Q&A: Downtown Plaza exec weighs in on effort to save Sacramento Kings, build new arena
Last night, the city of Sacramento held an open house to address the looming environmental impact study examining the construction of a new downtown arena for the Kings.
Among those in attendance to answer questions from the public were staff members of JMA Ventures, the owners of the Downtown Plaza. The aging mall, which was purchased by JMA for approximately $22 million last August, is the proposed site of a new entertainment and sports center.
Todd Chapman is president and CEO of the San Francisco-based real estate and development firm. Cowbell Kingdom touched base with Chapman for his thoughts on yesterday evening’s open house, JMA’s involvement in Sacramento’s effort to keep the Kings and more.
CK: What kind of feedback have you received tonight from members of the public?
TC: Well, it’s been real supportive. I think people had questions about looking at the site, where we thought certain aspects of the project might go, where the arena would go, maybe where the retail gets repositioned. And when we walked them through, there’s a lot of support and enthusiasm.
CK: Tell us about where JMA’s involvement in this project all began. How has this all come together for you guys?
TC: The process really started a couple years ago. I think we’ve been looking to invest in Sacramento for the better part of a decade. We weren’t able to get some things done in the beginning part of last decade. We’re just real excited about the opportunity that we came across a year and a half ago and we worked hard to understand it and we were able to get it done last August.
We knew that the mall needed a lot of love and we came to it knowing that we had a bit of a blank canvas to really work with. Did I expect then that we’d be here today talking about an arena and keeping the Kings and moving them downtown? No. But we certainly looked at this as an incredible opportunity to get in front of.
CK: How much of JMA’s interest in the Downtown Plaza came at the urging and encouragement of Mayor Kevin Johnson?
TC: The mayor is obviously a great leader and a great community advocate for Sacramento. It was through a series of meetings that we sat down at the end of last year where we talked about – is there really an opportunity to explore here about not only keeping the Kings, but moving them downtown – and what we could do together to support that effort.
CK: Darius Anderson has been someone who’s played a critical behind-the-scenes role in piecing together this deal for Sacramento. What were those conversations like with him as far getting this project rolling?
TC: Darius has been instrumental in ways that most of this community will probably never know. He’s been working on this for a number of years to really kind of put everybody in position where the team could still be here and this (building a downtown arena) could be an opportunity. So, I think a big debt of gratitude is owed to Darius.
CK: You were part of the Sacramento contingent in New York a few weeks ago as the city, along with Seattle, made its case to the NBA. What role did you play in Sacramento’s presentation to the league?
TC: Well, you know those proceedings are confidential and so they want to keep them that way. But, certainly I was there to help answer any questions or concerns anybody had on the real estate side and whether the arena could actually work on the site and that’s what I did.
CK: Coming out of those meetings, what was your general sense of how your presentation was received by the league?
TC: Well you know, I’m not gonna comment on them necessarily, but I certainly was proud to be a part of that group. And I thought everyone there did a great job in stating Sacramento’s case and why this is a great community and great market for the NBA.