Dreams of a Hip, High-Tech Sacramento Hinge on Kings’ New Home Court

Dreams of a Hip, High-Tech Sacramento Hinge on Kings’ New Home Court

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Story by Keith Schneider
Photos by Max Whittaker

the-new-york-times logoSACRAMENTO — 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.”

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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, and Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, center, at the site of Sacramento’s new sports arena

Though Sacramento is a growing city of about 480,000 and the hub of a seven-county metropolitan region with 2.4 million residents, civic pride there was rarely talked about before Mr. Johnson, a three-time N.B.A. All-Star, was elected in 2008. The city’s reputation as a sensible, stable and decidedly unglamorous place to live and work rested largely on the eras and industries it served.

John Sutter (of Gold Rush fame) built a fort here near the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers in 1839, which led to the city’s incorporation 11 years later. Gold miners flocked to the nearby Sierra foothills in 1849. Central Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) established the western terminus of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 in a big rail yard on the perimeter of today’s business core. Much of Sacramento’s reputation is pinned to the Legislature’s decision to settle in the city in 1854. By the late 20th century, nearly 70,000 state workers called Sacramento and its neighboring suburbs home.

But downtown streets emptied by dark. Just about the only storefront open for business after hours was Rodney’s Cigar & Liquor Store, a newsstand at the corner of 10th and J Streets. Rodney’s is an afterthought today in Sacramento’s busy central city. The construction of the Golden 1 Center unleashed a torrent of new downtown market demand that has resulted in several rings of construction: office, housing, lodging and retail space — as well as major renovations to existing buildings that encompass much of the central city — are in the works.

Closest to the new 745,000-square-foot arena, in the first ring of activity, is the Downtown Plaza Tower: a 16-story, $250 million, 715,000-square-foot mixed-use project under construction by Vivek Ranadive, the chairman and owner of the Sacramento Kings, and JMA Ventures, a San Francisco real estate investment firm. Expected to be completed in time for the arena’s planned grand opening in October 2016, the tower contains residences, a 250-room Kimpton Hotel and retail storefronts that open to the plaza.

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Related Story: Welcome to The Future – Home of the Sacramento Kings

2018-05-08T14:03:10+00:00 September 6th, 2015|Featured, In the News|