Work continues at the future home of the Sacramento Kings. The venue will be ready for the Paul McCartney show on October 4. Jose Luis Villegas The Sacramento Bee
Work continues at the future home of the Sacramento Kings. The venue will be ready for the Paul McCartney show on October 4. Jose Luis Villegas The Sacramento Bee

Arena

Want free McCartney tickets? Just ask the city

By Anita Chabria and Dale Kasler

achabria@sacbee.com

September 01, 2016 07:30 PM

How much would you pay for luxury-suite tickets to a Paul McCartney show at Golden 1 Center?

How about nothing?

The city expects to have 40 free tickets just waiting for the taking, 20 for each of the two McCartney shows scheduled to open the new downtown arena Oct. 4 and 5.

The coveted passes might be given to lucky community organizations and nonprofits, according to a new ticketing policy that will be voted on at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

Although final terms are still being worked out with the Sacramento Kings, control over a suite is one of the concessions the City Council obtained from the team in 2014, when it agreed to contribute a $255 million public subsidy to the arena. The deal also gave the city the right to host several events at the arena each year. While the Kings will operate the building, the city actually will own it.

The $556 million arena will hold 17,500 fans, including those sitting in the 34 luxury suites that ring the facility. The California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog, requires the city to adopt specific guidelines for distributing suite tickets.

Doling out the tickets and supervising those who use the box is expected to be such a hefty job that the city is looking to hire a dedicated administrator who will be paid between $85,000 and $107,000. The person will be required to attend every event as a city chaperone to make sure invitees behave by the rules.

City Clerk Shirley Concolino, who led the effort to craft the policy, said she’s looking for a ticket master with “awesome people skills,” as well as “poltical acumen” and the ability to say no in a diplomatic fashion. With the high number of events, Concolino also has warned applicants that they will be very busy and will likely be “the most loved or the most hated” employee in City Hall.

The city is focusing on awarding most tickets to promote economic development. Tickets also can be given out to foster city business, recognize cultural, recreational or educational groups, boost city employee morale or reward public service.

If the policy is approved by the council, 30 percent of tickets would be reserved for community groups. The city plans on doing outreach to specific organizations to let them know about the program, but any civic group is able to request them. The city clerk’s office will have final say in distribution and plans to have a website where requests can be made.

Free tickets might not be available for every arena event. The agreement excludes preseason and playoff games. In addition, promoters of certain events might choose not to give out tickets to suite holders and instead charge them admission. One notable example is the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which comes to Golden 1 next March. In those cases, the city would have the right to buy tickets at market prices, said Assistant City Manager John Dangberg.

Forty percent of tickets are devoted to fostering economic development in the city and will be available for the city manager and other top city officials to schmooze, network and otherwise woo potential business interests. City spokeswoman Linda Tucker cited the example of Mayor Kevin Johnson attending a Kings game at Sleep Train Arena last season with the chief executive of Parrable, a high-tech company that recently announced it would partially relocate to Sacramento from San Francisco.

Elected officials have their own cache of tickets to draw on. The mayor has 10 percent set aside for his personal use. Each council member gets a 2 percent allotment, taking up 16 percent of tickets annually. Those tickets can be used for constituents or organizations they support.

Councilman Jay Schenirer said he plans on giving his tickets to kids in his district. On Oct. 1, he will host a “Celebrate Oak Park” event where school-age children will be recognized for achievements. He envisions awarding tickets to attendees at that event and others like it.

Councilman Larry Carr also expects to use his tickets for youths in his district.

“There are so many kids who will not have a chance to go to that arena. We will find it a target-rich environment,” he said.

He added that he also plans on using them as kudos for neighborhood heroes, “adults that have worked so hard to make this community better.”

Elected officials who opt to attend a particular event using one of their allotted tickets can bring one family member or guest.

The percentage of tickets allotted to each category of recipient will be somewhat flexible and doesn’t currently add up to 100 percent, Concolino said. She said the idea is to leave some leeway for her office to refine the policy in the months after the new arena opens.

Concolino said the council will be asked to examine how the policy is working in the coming year and make any necessary adjustments.

“It’s a balancing act, and you just don’t know until you see,” she said.

One of the trickiest aspects of doling out seats in the coveted city arena suite is likely to be what constitutes a legitimate community group worthy of receiving the perk. Concolino said her office would make those determinations on a case-by-case basis.

In order to handle all the requests, and to oversee behavior in the box, Concolino’s office has begun interviewing candidates for the full-time position of ticket administrator. Money to pay that person will come from reassigning an existing unfilled position.

Currently, the city’s ticket program is run by the city manager, but with the increase in scope both in terms of reporting rules and events, Concolino said a new system was needed.

While the rules for behavior in the city box have yet to be formalized, being “absolutely out of control, drunk, misbehaving,” could lead to a lifetime ban from the box, Concolino said.

Judicious use of cowbells will not get you kicked out.

While the tickets will be free, they don’t come with the perks of other luxury boxes that hand out liquor and meals as part of the package.

“The city is obviously not going to be paying for anybody’s food and drinks,” said Concolino.

Box users will likely have to walk to the concession stands or pony up a personal credit card to cover expenses, she said.

The policy was crafted after examining arena ticketing policies in more than 15 other cities. The city has had a ticket policy since 2009, but the FPPC recently updated its rules to require greater reporting and transparency.

Concolino said that of the cities examined, the ticket policy for Fresno’s Selland Arena was chosen as the model for Sacramento’s policy. If the public is curious about exactly who is in the rarified room, they’ll be able to look it up online. Concolino plans on creating a public database that records the user of each ticket.

“Transparency to me is the absolute key to the success of this,” she said.

Besides access to the suite, the city can host “up to nine major civic events per year, as well as up to 24 minor events,” according to the agreement made with the Kings.

Although the city can charge admission to the events, they must be “civic or charitable in nature” and proceeds must go to the city or a designated nonprofit. The “minor events” include banquets and seminars and can’t draw more than 450 people.

Oh, and if you’re after those tickets?

The city will announce a procedure for nabbing them in coming weeks, and has set up an email account at tickets@cityofsacramento.org to handle requests.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa