Natomas Doing OK without Sleep Train Arena

SACRAMENTO -- Business leaders in Sacramento’s Natomas neighborhood were told that things are looking up for the area that is home to the abandoned Sleep Train Arena.

Members of the Natomas Chamber of Commerce heard reports that schools are performing well, crime is down and construction has seen a big boost since the building moratorium placed on the flood-prone neighborhood was lifted by the federal government.

The fate of the old Sleep Train Arena that was home to the Sacramento Kings was mentioned almost in passing.

Angelique Ashby, who represents the area on the city council, said $50 million in bonds must still be repaid before any reuse of the arena property can move ahead.

Ashby said the city council will turn over the bond repayments to the Kings ownership group at Tuesday’s council meeting with an agreement that the Kings would pay off $20 million of the bond debt early. That would pave the way faster to find a tenant for the site.

The optimistic outlook for Natomas puts less pressure to act too quickly in replacing the arena with another employer.

Ashby also said unlike the successful Golden One Center, the arena was not as good for the region as was thought.

“It was a drive in, drive out arena surrounded by a parking lot…most people came to the arena and left,” said Ashby.

But Ashby said the site was still very important and has a lot of potential for Natomas. She told the audience that there have been several offers to move into the site but were turned down because they did not fit the high-tech, innovation center goal for the arena property.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the city had an obligation to fulfill the promise of former Mayor Kevin Johnson to put city resources into finding a suitable, high-paying employer for the site.

“It’s not just about filling space, it’s about doing right by the community,” said Steinberg.