The Kings were home.
As a sellout crowd of 17,608 fans clad in purple T-shirts waved LED bracelets, Sacramento’s lone major-league sports franchise on Thursday firmly planted its flag in a new downtown arena that the NBA’s boss described as “the new gold standard in the league.”
It was a raucous evening. Fans poured into the new $557 million arena two hours before the Kings’ first regular-season home game, clanging cowbells and cheering.
“Three years ago, I stood before you and said, ‘This is your team and it’s here to stay,’ ” Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive told the crowd moments before tip-off, referring to the first game after his group took over the franchise in 2013. “Tonight, I’m very, very happy to say, ‘Welcome to your new home.’ ”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was one of the people most impressed with Golden 1 Center. After touring the facility and greeting the first wave of fans who entered the arena, he told The Sacramento Bee that the league is determined to bring the lucrative NBA All-Star Game to Sacramento.
Silver said he met with Ranadive and team President Chris Granger earlier in the day to discuss the franchise’s wishes to host All-Star Weekend.
“My personal view is that all new arenas should have the opportunity to host an All-Star Game,” Silver said. “We are absolutely determined to figure it out.”
The city is “thousands” of hotel rooms short of the inventory needed to host the league’s midseason event, he said, but the Kings are working on solutions to that issue, including exploring if they can dock cruise ships at the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento to accommodate fans.
The port is about a 10-minute drive from the new arena. It’s connected to San Francisco Bay by the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel, a 40-mile-long man-made waterway that’s 30 feet deep and 200 feet wide. Freighters use the channel to transport rice and other goods, but it’s unclear if cruise ships could make the journey.
Granger said the team has “indicated to the NBA that we plan to bid on the 2020 All-Star Game.”
“We are currently exploring all of our options, at the port and elsewhere,” he said.
The NBA generally looks for cities with at least 5,000 rooms close to the game site, and downtown Sacramento falls well short of that mark. The addition early next year of the 250-room Sawyer Hotel facing the arena in Downtown Commons will bring the city a step closer, but it still won’t meet NBA standards.
Golden 1 Center won’t be the issue standing in Sacramento’s way of an All-Star bid, Silver said.
“It’s spectacular, it’s clearly the new gold standard in the league,” he said. “They thought of everything and executed on it.”
Silver said Golden 1 Center features elements he has never seen in his 25 years with the NBA, including seat-by-seat climate control technology, locally sourced food and massive hangar doors that can create an indoor-outdoor arena.
The Kings want to open those doors for games when the weather agrees, and Silver said the league now has a policy to allow that. The Kings opened the doors for two preseason games and planned to open them for Thursday night’s game, but weren’t able to because of the rain.
“We are confident that under the right weather, there will be no impact on gameplay,” Silver said.
For a night, the action on the court was overshadowed by Golden 1 Center.
It was a wet start for thousands of fans who had to line up under a canopy of umbrellas outside the arena in the rain waiting to pass through metal detectors. It may have momentarily dampened spirits, at least until they got into the arena, where fans shook off the wet and greeted old friends from Sleep Train Arena, the Kings’ former home in suburban North Natomas.
Before the game, Chris Waller and his wife, Kristen, dropped by the new Malt and Mash Irish Pub a block away and said they were delighted by the new downtown scene.
“It’s fun having food and drink right next door, unlike the old arena,” Chris Waller said. “I’ve been going to games for 30 years. I had to be here tonight. This place is awesome, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, like a spaceship. I’m very proud.”