As Whitey Gleason said on The Rise Guys this morning, there is a very low likelihood that we will get any level of detail regarding the nuts and bolts of the proposed Cal Expo arena project today. This is to be expected -- it's the case with every big-time project. In a past life, I covered city affairs for a small daily. Developers and municipal officials always skim over the grit, instead using the colorful beauty of artistic renderings and the inherent hope and joy that capitalism fixes everyone to wow us into excitement. (It worked on the railyard idea, and I feel stupid for falling into the trap.)
So again, I don't expect these Qs to be A'd today or soon. But eventually, we do need answers.
1. Who controls the parking? Who controls non-NBA arena revenues? The Maloofs will want both, obviously. Parking was the primary factor in sinking the downtown project: the Maloofs wanted all parking revenue and to build a bigger complex than the city wanted. If this does not come with a Maloof-owned parking structure (which, you would assume, would allow the Maloofs to cash in outside the NBA season for big Cal Expo events), don't bet on the owners being thrilled. Parking is a huge revenue source for them right now. Even at 10,000 fans averaging 2.5 a car, the Maloofs make $40,000 a night at ARCO. (That almost covers one half of Kenny Thomas' per-game salary!) Expand that out to concerts, Disney on Ice, the rodeo, monster truck rallies and Home and Garden Shows ... and it's a sizeable chunk of free money up for grabs. Likewise, the difference between the Kings/Maloofs as tenants and the Kings/Maloofs as owners/operators of the arena is a big deal. If the Maloofs don't pay the lion's share of construction, they shouldn't own the building. If they don't own the building, there needs to be strict guidelines preventing relocation, like in Memphis.
2. What infrastructure upgrades outside Cal Expo need to be completed, and who pays for them? In the Bee story this morning, John Hoag said something about a lack of "direct" public financing. As in, the taxpayers aren't paying for this arena. Good. But inclusion of the word "direct" frightens me a little. I assume in part that means the public will be asked (in some way) to finance the road improvements needed. I assume the improvements needed aren't so massive that a direct appeal to taxpayers would be required; it would be something where the developers would go to the city, county and state to request funds for road construction be prioritized here. And that's fine. That section of the Business 80 corridor needs to be updated at some point. But we need an idea of the plan there fairly early on -- it's a huge potential obstacle.
3. What about public transit? Example: trying to get from downtown to Cal Expo for the meeting today without a car is proving hopeless. The nearest light rail stop is two miles away. Furthermore, when the city had it's big New Years Eve thing downtown, no one kept the public transit running. Folks took light rail and the bus on the way in ... and cabs to get home.
4. How committed are the Maloofs to seeing this through? It's a given that the team has talked to Anaheim and San Jose at the very least. We don't need the owners running for cover at first sign of hiccups. This is an unanswerable question, because you don't know they want to flee until they flee. But everyone will be reading everything in their comments in the immediate and long terms.
The meeting is at 1PM at Cal Expo for those interested. The aforementioned public transit issues as well as a patently RIDICULOUS $7 parking fee for attendees will keep me from attending. I doubt there will be a live webcast.