An outdoor amphitheater on Capitol Mall. Autonomous vehicles shuttling tourists from Sacramento International Airport to Golden 1 Center. A waterfront festival along the Port of Sacramento accommodating hundreds of people staying on luxury cruise ships.
Sacramento’s bid to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2022 or 2023 is a mix of high-tech flash and outside-the-box concepts aimed at bolstering a proposal seen by many as a long shot.
The bid, revealed to The Sacramento Bee late Wednesday, will be formally introduced Thursday at a press conference outside Golden 1 Center and delivered to the NBA the following day. The bid package will include virtual reality tours of event spaces and testimonials from team officials, local political leaders and former Kings legends.
Kings chairman and owner Vivek Ranadive called the NBA All-Star Game “a celebration, a festival.” In Sacramento’s case, that celebration will be driven by technology - and touches never seen in other All-Star bids, he said.
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“Obviously, people look at us as the smaller town, the smaller market,” Ranadive said in an interview. “If you’re a Chicago or L.A., you can just check the boxes (of an All-Star bid). When you’re Sacramento, you have to try harder, but Sacramento is used to that. Sacramento had to try hard to keep the team, Sacramento knows what it’s like to earn something.
“We will get a game here,” he said.
The biggest obstacle remains the NBA’s requirement for hotel rooms, although the Kings said they are confident they will have the stock necessary.
The Kings are in discussions with Airbnb to set aside up to 1,000 apartments and homes on All-Star weekend. In addition, a conceptual drawing released by the Kings shows cruise ships anchored in the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento, where an event space would anchor a temporary entertainment district accommodating out-of-town guests. The Kings said they would likely dock two or three luxury cruise ships in the port, each with a capacity of around 300 rooms.
Hundreds of new hotel rooms have opened downtown in the past year - and hundreds more are expected to be available by 2022 - but the city may still be short of what the NBA requires of host cities without getting creative. Speaking at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he had “no issue” using cruise ships to accommodate guests in Sacramento, but wasn’t convinced the ships would solve the hotel room gap.
“Sacramento and the surrounding communities provide enormous opportunities,” Silver said during a press conference. “Wine country, great golf, great scenery, all kinds of wonderful things. But at the end of the day, we have to have a sufficient number of rooms.”
Events for the multi-day event would be held at Golden 1 Center, along Capitol Mall, inside a renovated Sacramento Convention Center, the Crest Theater, the California State Railroad Museum and in the downtown railyard. Events could also occur at the Mondavi Center on the campus of UC Davis.
The highlight of the bid is a Global Pavilion, a temporary entertainment district stretching from the west steps of the state Capitol to Tower Bridge. The district would host concerts from “chart-topping musical artists, cultural discussions unique to the region and an array of global dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients prepared by acclaimed chefs,” according to a Kings news release.
A conceptual drawing of the Capitol Mall entertainment district shows a concert amphitheater on the empty lot at the corner of Third Street and Capitol Mall, where CalPERS and Los Angeles-based developer CIM are planning to build a 30-story high rise. If that building is finished or under construction before 2022 or 2023, the concert space could go elsewhere along Capitol Mall or in the railyard.
“I’m most excited about how we’re going to turn the city on its head,” Ranadive said. “Sacramento has had a love affair with basketball and the Kings and this is an acknowledgment of the fact that no city deserves this more than Sacramento.”
The Kings are pledging a system of autonomous vehicles and dedicated freeway lanes around the region so fans can move between hotels, cruise ships and entertainment venues in 30 minutes or less. The team is also developing an app using artificial intelligence that would allow guests to check into accommodations, navigate between event spaces, order food and have All-Star Game merchandise delivered to where they are staying.
The Sacramento City Council voted on Tuesday to provide “general support” to the bid, although some specific requests may require future council and city action.
“Sacramento is a shining beacon of creativity, diversity and opportunity - a perfect setting for basketball’s biggest celebration of sport and community,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement.
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said she would work with state and federal agencies to make the game “a seamless experience.”
Sacramento could face competition from San Francisco, where the Warriors are building a new arena that is scheduled to open in 2019. Milwaukee is also constructing a new arena and some large markets, including Boston, Miami and Dallas, have not hosted the event in many years.
The All-Star Game heads to Charlotte in 2019, followed by stops in Chicago and Indianapolis.