughter, Saraya. The Roseville residents were celebrating birthdays Thursday.

A Sports Authority store manager, Bedal said he’s been a Kings fan since birth 30 years ago. His parents were Kings fans who watched games on TV and took him to his first game at Arco Arena when he was just 6 or 7. He talks about the need for a new arena to friends and coworkers all the time, he said.

City officials have initiated an effort to integrate plans for a new arena with an adjacent future regional transit center.

The bus later stopped at a construction site at UC Davis, the Fountains at Roseville shopping center and Vision Service Providers in Rancho Cordova. A town hall meeting was held there late Thursday afternoon.

The arena campaign committee will hold more meetings, a design contest and a town hall meeting in Natomas later this summer to continue reaching out to people about the impact an arena could have throughout the area, Lehane said.

“At the end of the day, it’s obviously critical to keep the Kings in Sacramento because they are a lynchpin to hopefully being able to develop this facility,” he said. “But this has always been much more than just about a single professional basketball team or a single professional sports franchise. This has been about an economic opportunity to transform the region.” 


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

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