Trouble for Arena Land Swap?

Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee has a story in today's paper noting a potentially problematic finding in the preliminary review of the feasibility of moving the state fairgrounds to the ARCO Arena site. The problem: the ARCO property is a lot smaller than the current Cal Expo. Some would argue that might not matter because the new location may not have a horse racing track and because the current set-up is really, really, sprawling.

While Cal Expo officials tell Bizjak this isn't a deal-breaker, and that they are looking into potential fixes (such as condensing the blueprint and paying adjacent land), it's still worrisome. Part of that is a being a pessimistic Kings fan. Every arena proposal falls apart. Hell, almost every positive Kings experience falls apart in a particularly heart-rending way. The other part is more specific to this issue: the "moving Cal Expo to Natomas" part has always been the weakest link of the land swap deal. The Maloofs want to build a new gym downtown, and will compromise to make it happen. The developer wants to facilitate the deal, save the Sacramento Kings, and make a lot of money turning Cal Expo into houses, businesses and office buildings.

But Cal Expo just wanted funding for a new fairgrounds. It didn't want to move. The relocation is probably more a bug in this plan than a feature. It's an "if we have to move to get new fairgrounds, then we have to move." Such an attitude, understandable as it may be, is more susceptible to dampening enthusiasm. And never mind public pressure from anti-Maloof politicians, NIMBY property owners (in Natomas and the Cal Expo area) and the usual anti-growth forces of Sacramento. This will be a challenge, obviously, and this type of thing could keep popping up. Let's hope the deal survives, assuming it pencils out.

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