Despite Education Funding Gap, Sacramento Wants To Spend $250 Million To Build An Arena

The National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings are contemplating leaving their home city for Seattle after a group of investors there crafted a proposal to buy the team from its current owners. But now Sacramento’s mayor, a former NBA All-Star himself, has countered that proposal with a plan that would finance more than half of a new $447 million arena for the team.

The desire for a new arena is why the Kings have considered moving to nearly every city in the United States that would give them money to build one, especially after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson walked away from a deal last year because the team’s ownership was demanding too large a share from taxpayers. But with the Kings’ threats to leave now a real possibility, Johnson is back at the table and ready to hand over $258 million in tax dollars to keep the Kings in town. And he’s giving the city council very little time to consider a deal he promises will help the city’s finances, Yahoo reports:

City officials reached a preliminary agreement Saturday with the investment group that hopes to keep the Kings from moving, but the late negotiations leave little time for council members to study the proposal before the vote. […]

Johnson, a former NBA all-star, said the deal would avoid new taxes and ensure a net impact to the city’s general fund.

That’s a bold promise considering the evidence that exists against public financing of sports stadiums. A 2012 study, for instance, found that taxpayer-financed arenas do not foster economic growth in the cities where they were built. Johnson’s proposal, meanwhile, hinges largely on future revenues generated by parking, and financing plans that depend on future revenues rarely, if ever, work out for cities.

The most likely outcome from Sacramento’s proposal is that projected revenues fall far short of projections, just as they have for a Louisville arena built in 2008 and a Minnesota football stadium that is already running behind projections even before it gets built. That, despite Johnson’s promises not to raise taxes, will leave taxpayers footing the bill, whether through higher taxes or through cuts to public services. And in a city that already has a $5.6 million funding gap for public schools, further cuts to services likely aren’t worth the cost of a new arena that does nothing but keep a bad NBA team in town.