The opportunists who thought nothing of driving struggling Sacramento into financial ruin with their downtown arena scheme are laying the groundwork for an even more grandiose scheme.
Instead of a new $391 million arena for the Kings at the old railyard site, Sacramento’s ever-ambitious mayor, Kevin Johnson, is floating a plan for a $500 million baseball stadium at the site. This is hardly surprising because the railyard site and nearby city land parcels act like catnip upon the mayor’s developer buddies.
The mayor thought nothing of trying to gamble $255 million in public money to keep the Kings in town, so it would be unsurprising to see him try to toss far more into the pot to lure a major league team to the capital and build a stadium for the boys of summer. The mayor and his task force, Think Big Sacramento, are wedded to the concept of “public-private partnerships,” also known as corporate subsidies, corporate welfare and taxpayer ripoffs.
What is surprising is that the mayor, who touted the need for regional cooperation during the arena fiasco and depicted himself as a staunch ally of local business, is willing to hurt West Sacramento’s impressive riverfront revival, especially the privately funded Raley Field and its popular and successful tenants, the Sacramento River Cats Triple A baseball team.
“Sacramento must seize control of its own future,” the mayor declared in this morning’s Sacramento Bee. “We cannot rely on others, or wait for something to come along.”
If a major league team did come to Sacramento, the Bee story said, it would almost certainly undermine the River Cats because a major league team would have the authority to send the River cats packing.
The story, headlined “City swings for the fences,” highlights the mayor’s penchant for grandiose solutions to complicated economic problems that took years to develop and will take years to unravel. As is also the mayor’s style, he didn’t bother to shore up support for his grandiose vision from those who would be most affected.
“We have no knowledge of anything that is going on,” said River Cats spokesman Zak Basch.
Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan said he’d like to see Sacramento work with the city of West Sacramento on redeveloping the waterfront rather than looking for the economic home run.
“West Sacramento has the most successful professional sports team in the region,” McGowan said. “Why you want to muck around with that doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t say much for an understanding of regional cooperation.”
What does make sense is an ambitious mayor and his developer buddies see the downtown railyard site as a tempting opportunity to advance their own agendas if only they can get their hands on an ever-increasing bundle of public money.