SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After years of searching for a new home, the Sacramento Kings are set to open a new venue that raises the bar of what an arena can be.
Along with some of the modern accouterments that have become commonplace like smartphone apps that allow fans to order food or watch replays from their seats, giant screens to watch the game and high-speed connections that let fans post photos almost instantaneously, the Golden 1 Center also has many first-of-its-kind features.
There are the airplane hangar doors that can open to turn the venue into an indoor-outdoor arena and the “smart turnstiles” that will allow fans to enter at more than triple the usual speed. But perhaps most important to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive are the environmental features that make it the first indoor venue to receive LEED Platinum certification — the highest level of recognition for environmentally conscious buildings.
The 17,500-seat arena will be the first professional sports venue powered completely by solar energy, will save about 1 million gallons of water a year compared to a typical venue of its size, was built with recycled material from the mall that stood at the site before construction began and will get 90 percent of its food and beverages from within 150 miles.
“We felt we had to set a new bar,” Ranadive said. “We have to be cognizant of the kind of planet we want to leave our kids and next generations. This had to be the greenest arena ever built. … I fully expect that arenas in the future will be even better, be even more sustainable. Hopefully what we have here is an example of how to build a great arena and still be responsible to the environment.”
Ranadive bought the team in 2013 for $534 million, saving the franchise from a planned move to Seattle. The next task was getting the new downtown arena built.
Ranadive wanted an “iconic” venue that would anchor a revitalized downtown and he believes the nearly $600 million facility that opens this weekend has achieved that goal.
The arena is part of a $1 billion development project that includes 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use property that will have a hotel, restaurants, retail shops, offices and condos. About $500 million in outside investment is also expected in the area.
“This arena is the 21st century cathedral,” Ranadive said. “It’s the communal fireplace where people used to gather in old times. For us, it’s always been about more than basketball.”
Befitting a team owned by a tech mogul who made his billions in Silicon Valley, the arena was built with enough technology to “future proof” it. It has enough bandwidth for a small city, allowing fans to post 250,000 Instagram photos per second and 500,000 Snapchats per second, according to chief technology officer Ryan Montoya.
It has the NBA’s first 4K ultra HD videoboard — providing a picture four times clearer than HD — that stretches 84 feet long. The in-stadium app will give fans the best driving instructions based on traffic and parking spots. It will allow them to order food or merchandise to their seat, watch live-streamed video on their phone and even place non-monetary bets on the outcomes of plays that can earn fans points that can be redeemed for prizes.
There will even be facial recognition software that will allow players to enter secure areas and could one day be expanded to fans if they opt in to that option, making a more “frictionless” experience.
“Our arena is more about code than it is concrete,” team President Chris Granger said. “The idea is to create a platform that allows us to grow and expand and change the fan experience as the technology adapts.”
Overseeing all of the technology is a mission control room that will feature law enforcement and emergency medical services personnel, building operations officials, social media and guest services workers and others who will monitor all aspects of the arena on game days.
Perhaps the most unique feature will be the hangar doors, which can open to allow the delta breeze to cool the building and provide the option for concerts — or eventually even basketball games — with an indoor-outdoor feel.
The Kings have had talks with the NBA about what conditions would need to be met before they could play a game with the open doors but the team believes it will be able to control the temperature, humidity and wind well enough to make the conditions on the court comparable to a fully indoor arena.
The team plans to hold its open practice with the doors open and could do the same for an exhibition game against a non-NBA team. The Kings also could open the doors for college or high school games in order to gather enough data to show the league.
“They know we want a home-court advantage and they know that we want to enjoy the indoor-outdoor arena,” Ranadive said. “I fully expect we’ll figure out a way to get that home-court advantage.”