The original design for the planned downtown Sacramento arena was eye-catching. The tweaked one – unanimously endorsed Thursday night by the city’s Planning and Design Commission – is better.
The Kings owners and their architects listened to the concerns and suggestions of city officials and residents and came up with a sleeker exterior that is a better fit for the Downtown Plaza site.
While putting the arena in the center city should do wonders for revitalizing a long-moribund part of downtown, such a huge building can overwhelm the surrounding area. The architects’ solution was to put the building on a diet.
“It went to Jenny Craig and got a little bit slimmer, a little bit tighter, a little bit sexier,” team co-owner Mark Friedman told the planning commission.
The arena’s height is reduced by 15 feet and its outward slant of 20 feet is mostly eliminated, making it appear less imposing. The arena is shifted closer to L Street to expand the public plaza at the main entrance at Fifth and K streets, making it easier for fans to go to and from the arena, creating more gathering space for outdoor events and easing emergency access.
There are some changes to the plaza. A sunken seating area and permanent grandstand are replaced by a slightly elevated area with café-style tables. Also, at the city’s request, the truck entrance was moved from L Street to Fifth, creating more retail space along L, though more needs to be done to make that side of the arena inviting.
The revisions slightly reduce the overall square footage, but not the seating capacity of about 17,500 for basketball games. Lead architect Rob Rothblatt told The Bee’s Tony Bizjak that the architects have been told to stay within the current budget. The Kings – not city taxpayers – would pay any costs beyond the planned $448 million.
Some signature flourishes remain, most notably the silvery-white façade of patterned glass, textured metal and perhaps concrete, though the panels are smaller. Also, the unique main entry – hangar-sized doors that open on to the public plaza – is still there.
The architects are suggesting an important and welcome add-on – a 40- to 60-foot sculpture on the plaza that would be visible for blocks around.
Supporters say all the time that the arena is about more than basketball and the Kings and that it’s an arts venue and community gathering place as well. What better way to back up those words than with a significant piece of public art?
The planning commissioners did yeoman’s work on the arena, holding eight hearings over six months and putting their imprint on the final design. Their recommendation is scheduled to go to the City Council on May 13. While not everyone is enthusiastic about the design, there’s no reason not to approve it.
“We in Sacramento are going to have a spectacular building,” Kings President Chris Granger told the commission. “I think it will make Sacramento proud, and I think it will make everyone else jealous.”
Maybe, maybe not. But compared with the complicated arena financing plan also coming before the council next month, this is an easy call.