Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Issue That Will Not Die

No, it's not the homeless, or the meaning of life, or war and peace. It's the Arena, or as it's now known, the Entertainment and Sports Arena. Our present arena, once Arco, and now Power Balance (yeah, the owners of the Kings made a deal with the equivalent of snake oil sellers), just isn't good enough for the NBA's worst team, the Sacramento Kings. Last night our City Council voted 7-2 to lease out our parking structures and their attendant revenue to a private parking authority, sell off a bunch of land (yeah, when property values are in the toilet), and raid various funds, to come up with 2/3rds of the cost of this venture. The Kings will give up money they've borrowed and AEG (the manager of lots of arena-like venues in the US) will throw in about $60 million. The difference is that the City will get somewhere south of $1.2 million a year, while AEG will get substantially more than that for its investment. The City argues that there will be spillover effects that will increase tax revenues. I'll believe that when I see it. And one of the two votes against the plan agrees with me on this point.

But the biggest problem, and one that wasn't discussed at all at the City Council, is that the Arena is being plopped on land intended for another purpose, that is too tight for the facility, and is just ugly. Because the downtown elite developed an enthusiasm for trying to jump-start development in the former railyards north of downtown, the City is trying to shoehorn the Arena into a way-too-small space intended for the Amtrak/light rail/other public transit station. So not only do you have this monolith in a very tight space, but the transit hub ends up disjointed, unfocused, weird. I want it noted that I was the first to declare the whole project ugly so that, should the Arena actually be constructed, and people then say, "no one goes there, it's ugly," I will get to smile sweetly and say, "well, yeah, did you look at the 'artist's rendering'? That always looks better than the finished product, and not even an artist could put lipstick on this pig."

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