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Talks moving forward on arena with Placer County, Auburn voices

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County members of a regional task force looking into financing for a new home arena in Sacramento for that city’s Kings basketball team are far from drinking the royal purple Kool-Aid. But they’re indicating their support for somehow keeping the Kings from leaving and willing to provide regional perspective to the 70-member team of government and business leaders Mayor Kevin Johnson has assembled to consider a new arena plan. The first meeting of the “Here We Build” group is slated for June 30. Bridget Powers, an Auburn City Council member who is serving independently of her elected position, said she’s willing to be in on talks about building a new arena. “I love the Kings – they’re part of why I like living here,” Powers said. “The city of Auburn hasn’t made a stance and I don’t know if it will but taxes are not my idea of helping – and I think they (arena proponents) know that.” But Powers said she’s willing to represent the community at large. Auburn Mayor Bill Kirby, who has criticized any inkling of public financing from Placer County communities for a Sacramento entertainment and sports complex, expressed surprise Wednesday that Powers had joined the committee but said it was something she could do without City Council assent if she steered clear of indicating she was representing an official Auburn stance. “I’m shocked she agreed,” Kirby said. “I don’t think the council would appoint someone. I know I wouldn’t.” The 70-member task force has cut a wide swathe through the region, taking in leaders from Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, Yuba and Sacramento counties. In Placer County, Town of Loomis Councilwoman Sandra Calvert, Rocklin Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman David Butler, Roseville City Councilwoman Susan Rohan, Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler and Rocklin City Councilman Scot Yuill have signed on for the 100-day “Here We Build” effort. The group has three monthly meetings planned through the end of August and a target of Sept. 8 to produce a final report. Butler said that in conversations with Rocklin chamber members, there is a clear recognition that the Kings are a regional economic asset and that a new events center would also be an economic asset to the area. “The question is ‘How do you pay for it?” Butler said. But Butler said that other communities he has looked at have come up with funding plans. Denver’s Coors Field and facilities in San Diego, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City have all been built with regional cooperation, he said. One approach would involve raising funding for the Sacramento center but also for localized projects, Butler added. “This is not new,” Butler said. “The hope is that if the right people with the right intentions get around the right table the right thing will happen.” Uhler has also expressed opposition to public financing but said earlier this month that he’s willing to participate in a process that could keep the Kings. Roseville Mayor Pauline Roccucci also has said she doesn’t think Roseville funding would be an option. “Here We Build” is being described by Johnson as a regional initiative to facilitate construction of a new sports and entertainment complex that promotes job creation, economic growth, cultural development and civic pride across the greater Sacramento metropolitan area. A feasibility study by Sacramento estimates the cost for a facility at the downtown railyard area with an estimated $387 million pricetag.