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Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee discusses what's next on the arena front

Ryan Lillis, the excellent city reporter at The Sacramento Bee, joins us to discuss STOP and the timeline for the new downtown arena.

The lawsuit against the city clerk by the Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) group over their petition to put the city's arena financing plan on the ballot was recently tossed by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley.

Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee was kind of enough to join me to discuss the latest news and what happens next with both STOP and the Voters For a Fair Arena Deal (VFAD) anti-arena group, as well as the timeline for the construction of the new downtown area.

So what is going to happen with STOP and VFAD? From what you are hearing, do you think things are pretty much over for them?

One of the groups involved in the lawsuit, Voters For a Fair Arena Deal, has flat out said they are not going to appeal so they're done. STOP has said they probably are not going to appeal. They haven't made a final decision, but time is running out on that. They'd have to appeal and have the appeal heard and decided on by Monday [STOP would later make the final decision to not appeal the ruling]. So what's next then, assuming that lawsuit is gone, the ballot measure is no longer an issue ...

You've got a separate lawsuit that's charging that there are hidden arena sweeteners and certain subsidies hidden in the term sheet that weren't discussed properly.

You've got the environmental impact report, which after the city council certifies it, there will likely be a challenge to it, there generally is in a project of this size. But those challenges can only take place within the first 30 days.

The city is very confident that they would be able to defend themselves against any of those challenges. And in fact, given new state regulation, even if there is a lawsuit based on the environmental report, the city can still continue with construction and continue with issuing those revenue bonds for the project even if there is pending litigation. So it could, at least in the short-term, not even have an affect on the arena.

With the Soluri (sweetener) case and the eminent domain issue (with the Macy's building in Downtown Plaza), would Judge Frawley be making the ruling on those too?

Frawley is not on eminent domain, he's, that I know of, he's definitely on the Patrick Soluri, Jeffrey Anderson sweetener lawsuit. The eminent domain case, you know, the leaseholder has asked for a change in venue. They want it to be moved to Alameda County. They don't think they'd get a fair trial here. The change of venue hearing is March 6. If the judge denies that request, a judge is then scheduled to rule on the eminent domain lawsuit March 11. If the judge rules in the city's favor, the city would just take possession there within 30 days.

The city and the Kings are very confident that they are going to be able to take control of that Macy's property either through the lawsuit or through some kind of settlement.

But clearly the STOP lawsuit and the ballot measure issue being resolved was by far the largest hurdle for the arena, which has now been overcome.

And just to clarify for everyone. This whole issue with STOP and VFAD has not slowed anything down on the arena front, correct?

No, not at all. As far as the city is concerned, they have pressed on throughout this process on the guideline that they set out last year. They said they weren't going to let a potential ballot measure play a role in the timing of the project until it became a definite, and then at that point, there was some concern that if there was a ballot measure pending for June that the bond market would be reluctant to issue bonds for this project. There was the question of whether at that point it would have even been proper for the city council to have voted on a term sheet this coming April. But the city was operating under the assumption that there wasn't a ballot measure or at least it wasn't playing a role in the timing, and they have stuck to their calendar for nearly a year on this project.

The next big thing coming up from the city's perspective in finalizing the environmental impact report and that is going to the city council in April.

Yes, they're targeting April 1 or April 8 for a city council vote to certify the environmental impact report and to approve the development agreement, which includes the financing package. It's expected that both of those will pass, very likely 7-2, as past city council votes have gone, and at that point, the city is all in. That's where they give their final blessing to this project and within a matter of just a few weeks, the city treasurer would be in New York City selling bonds for the project with demolition of Downtown Plaza right now scheduled to begin the first week of June.

And then we are looking at the actual construction on the arena beginning in September, as the Mayor stated at his State of the City address, correct?

Yeah, September for actual moving from demolition to actually starting construction; starting to build vertical as they say and start construction of the project, yeah. But the demolition is going to be quite a, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of the demolition is the beginning of this project because that is a huge undertaking - demolishing an enormous six-square block. I guess they're not going to be demolishing all six square blocks, but they are demolishing a huge chunk of a pretty sizeable commercial space.

Once this thing gets really going, do you see any other challenges coming to the project, and if so, where do you see that possibly coming from?

I would expect there to be challenges to the environmental report, but I don't know how to characterize them in terms of are they going to be significant or not significant. It doesn't seem that Caltrans, the state Department of Transportation has an issue, they don't seem to have an issue with the project. You will almost certainly see challenges from citizens, from local groups and probably maybe even multiple challenges, but I can't say how significant they'll be until they actually materialize.

Lastly, on a lighter note, I saw your whole back and forth on Twitter with Dave Deuce Mason over at KHTK, so I wanted to get your side of the story as far as these claims that he would beat you in a media trampoline dunk contest.

He didn't say that there was going to be a trampoline involved. See that's a little different, then I would destroy him. I was a triple jumper in high school and college, granted that was 20 years ago. But I still like to say that I could dunk on like an eight-foot hoop. And if you throw a trampoline into the mix, yeah, my first trick I said would be to dunk over Carmichael Dave like he was Blake Griffin's Kia, that would be my first dunk.

I think this needs to happen.

There used to be a [media] football game, but I've never played in a basketball game with competing media. We're getting old and I'm afraid that you're just asking for like ruptured Achilles tendons all over the basketball court.


(Lillis dunking over Carmichael Dave gifs...GO!)