Thursday, May 22, 2014

Your room is ready, Mr. Elephant

Different time, same old thorny issues … this illustration says three things: (1) the digital
iteration is locked away in a storage device I can't get to any more, it's so old, so this is a
photocopy of the archived issue; (2) I had Adobe®™ Illustrator©® and wasn't afraid to use
it; and (3) money makes the world go 'round …
How's everything out your way?

We here are terribly, terribly excited! Terribly! We are over the moon! — or so I'm told — because now the Sacramento Kings™® of the NBA©® can finally have its new stadium right downtown!

The Sacramento City Council™ voted 7-2 Tuesday for the $477 million stadium and financing plans to make it possible!

Key to the plan is that we as citizen/drivers need to pay more for parking downtown — and park much, much more frequently!

Sacramento's mayor, former NBA player and three-time All-star Kevin Johnson™, called the vote Sacramento's finest hour!

Now cancer will abate, everyone will have good jobs, and rain will fall precisely on our lawns and between the farm rows each early morning!


The stadium issue has been going on for a long time. This hot mess of an illustration (above) is from 11 years ago, and the hue and cry for a new stadium was already an old and familiar sound. Since then the Kings and their arena have starred in a constant melodrama, pushed over and pulled from the brink many times, mere days away from leaving for Anaheim, then Seattle.

The specter of the arena has been moved around like a king on a chess board, inciting this and that political force to mess with the city. Now it's about three miles north of downtown in the floodplain called the Natoma District. Proponents say the stadium, called Sleep Train®™ Arena, is old and small and past its usefulness.

The proposed new stadium, which can also host concerts and ice hockey games, has been moved over the years to the abandoned railyards, slowly being gussied up … out to the state fairgrounds … and now right next to Interstate 5 and the chokepoint of the city's major freeways, where proponents say it will cause absolutely no congestion problems for games and concerts. None at all!

Past owners became villains, outside forces got caught trying to manipulate votes, the whole schmear. Most people, I'm guessing, stopped listening and caring long ago.

Now it's done. Opponent groups will block and parry once more with lawsuits and allegations — misuse of public money, hidden financial bombshells if the economy goes south — but it's done.

New Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has said the new stadium — a chrome-plated crown-shaped thing, judging from the renderings — will become a California icon, as memorable on postcards as the Hollywood sign and the Golden Gate Bridge.

It won't, of course, but Ranadive condenses the whole. Damn. Problem:

Sacramento is forever trying to be what it's not.

By forever, I mean since the Gold Rush, when Sacramento became a boom service and supply town for the mining camps, but never eclipsed San Francisco's might with its perfect port and gateway to the world.

Even after it became one of the greatest railroad cities in the world, Sacramento still served other regions' growth, and most of the Big Four (merchants Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins) who created the great Central Pacific Railroad chose San Francisco for their ostentations.

Maybe for the heart of the 20th Century Sacramento filled its suit nicely, a place of industry and military bases and government, a walkable place with trolley cars. A big small city. I'm judging from what I read and see in books. But the bases closed and industry has shrunk.

Sacramento is, of course, the capital, the hub of government, its mainstay, but I've heard outsiders many times say, "This is the capital?" They're expecting the height of San Francisco or the breadth of Los Angeles, not Sacramento's pale copy of each.

And that's OK with me. It's never been OK with Sacramento, which is really a small Midwestern city nestled at the confluence of two Midwestern rivers out here in California. It can be a fine Midwestern city, promoting small-town ideas of caring for its own, or trying to.

But people in power and money want it to be Seattle, a truly great port city, with amazing centers of culture and entertainment that seem organic — and amazing heartbreaking problems.

Sacramento has the heartbreaking problems, of chronic crime and dearth of services, especially for its poorest communities.

The arena is supposed to solve all, and that's where the city's attention has gone for years. It'll become the keystone for its Seattle-ization. More likely, though, it'll be the same small Midwestern city, but with a chrome dome.

Once the arena is finished, the city will look around and say, "Hey, where did all these problems come from?" They were here all along; they'll still be here, exacerbated by neglect and diverted resources.

The mayor, whose platform has been the NBA®© — he was instrumental last month in representing NBA™® players for the lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments he was caught making — will likely be off to higher office by then.

Sure, it colors my view that:
  • I'm not a basketball fan, or a hockey fan or a goer to concerts or whatever else is planned. We took our kids once to a Kings game through a Scouting promotion, and calculated afterward that we could have bought the tickets, the promoted McDonalds™® Happy Meal®©, even the promotional miniature non-bouncing basketball, for much less on our own. And
  • I have no civic pride.
For 27 years of living here, I still feel like I'm passing through. Sacramento's got some things I love — a century-old bike trail along the rivers that couldn't be built in today's fierce real-estate hunger, my wonderful Lake Natoma — but the city has never entranced me.

I have never thought, "I want to go downtown," and I rarely go.

That's just me. I'm weird. It's just where I live. Sorry, Sacramento.

The stadium will replace a has-been downtown mall, which is good. It'll spark a downtown revival, I suppose, and developments are underway already to anticipate the arena's catalytic conversion.

But it's a great big want for a monied minority, and the city has great big needs — not least of which are the needs of those whom the arena will displace downtown — and serious attention must be paid.

From my perch as a permanent tourist, I'm still trying to figure out what Sacramento's trying to pull.

Terribly, terribly exciting!

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