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Kevin Johnson still busting it to keep Kings in Sacramento

Sep 6, 2011, 2:06 PM EDT

sacramento arena

While the NBA labor strife seems to suck the life out of all thins NBA, Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying hard to keep the NBA alive in Sacramento. By next March the city needs to have taken big steps toward building a new arena in Sacramento or the Kings are Anaheim bound.

The biggest stumbling block to any new arena — and what killed off plans for new buildings in Sacramento before — was how to pay for it. Johnson is set to release a report Thursday on how Sacramento can pay for an arena through a “public/private partnership.”

Johnson spoke with the USA Today about that report.

We’re going to release a report that shows a menu of options on the public financing side. We looked at 30 different things. We’re narrowing it down to 10 or nine or eight.

We’ve done our due diligence with experts looking at it. We’re programming with the (Kings owners Joe and Gavin) Maloofs, the NBA, all the interested parties. We’re actually doing it very transparent so on Sept. 8 they’ll see the options. … Then we’ll take the next two or three months to solidify the financing model. We’ll solidify some of the public financing options. We’ll try to solidify the private equity side. The arena will be a publicly owned entity, and the Kings will be a tenant.

Getting public financing will be the trick. Johnson did not say what the split will be (public vs. private) and said the report will lay out a variety of options on how to get there. He also said this will be a publicly-owned building, which could be a big revenue boost for the city eventually. But that is a big mountain to climb — they need to convince the public that in this economy spending money on a new arena is a good investment for the city. Johnson is doing grass roots meetings to get his point across. But that is the big challenge, make no mistake.

Whatever the public financing mechanism, it will not be a broad based sales tax (as voters approved in Oklahoma City). Instead this likely will be a targeted fee on tickets at the arena — if you go to an event there, you pay a little extra to help cover building bills.

But there is no easy sell, no easy plan in this economy. That said, you can’t fault the former Suns point guard for his hustle. You never could.

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