Sacramento’s bid for the NBA All-Star Game envisions a bright future without the poor

A screen capture from the pitch video provided on Vivek Ranadive's Twitter account.

Sacramento is back on its bidding bullshit.

This morning under the shadows cast by the Golden 1 Center, city officials alongside the Sacramento Kings front office announced their pursuit of the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend. This year’s NBA All-Star Game was played in Los Angeles, the honors shared by the Clippers and Lakers, who both call the Staples Center in downtown L.A. home. It was reported the city took in $116 million in revenue from the weekend. For Sacramento, the hope is to lure the rights to the 2022 game and its own multimillion-dollar bounty through creativity and ingenuity.

In this bright vision of the future, Sacramento is selling autonomous vehicles shuttling guests from Sacramento International Airport to the steps of the Golden 1 Center, luxury cruise ships on the Sacramento River and artificial intelligence apps that place all the city’s accouterments at visitors’ fingertips.

And it’s all horrifying.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has always been frank with Sacramento’s big ideas and wishful thinking. Securing an All-Star game requires hotels, and Sacramento comes up severely short.

The league requests a minimum of 5,000 rooms. While the opening of the Sawyer adjacent to the Golden 1 Center is helpful, the central city only counts 1,300 hotel rooms and 2,000 within three miles. That’s 1,700 short and certainly won’t be resolved with the completion of real estate developer Sotiris Kolokotronis’ “Mad Men-era” restoration of the Clarion Hotel on 16th and I streets, Randy Paragary’s Midtown Hotel where Cafe Bernardo and Monkey Bar currently stand, or the unnamed operators of a 16-story, 250-room, 4-star hotel recently approved at DOCO.

This is where the creativity and ingenuity arises. It’s also where it gets alarming. According to The Bee, the city is in discussion with Airbnb to potentially supply 1,000 apartments and homes for All-Star Weekend. Currently, there are 400 Airbnb properties in Sacramento. Imagine what 600 more looks like.

With limited policy protecting renters’ rights, Airbnb and its hosts—who are increasingly comprised less of good-natured folk with a spare room and more of landlords who understand the cost-benefits of transient occupants paying high dollar over lease limitations of long-term housing—could begin a dramatic displacement of Midtowners and surrounding neighborhoods purely for the purpose of one weekend in 2022.

Three years ago I spoke with Councilman Jay Schenirer about “getting it right” in Sacramento while the supply was small enough to manage. Since then the city’s only “tough on Airbnb” initiatives lie in the pursuit of Airbnb managers paying a $125 permit fee and living within 30 miles of their property for the purpose of upkeep. Currently only 35 of the 400 properties comply.

How about the announcement of a fleet of autonomous vehicles cruising down freeway lanes dedicated to All-Star Weekend transit? If you are a current Lyft or Uber driver, say hello to your impending unemployment in 2022. Her name is SASCHA.

Every ride given in your vehicle has been data collection for rideshare corporations to go fully autonomous. Sacramento announcing driverless shuttles in 2022 puts a very serious deadline on the fate of human rideshare drivers in this city, to say nothing of the licensed taxi drivers.

And keep in mind that, while Los Angeles reported $116 million in revenue from its All-Star Weekend, it did not have the infrastructure shortages to address in 2015 in order to enjoy that bounty. Whereas Sacramento will need to invest millions in infrastructure, namely turning that junk pit at Third Street and Capitol Avenue that has been zoned for a “skyline defining” CALPERS high rise into an amphitheatre for All-Star Weekend concerts. (It has been suggested the mock-up is not official and this amphitheatre could exist in the Railyards.)

A 2016 article suggested that high rise was slated for construction in 2018, but according to a Biz Journal article roundup of Sacramento’s future skyline, there was “no formal application filed yet” for the CALPERS building (and CALPERS is getting shame-shame memos from the city for not using its pension fund to build 400 housing units on R Street). As for the cruise ships docking along the Sacramento River, the city needs to disclose the price tag, since one cruise ship expert already told The Bee it would cost millions. Essentially, Sacramento is more comparable to Brazil’s scramble to redesign its urban infrastructure amid political scandal and economic recession in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

With years of Major League Soccer expansion resources spent only to see the bid go to Nashville and the likeliness of receiving the remaining spot dwindling, city officials’ decision to pivot their bid interest to the NBA All-Star Game campaign looks like another desperate ploy for attention beyond the county lines. It feels like repurposing this bid into a Winter Olympics 2026 is inevitable.

Reports all remain transparent that this is a long-shot bid. But, it cannot be overlooked that significant resources went into not only the planning and orchestrating of the bid, but also that this will remain an ongoing pursuit as the league does not generally announce winners until two years out. It spells brainstorming and subsidies for more creative paths toward wooing the NBA, instead of applying that same unbridled, red-tape-free civic resilience toward an affordable housing shortage and 13,000-plus homeless crisis.


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Blake Gillespie
Blake Gillespie is a freelance journalist based in Sacramento. He's a former co-owner of Impose Magazine and has contributed at the Sacramento News & Review, the Sacramento Bee, the East Bay Express, Comstock's and His decade-plus of experience is in music, arts, sports, political and culture coverage.