A great visionary article by Andrea Lepore, co-founder of Flavor magazine originally published in 2004 but even more relevant today
The "Kings" Arena
by Andrea Lepore Tuesday, July 18, 2006. 09:22PM
Calling Frank Gehry by Andrea Lepore
Published in the "Stud" Issue of FORK IT, 2004
This is not about the Kings.
This is not about the Maloofs or if you do or don’t care about the team staying or going, or if you think there is nothing wrong with ARCO Arena, or even if you agree or disagree with the Chris Webber trade. This is so much bigger than all of that. This is about the Sacramento region. This is about the direction of the city and our communities. This is about you and me and everyone who lives here after us for years and years to come.
The tale of two cities...
Imagine Sacramento with a Wal-Mart as its anchor, flagship store. The same Wal-Mart that within ten years of staking claim in Iowa, nearly half of the clothing and grocery stores closed. In the 11 store types studied, businesses lost more than $603 million in sales. In that ten-year period, Iowa lost: 555 grocery stores, 591 hardware stores and building supply stores, 422 apparel stores, and 116 drug stores. Imagine Sacramento without Taylor’s or Nugget Markets, East Sac Hardware, any of the new boutiques popping up in Midtown, Pucci’s Pharmacy, or Raley’s and Bel Air. Or how about a downtown similar to the one we had even five years ago that shut down as soon as the offices closed and you couldn’t get a good meal after 8 pm.
Now imagine a Downtown Plaza with Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdales as anchor stores, an Old Sacramento similar to Old Town Pasadena with a European feel, featuring brick loft apartment housing, a variety of restaurants within strolling distance, including Roy’s, Palomino’s, and McCormick & Schmick’s, as well as street side cafes and wine bars, and a W Hotel. Across the Tower and I Street bridges are river front hotels and condominiums, all bringing people back into the hub and heart of Sacramento.
The only way that picture will be painted is with a downtown arena and entertainment district. Not more movie theaters and not an arena in Natomas. Downtown needs to be a destination. Natomas will survive with or without the arena because of the housing developments, business parks, schools, and retail. If we as a community build the arena in Natomas we will continue to contribute to the Sacramento sprawl. The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines “’sprawl” as "poorly planned, low-density, auto-oriented development that spreads out from the center of communities.” If that doesn’t depict Natomas, Roseville, Rocklin, Elk Grove, and El Dorado Hills, I’m not sure what does.
Bank of America described the impact of sprawl in our state as follows:
“Urban job centers have decentralized to the suburbs. New housing tracts have moved even deeper into agricultural and environmentally sensitive areas. Private auto use continues to rise. This acceleration of sprawl has surfaced enormous social, environmental and economic costs, which until now have been hidden, ignored, or quietly borne by society. The burden of these costs is becoming very clear. Businesses suffer from higher costs, a loss in worker productivity, and underutilized investments in older communities.
California's business climate becomes less attractive than surrounding states. Suburban residents pay a heavy price in taxation and automobile expenses, while residents of older cities and suburbs lose access to jobs, social stability, and political power. Agriculture and ecosystems also suffer. We can no longer afford the luxury of sprawl. “
Moreover, from the book "Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart" by Al Norman (1999; Sprawl-Busters), the author eerily lists what could be the Sacramento region:
The 10 sins of retail sprawl
1. It destroys the economic and environmental value of land.
2. It encourages an inefficient land-use pattern that is very expensive to serve.
3. It fosters redundant competition between local governments, an economic war of tax incentives.
4. It forces costly infrastructure development at the edge of towns.
5. It causes disinvestment from established core commercial areas.
6. It requires the use of public tax support for revitalizing rundown core areas.
7. It degrades the visual, aesthetic character of local communities.
8. It lowers the value of other commercial and residential property, reducing public revenues.
9. It weakens the sense of place and community cohesiveness.
10. It masquerades as a form of economic development.
If you build it, they will come…
Since we’re dreaming, this is what I envision to create a destination in downtown Sacramento: located in the 240-acre Union Pacific Railyards, a Frank Gehry-designed arena and amphitheater, all in one. Combine the look of Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with his Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, and we would have the ultimate state-of-the-art sports and entertainment center and architectural landmark. Gehry’s work was once described as having proven that people will travel halfway around the world to look at a building as well as its contents and “stands as evidence that a building can put a town on the map.” The same would prove true about our arena/amphitheater.
Close your eyes and picture a beautiful, smooth, steel structure facing east and an amphitheater stretching out over acres of grass facing west. The arena would be capable of hosting a minimum of 160 events per year, while the outdoor pavilion would create additional opportunities for world-class music festivals ala South By Southwest in Austin or Bumbershoot in Seattle, as well as live theater and dance performances. Two events could even be held on the same day to maximize space and revenue: a concert at the pavilion during the day and a Kings game at night. An option not currently feasible at ARCO Arena or any of our other current venues, which have numerous restrictions, including available dates and configuration (Raley Field, Mondavi Center), amenities (Discovery Park), size (Wells Fargo Pavilion, Memorial Auditorium) and location and seasonal bookings (Sleep Train Amphitheater).
In agreement with the Keyser Marston Associates 2002 analysis, with the UP Railyards location for the entertainment venue, spin-off activity including revitalization and business attraction could provide “the spark to land use development that could accelerate the timeline for development by a significant margin” and “help strengthen downtown Sacramento as a destination.” Not to mention, the transportation opportunities the Railyard location would open up including biking, walking, scooters, light rail, train, etc. that would enhance the overall experience, reduce traffic congestion, and be environmentally more appealing.
Show me the money…
As we’ve seen in numerous occasions in other similar-sized markets within the last 20 years including Cleveland, Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Portland, and Seattle, sports and entertainment facilities have generated new jobs, restaurant and retail growth, and additional corporate and tourism revenue. According to a Chamber of Commerce reports, the Oklahoma City Bricktown area sports and entertainment project created 4,500 new jobs and produced $1 billion in economic impact. In Denver, when Coors Field opened in 1995, an increase of over $40 million in taxable sales occurred from the previous year, 25 new restaurants opened, and adjacent land that was assessed at $1.77 per square foot prior to the stadium construction sold for $27.00 per square foot, less than seven years later. Sacramento would be no different.
In addition to the post-building revenue streams, pre-, during, and post-construction funding possibilities include hotel, rental car, and limousine/car service tax (see Oklahoma City) and historic district development incentives (see Cleveland), as well as supplementary tax income from the new development projects the venue would precipitate. With a venture of this nature, the prospect of hosting an NBA All Star Game or other first-rate events all of a sudden becomes viable, thus bringing in earnings not before possible to our market.
Furthermore, by building not only a venue, but a historic landmark, a Sacramento sports project of this stature will attract corporate dollars. In the age of TiVo and DVR’s, satellite radio and IPods, TV and radio spots are becoming increasingly less valuable and companies are looking to sports. The IEG Sponsorship Report stated that of the $11.1 billion spent last year on sponsorships, $7.6 billion was targeted to sports fans, an increase of almost ten percent from the previous year. With the inclusion of the amphitheater in the development, other corporate dollars become available through arts and music grants and commercial support.
With several downtown loft and condo projects on the horizon and other restaurant and retail projects pending, the timing is now to make the crucial decision to move Sacramento ahead before our golden opportunity is gone. The debate about if, when, and where to build the arena is the most important decision we’ve faced as a community and will have the biggest impact since the State Capital moved here in 1854. This is the defining moment for Sacramento in our lifetime and it’s too critical to leave in the hands of inexperienced politicians and developers with ulterior motives.
This most definitely is not about the Kings.