Watching sporting events isn’t what it used to be. Teams have to find innovative and technologically savvy ways to attract fans and keep them captivated. “It’s about how you enhance the experience,” Kenny Lauer, vice president of digital and marketing for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, once told VentureBeat .
To the Sacramento Kings , the “experience” is more than just getting people into the seats, but also how to impact the surrounding community. The basketball team has faced quite a conundrum in the past few years: In 2013, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer led a group of investor in offering $500 million to buy the Kings and relocate it to Seattle.
Faced with the prospect of losing a major symbol of the city, Sacramento banded together to partner with a team organized by businessman Vivek Ranadivé to purchase the Kings for $348 million . However, a caveat of ownership was that Ranadivé had to find and build a new home for the team by 2017. This presented the Kings with not only a challenge, but an opportunity: How to not only develop a new arena, but one that brought a new experience to fans and deepened ties with the city’s business and residential communities.
The Kings’ new home will open in October with legendary artist Paul McCartney performing sold-out shows and the team will officially play its first regular season game on October 27 against the San Antonio Spurs.
For Ranadivé, formerly a minority owner of the Warriors, the new Kings home — called the Golden 1 Center — is more than a sports complex. It’s the centerpiece of what he calls “ civilization 3.0 ” where cities will be a place people both work and reside. Currently, downtown Sacramento is a commuter town, one that typically clears out at the close of business. But with the Kings relocating into the heart of the city, the expectation is that California’s capital city will be see renewed life.
Above: The original signage of Tower Records now hangs in the concourse of The Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings. Image Credit: Ken Yeung/VentureBeat
The Golden 1 Center is the “21st century communal fireplace” for the new chapter of Sacramento, according to Ranadivé. “It’s the things that you do around the fireplace will be what people figure out,” he said. “[The Kings] will provide the fire.” The team has invested $1 billion into building something that isn’t just a place to watch sports, but a gathering place for people. Kings president Chris Granger explained that an additional $500 million has been put into building out restaurants, stores, and a 16-story hotel adjacent to the arena. The point is to have people hang around longer instead of coming in for work and leaving hours later.
“We wanted this to be the first arena of the 21st century,” Ranadivé told us. “We wanted to flip the notion of what an arena is…you shouldn’t check into the arena, the arena should check into you.”
That may sound ridiculous, but the point he’s trying to make is that the arena concept hasn’t changed for decades. It’s no longer just a building, but a place that should be more accommodating to guests and the Sacramento Kings are able to start from scratch and incorporate the technology necessary to achieve Ranadivé’s vision.