By Ben van der Meer – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal
January 16, 2022
Final city approval of redeveloping the former Sleep Train Arena site in North Natomas could come in about a month, clearing the way for the long-awaited project to make major progress this year.
Tentatively, the Sacramento City Council will vote Feb. 15 on rezoning, an environmental impact report and other entitlements necessary to turn the 183-acre site into a California Northstate University teaching hospital, campus and "innovation park" of commercial and residential uses.
"We are grateful for the commitment of Councilmember Ashby and the Natomas community in achieving this important milestone,” said Sacramento Kings Chief Operating Officer Matina Kolokotronis, in a statement shared by the team. “True teamwork over almost a decade has brought us to this point, a step closer to delivering a cutting-edge innovation park to the region."
For almost a decade, Natomas residents and city officials have made redevelopment of the arena property nearly as big a priority as finding a new home for the Sacramento Kings, who still own the property but moved the team to Golden 1 Center downtown in 2016.
Kings officials, speaking on condition of anonymity last week, said they believe pending final council approval, demolition of the former arena could begin in the next six to nine months. The practice facility on site, though, is still in use and will stay up awhile longer, according to the team.
California Northstate is planning a 400-bed, 13-story hospital on the southwest portion of the Sleep Train property, including the existing arena building's footprint. On its own, that part of the redevelopment is a $1 billion investment.
On a parallel track, the team will also start marketing the site and its entitlements to master developers to carry them out, according to the team.
Most likely, the Kings will look for one developer to carry out the entire project, with a team official describing the overall project and its site as similar to the Railyards in Sacramento for scope and size.
So far, in addition to the hospital and a "health district," the proposed development includes a 72.2-acre "life district" with housing and retail, and a 25.2-acre "innovation district," likely with office and lab space.
Last week, Sacramento's planning commission unanimously recommended the council approve the project. Though a California Northstate representative didn't return a request for an update after the commission vote, hospital officials said last summer they wanted to move forward as soon as possible.
But Kings officials said ground-up development of the site will still take awhile. The existing infrastructure of the site to serve a sports arena is different from what's necessary for a hospital, medical university campus and the other components proposed.
Establishing that infrastructure, including streets, curbs and gutters, would come before projects start, according to the team.