For years, people said that the best thing about Sacramento was that it wasn’t too far from really cool places like San Francisco. That’s no longer the case. Sacramento has come into its own and emerged as one of the Golden State’s not-to-miss destinations, especially for meetings and conventions.
Sacramento’s future looked bleak. Struggling to rebound from the Great Recession, the city’s downtown was blighted with empty and run-down retail centers and office buildings. Moreover, the owner of the Sacramento Kings, the Maloof family, was threatening to move the NBA team to another city.
“That would have ripped the heart and soul out of the city,” said Matina Kolokotronis, the Kings’ chief operating officer.
But Vivek Ranadivé, a high-profile Sacramento businessman, put together a new ownership group, and in 2013 it purchased a 65 percent controlling interest in the team at a total franchise valuation of more than $534 million.
Not only did Ranadive, the team’s majority owner, help keep the Kings in their hometown, he also developed a new downtown arena, the Golden 1 Center, which opened in September 2016.
“Vivek wanted to create something iconic that would enrich the city and the fan experience,” said Kolokotronis.
Golden 1’s Touch
Since then, Sacramento has undergone a dramatic transformation, with a thriving new entertainment and cultural center, 16-story hotel, burgeoning art and culinary scene, and a reinvestment in its charming historical corridor.
In addition to NBA games, the $558 million Golden 1 Center hosts a variety of events and top musical acts, including Paul McCartney, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Guns N’Roses. In its first year, the arena hosted over 350 events—including 42 concerts—which attracted 1.6 million visitors to the downtown area, according to the Kings.
Designed by Los Angeles-based architectural firm AECOM, the venue includes undulating walls adorned with leaf designs and a metallic “skin” made of vertical panels of limestone, glass and aluminum that change colors as they reflect the natural light.
Inside, the arena feels open and airy, with large hallways and massive windows that let in natural light. The main entrance has five-story airport hangar doors that create an indoor/outdoor space for fans to gather.
Moreover, Golden 1 Center is the world’s first arena to be certified LEED Platinum by the U. S. Green Building Council. The arena is powered 100 percent by solar energy and uses a displacement ventilation system that provides cool air through vents at the seat level, instead of circulating forced air from the top of the arena.
It also has plenty of high-tech bells and whistles, including a 4K high-definition video board, with a four-screen Panasonic display. In addition, there’s one Wi-Fi access point for every 17 guests, and a 200-gigabit-per-second internet connection.
Kolokotronis stresses the arena also showcases Sacramento’s reputation as the country’s Farm-to-Fork capital. “At least 90 percent of the food comes from within a 150-mile radius,” she says. Some of Sacramento’s top local restaurants are represented at the arena, with offerings including handmade tacos, wood-fired pizza, and grass-fed burgers, all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The arena is part of the multi-million-dollar Downtown Commons (DoCo) development, and only about 50 yards from the new 16-story, 250-room Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. The luxury hotel has five meeting rooms, ranging in size from 1,300 to 4,300 square feet. In addition, there’s Echo and Rig, an upscale steakhouse, along with a rooftop bar and pool and an expansive fitness center.
As you walk into the hotel’s spacious, modern lobby, a grand staircase leads to the second floor and the hotel’s main 4,300-square-foot ballroom, which boasts an expansive terrace and a wall of 25-foot windows.
“It’s a very dramatic entrance but it has a warm, welcoming feel,” said Gabriela Rojo, director of catering and conference sales at Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. “Anyone having an event on the second floor feels like they’re a part of the entire environment.”
The hotel has a total of 20,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor space, which doesn’t include Revival, the hip and trendy open-air pool and lounge located on the third floor, overlooking downtown.
The hotel is also connected to Punch Bowl Social, a popular “adult playground” with bowling, video games, multiple bars and a top-notch restaurant. Elsewhere in DoCo, visitors can go shopping at upscale retailers and funky boutiques, catch a movie, or dine at a growing number of restaurants, such as Sauced BBQ & Spirits, a modern, Southern-inspired concept with live music and a spacious outdoor patio.
These new attractions add to the city’s more established favorites, like the Crocker Art Museum, which has an esteemed collection of California art, European master drawings and international ceramics. The museum also hosts a compelling line-up of temporary exhibits, along with educational and entertaining films, concerts and studio classes. For more contemporary art, there’s the city’s Wide Open Walls mural festival (Aug. 9-18), which transforms Sacramento’s downtown and midtown neighborhoods into open-air art galleries with nearly 50 artists from around the world creating colorful, large-scale works of art.
Less than a mile from all the new and modern downtown development is Old Sacramento, the city’s thriving historic district. This popular destination is a three-mile stretch along the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, with cobblestone streets and about 50 stores, boutiques, restaurants and gift shops.
Highlights here include the California State Railroad Museum, with beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives. Old Sacramento also offers scenic train and boat excursions along the river. And for something truly unique, there’s the Delta King Hotel, a beautiful five-story, 285-foot riverboat christened in 1925 and restored as a charming hotel with two restaurants and live entertainment.