Basketball might score parking lease

With a professional basketball team threatening to bolt unless a newfangled arena is built, Sacramento is realising its 82,000 parking spaces might just provide home-court advantage.

Leasing parking could bankroll a state-of-the-art basketball arena in Sacramento that could keep the California capital from losing its professional basketball team, according to a report from a municipal task force.

Think Big Sacramento, created to explore how Sacramento could go about financing the construction of a new arena, has pointed out the city is owner of 82,000 parking spots that, if leased, could provide a multimillion dollar windfall.

And that windfall, offered Think BIG, could build a stadium that could entice its professional basketball organization, the Kings, from leaving Sacramento.

The Kings, a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise that came to Sacramento in 1985, have threatened to leave if a finished plan for an arena is not delivered in March. The expected cost of the arena is $390 million.

In its report, Think BIG Sacramento presented what project manager Jeremiah Jackson called a “menu” for funding an arena.

Municipal bond issuance is included on the menu, Jackson said, but leasing public parking is also a choice.

“[Leasing parking] is less risky than bond issuance,” said Jackson, a Stanford University and Harvard Business School graduate. “We are not giving away property, we are leasing”.

Jackson said Think BIG was cognizant of the criticism leasing parking has faced.

Chicago, in particular, raised $1.15 billion with its 2008 deal to lease parking, but that concession has come under fire due to the length of the concession, as well as the increased cost of parking.

“We have a different model,” Jackson explained. “And Chicago was early, we were able to watch what happened. Plus, we are not privatising. We want to maintain control”.

Jackson explained a city council vote on leasing parking is not imminent, and that the council would have to review every option.

“This is a broad menu,” he said.