Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stadiums and arenas and funding: Sacramento and Seattle edition

Image from a report commissioned by Think Big Sacramento, a "public-private partnership group" advocating for a new basketball arena in Sacramento.

Seattle has been feeling dissed since the Supersonics basketball team decamped for Oklahoma City. In the meantime, the City of Sacramento has been wrent with how to pay for a new arena for the Sacramento Kings, to keep the team.

Not unlike how the Dulles Toll Road is seen as an income generator to be harvested to pay for the construction of the Silver Line subway in Loudoun County, Virginia ("Driving the Dulles Toll Road could triple by 2018" from WTOP Radio, MWAA report on toll road rates), Sacramento is looking to pay for an arena by doing a multi-decade lease of municipally owned parking structures and street parking meters to generate a large upfront payment ("Sacramento City Council votes to enter talks with 11 firms seeking to lease downtown parking" and "Big cities cautious about privatizing parking after Chicago's effort" from the Sacramenton Bee).

Earlier this week, Chris Hansen, a California hedge fund financier with Seattle roots, put forth a proposal ("Arena plan looks solid, but is it?" from the Seattle Times) to build a new arena in Seattle with the expressed desire to purchase a basketball team to fill it (Sacramento?). So the pressure is on Sacramento.

While he isn't interested in hockey, the money losing Phoenix (really "Glendale") Coyotes hockey team, currently owned by the league, could end up moving to Seattle as well. I was flabbergasted to learn last week, in coverage from the Arizona Republic ("Glendale's bond refinancing didn't live up to hopes" and "NHL officials rule out fan ownership of Coyotes") that the City of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, is paying tens of millions of dollars--$50 million total just for last year and this year--to the National Hockey League to keep the team in their city. The city will be hard pressed to pay another $25 million next year...

Meanwhile, and interesting, a separate proposal is floating in Sacramento that a parking surcharge (tax) could be imposed on game nights, to help pay for a new arena ("Poll queries residents about arena parking surcharge," Sacramento Bee) since unlike in larger center cities, most of the attendees are likely to drive rather than to use transit. From the article:

An opinion poll circulating this weekend asks Sacramento city residents whether they would support a $1 to $3 surcharge on out-of-town motorists who park in city garages when sports, concerts or other entertainment events are being held at a planned downtown arena.

The phone survey was paid for by several local businesses in conjunction with Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento organization, said Chris Lehane, Think Big executive.

A parking surcharge on non-city residents is not, however, part of the city's still-forming financing plan for a $387 million arena, a top city official said Saturday.

It's interesting to consider what cities are willing to scramble and pay for. I was just looking at some photos of Madrid's public spaces and architecture by Steve Mouzon, and at least historically, while Madrid did invest in arenas and such, they also invested heavily in the quality of public spaces and public life.

I think it would be interesting to extend the kind of work we do with Visual Preference Surveys in community development and expand the concept to overall priorities and how communities spend their money.

-- study results, Visual Preference Survey, Downtown Denver (the images that were presented start on page 27)
-- study results, Visual Preference Survey, Bentonville, Arkansas (interesting results because many of the comparison images were not equally "tidy", which could have skewed results).

For example, what kind of value does Glendale, Arizona get from paying $25 million per year to the National Hockey League to keep the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team solvent? Couldn't the community get much more value by spending that money differently?

Discussing these issues in more depth and more depth than is capable at a "City Town Meeting" like the event held last weekend in DC ("Hundreds attend Mayor Gray's 'One City' summit" from the Post and the city website) might also be a way to get people to deal with the issue of taxes, what they pay for and why at times taxes may need to be increased.

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