With hope fading to keep the Kings in town in spite of an uncooperative Maloof family, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and civic booster group Think Big Sacramento will officially start the process of luring MLB, and particularly the A’s, to the Capitol. The Bee has a report with quotes from the mayor and sports industry experts from Andy Dolich to former Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy, who is acting as an informal advisor to the effort. KFBK’s Rob McAllister tweeted that an announcement will be made tomorrow at 11 AM.
The now-dead arena plan always had a stadium or other commercial component as a backup just in case the arena was derailed. The key component remains the same: $250 million in public funds from the sale of future parking revenues. $200k in EIR and other studies were approved by the City Council in April with this in mind. Johnson wants an anchor for the railyards, the 240-acre brownfield north of the train station and downtown proper. The ballpark will cost $500 million, leaving some question as to where the rest would come from. Even if the Kings leaving Sacramento is entirely ownership’s fault, it simply won’t look good that a city with a lone major sports franchise lost said team. MLB isn’t going to provide the money, leaving the rest of the financing on the shoulders of the team – a dicey proposition for a small market. The River Cats have historically been top attendance performers at Raley Field. The revenue demands for the A’s could be 4-6 times what the River Cats are pulling down at Raley, in keeping with higher attendance and premium seating requirements.
Lew Wolff has expressed zero interest in moving the A’s to Sacramento, having noted that he was friends with late River Cats owner Art Savage. They probably shared notes on the viability of Sacramento in the past, and Wolff, knowing that an invasion by the A’s would force Savage’s team to move in kind, probably considered such an effort out of bounds. McClatchy’s an interesting choice as a sounding board in that he’s sort of the perfect guy to be a consigliere here. Sacramento’s a small market with less corporate support than Pittsburgh, and McClatchy notoriously ran the Pirates on the cheap during his entire tenure, despite a brand new, publicly-financed stadium in PNC Park.
The timing of the announcement, just prior to the All Star Game in Kansas City, is designed to get the attention of MLB owners, all of whom are expected to be assembled for the festivities this week.
There’s a bit of a technical issue with the ballpark concept. The rendering near the top of the post shows the arena snugly fitting between the existing rail terminal and the new passenger platforms, which are under construction. The wedge-shaped lot where the arena/ballpark would sit is only around six acres in size. While that’s fine for an arena, it’s too small and compromised for a ballpark. The only way to make a ballpark work might be to build part of it over the new rail platforms, though that could prove costly. The pro-arena/ballpark group obviously prefers a new ballpark to a refurbishment of Raley Field due to the nature of the public financing aspect: Sacramento isn’t going to foot the bill for something happening in West Sacramento. Besides, as I’ve explained before, Raley Field may have been conceived to be easily expandable, but it wasn’t built that way.
It’ll be interesting to see how far this gets and whether this idea gets any traction. There will be many fans and citizens who are interested. Others may want to stick with the Kings until the end and consider the baseball interest a distraction. Whatever the reception, the effort adds yet another wrinkle to the ongoing saga of the A’s quest for a new ballpark.