Things just keep getting crazier and crazier.
■ Now that the downtown Kings arena plan has collapsed like the house of cards it was, visions of renovating Power Balance Pavilion are emerging from the darkness.
■ City officials are shrugging off the spending of $680,000 intended to give the failed arena campaign momentum and telling us they have learned how they might dump big bucks into some other project when the mood strikes them.
The renovation idea, which was floated by the Maloof brothers as the railyard deal was collapsing, received another boost this morning from Bee sportswriter Ailene Voisin. She publicized the push by Rann Haight, the architect for the first and second Arco arenas in Natomas, and his group, to improve Power Balance Pavilion for $100 million or so. That price tag will surely seem like a bargain compared with the $391 million estimate for a new arena, so local taxpayers best prepare for another call to subsidize the basketball millionaires.
What interested me most in the column was Haight’s comment that his group had been pursuing the renovation plan for a year and was put off by representatives of the railyard deal who claimed the arena wasn’t worthy of renovation. Once the railyard backers got the upper hand, the idea of renovation or even building a new arena in Natomas, a far more suitable location than downtown, virtually disappeared from public discussion. The Bee and local TV stations jumped on the downtown arena bandwagon and provided almost no coverage of alternatives, to say nothing of analyzing the far-fetched financial schemes that were trotted out.
If you’re a tad cynical or maybe just a political realist, you might think that renovating Power Balance Pavilion – at public expense – was always the Maloofs’ Plan B if Mayor Kevin Johnson and his developer buddies couldn’t twist enough arms to get the downtown arena built.
Meanwhile, city officials are trying to justify their expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars over eight months to build momentum for the arena. It’s bad enough that the cash-strapped city made a lousy bet on the arena, but what exactly did the Barrett Sports Group, which was the city’s financial adviser and lead negotiator, do to earn $252,350?
Equally irksome was the expenditure of about $175,000 for analyses purporting to show how future city parking revenue could be leveraged. Initially, the idea was to get about $200 million in upfront money the city could dump into the arena project. Now officials are claiming the studies will be useful for assessing other possible downtown capital improvements.
Privatizing city parking revenue is risky business, as the city of Chicago has rapidly learned. I think some city staffer earning $30 an hour could have discovered that and save Sacramento from a fiasco.