California Northstate University plans to build a medical center, featuring a 13-story teaching hospital, on the site of Sleep Train Arena, which opened as ARCO Arena in 1988.

California Northstate University officials on June 16 announced their plan to have a 13-story teaching hospital built on the site of Sleep Train Arena - a former home of the Sacramento Kings.

The university formerly pursued having the hospital built in the Stonelake neighborhood of Elk Grove. But this controversial project, which drew opposition from neighbors, business owners and environmentalists, was ultimately rejected by the Elk Grove Planning Commission due to that site’s existence within a 200-year floodplain.

Following that rejection, CNU briefly considered a Rancho Cordova location for their $750 million to $800 million hospital/medical center project.

The Sacramento Kings, in partnership with the university and the city of Sacramento, last week announced the plan for the hospital/medical center, which will be located on 35 developable acres that were donated to CNU by the Kings. As part of the project, the arena will be demolished.

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen, in a press statement, wished CNU well in their pursuit to build a hospital at the Sleep Train Arena site in Sacramento’s North Natomas area.

“We still believe that this is an important project for the Sacramento region, and we wish California Northstate University and the city of Sacramento every success in establishing the project in (North) Natomas,” she said. “We continue to enjoy a strong working relationship with CNU, and we will do everything we can to support the continued success and growth of the university campus in Elk Grove.”

California Northstate University opened its Stonelake campus in 2014, becoming the state’s ninth accredited medical school. It announced its plan to build a 1.5-million-square-foot medical center, featuring a teaching hospital, in Elk Grove in 2018, when an application for project approvals were filed with the city.

The university currently occupies 130,000 square feet in Elk Grove, and has more than 1,700 combined students and employees in five colleges, including health sciences, medicine, pharmacy and psychology.

The CNU plans to retain its pharmacy school at its present site, and has submitted an application to the city to expand the Elk Grove campus to accommodate a new dentistry school, according to an Elk Grove city press statement.

CNU President and CEO Dr. Alvin Cheung, in a press statement issued last week, called the Sleep Train Arena site plan a “giant leap” toward establishing a hospital that will benefit the greater Sacramento region.

“In addition to providing extraordinary services and acting as a hub for teaching and healing, the campus will be a place to nurture health and lifelong well-being,” he wrote. “The university looks forward to working with the Kings organization and advancing our mission of science and the art of health care.”

Jan Smutny-Jones, spokesperson for Neighbors Ensuring Stonelake Transparency, a coalition that opposed the construction of the hospital in the Stonelake neighborhood, referred to the university’s pursuit of its Elk Grove site as a “poor choice.”

“The Elk Grove General Plan clearly stated that you cannot build essential medical facilities in a 200-year floodplain,” he said. “So, any basic due diligence would have demonstrated that to them.”

Smutny-Jones told the Citizen that CNU also faced other concerns.

“(The floodplain issue) is before you’ve got all of the other issues of building a 13-story structure in an international flyway, the impacts in the neighborhood, the impacts on traffic, the inappropriateness of that facility in this neighborhood, and the fact that we’ve already got a hospital that’s going to be built in Elk Grove,” he said.

The nearly 50-year-old Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, near Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento, will be replaced by Dignity’s future, $320 million hospital on its 28-acre medical campus on Wymark Drive, south of Elk Grove Boulevard.

Dignity Health plans to break ground on that project in either 2023 or 2024, and open the facility by 2027.

Smutny-Jones additionally addressed CNU’s plan to build its hospital in Sacramento.

“We’ll find out if it moves forward there,” he said. “The site may be more appropriate for what they’re planning than what it would be in Elk Grove.”

With the university no longer pursuing a hospital in Elk Grove, Smutny-Jones noted that his group has directed its attention to the future of the Stonelake Landing shopping center.

CNU officials previously intended to build their hospital in an area that included the western portion of that shopping center, adjacent to the university’s current Elk Grove campus.

“They effectively ran most of the tenants out,” Smutny-Jones said. “We still have Dreaming Dog Brewery and there’s still the veterinarian, liquor store and a few other small businesses. But a large percentage of the former businesses that we used in the community are gone.

“So, what happens to the site, obviously, remains a concern. So, we’re watching to see what happens next there.”

Cheung did not respond to the Citizen’s request for comment, as of press time.