Story by Keith Schneider
Photos by Max Whittaker
SACRAMENTO — When it opens for the Sacramento Kings’ first home basketball game, the Golden 1 Center — which will have the capacity to hold 17,500 fans and is designed with online graphic and social media interfaces — will be more than the newest and most technologically advanced arena in the National Basketball Association.
The arena, which will cost about $500 million, will have aircraft hangar doors on its north side that open onto a public plaza anchored by a luxury hotel. There are also plans for more than one million square feet of retail, recreation, office and housing space.
The four-block development — total price about $1 billion — was previously occupied by an underperforming indoor shopping mall built in 1971. Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento sees it as the catalyst for efforts to convert California’s capital into a hot spot for jobs, housing and entertainment.
“It’s an amazing moment for Sacramento,” Mr. Johnson said during a ceremony in mid-June to announce that Golden 1 Credit Union, the Sacramento-based banking cooperative, had purchased the rights to the arena’s name for $120 million over 20 years. “We’re in a new era called Sacramento 3.0, where we do things differently and where we control our own destiny. It’s bigger than basketball. We’re revitalizing our downtown. It’s about civic pride.”
Some city residents and economists disagree, however, about the overall benefits of the new arena to all of Sacramento. A small group of residents objected to the use of public funds to subsidize construction of the arena, but they failed in 2014 to gain enough signatures to hold a referendum, and their arguments against the project in a court case were rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court judge.
Academic studies have found that new arenas built with public financing are not likely to spread the economic benefits much beyond the surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s great for the businesses and for developers in the area,” said Victor A. Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who studies the effects of arena development. “Whether it is good for the city — economic studies suggest they don’t add to citywide prosperity by any sort of economic variable we can identify.”