By Jeffrey Weidel
Mona Almanza is proudly wearing purple – lots of it in fact.
The purple Sacramento Kings shirt is just one facet of the accessorizing Almanza has done for a March game at Golden 1 Center. She proudly points out her purple-painted fingernails and explains how she made the purple Kings crown that snugly fits on her head. A cowbell is also part of her game-day apparel.
Waiting for other family members to show up, Almanza is basking in the sun on a gorgeous evening, surrounded by many Kings fans who are in no hurry to enter the beautiful new arena nearly two hours before game time.
“I love this atmosphere,” says Almanza, gesturing at the nearby small pockets of people and Kings fans sitting in the outside café at the Sauced BBQ & Spirits restaurant. “This is wonderful. I can walk around on a warm evening like this, and have something to eat and drink before going into the arena. And it will be better next year when they have even more family restaurants and places to shop.”
Inside Golden 1 Center, many early arrivals have congregated at the Sierra Nevada Draught House where the main attraction surprisingly doesn’t seem to be beer. A warm breeze is drifting into the lounge area, thanks to the six-story tall hangar doors that are open in the first indoor-outdoor arena of its kind. It’s one of the technological marvels in this jewel of an arena that provides fans a unique experience.
Located in the heart of downtown, Golden 1 Center encompasses four city blocks and will be a major catalyst for development in the surrounding area and the entire region. The 750,000 square-foot arena seats 17,500, and every home game was a sellout this season.
A devoted fan, Barbara Rust – AKA “Sign Lady” – has been passionately rooting for her team since the Kings arrived from Kansas City in 1985. She’s enjoying her new home away from home.
“When the doors are open in here it’s beautiful. They did some really neat things to this building,” Rust said. “The master plan seems to be working. We got the NCAA (tournament) and now there’s a lot of opportunity for business in Sacramento. Golden 1 Center has made our city better.”
AECOM, the lead architecture group, gave Golden 1 Center some innovative design elements, including outward-facing windows, balconies and the aircraft hangar doors. Golden 1 is also an interactive “smart” building that can check in with fans, leaving AECOM vice president Alastair MacGregor to remark that “we built something that was for the fan, city, and planet.”
The state-of-the-art arena receives a major endorsement from Greg Martinelli, who was attending his first game in March with 12-year-old son, Carter.
“Esthetically, the arena is beautiful,” Martinelli said. “It has a real unique, modern architectural look. I like the way they have incorporated neon signs like Tower Records (Shakey’s Pizza, Franke’s Drugs, Newbert Hardware, and more).”
This is Sacramento’s third arena and easily its best. “This makes Arco Arena look like it was built out of Legos,” laughs Martinelli.
A flashy new arena hasn’t altered the Kings philosophy regarding the treatment of its fans. When damaged Oroville Dam led to an evacuation in mid-February, Maggie and Bob Schroeder were seated in Golden 1 Center, ready to enjoy their first game. The Marysville residents quickly departed the arena and were able to salvage a few things at home before the city was shut down.
“The Kings didn’t have to do this, but they gave us comped tickets and really good seats to another game,” Bob said. “They were so nice to do that. We’re excited being here; it’s an amazing building. Overall we would give the Kings an ‘A’ for Golden 1 Center.”
The arena has 90 percent of its food, beers and wine coming from within a 150-mile radius. The food is Farm-to-Fork sourced and culinary options include popular Sacramento restaurants like Star Ginger, LowBrau Bierhall, Selland, Café Bernardo and Paragary’s.
“We love all the food options. They have great variety,” Maggie said.
The game hasn’t begun, but one more thing Almanza enjoys is leaving.
“I thought parking and getting here was going to be a nightmare,” she said. “But I’ve had no problem getting here from Antelope. I love that the arena is downtown. I like the feel of being in the city. I park at 10th and L Street and love leaving at night and seeing the lights of Capitol lit up. It’s beautiful.”