Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Why support a downtown arena? Because it could embody the best of Sacramento

We live a certain way in Sacramento. We’re not cosmopolitan like San Francisco or ostentatious like Los Angeles. We don’t have a beach culture like San Diego or a mission culture like Santa Barbara. When I first moved here from the Bay Area in 1989, I admit to feeling sheepish about our lack of artistic architecture.

My heart sank while approaching the local “skyline” after passing through San Francisco with the moving van. Could these Sacramento buildings be any more height-challenged and stocky?

It took years to refocus my eyes to our own type of beauty in Sacramento. It is there on the rivers, bike trails, parks and neighborhoods. Our beauty is an extension of the physical beauty that attracted the first settlers to Sacramento and still attracts people who flock here from other parts of California because it’s so gracious to live here. How gracious? Sacramentans gather in large numbers for any excuse under the sun – for farmers markets, high school football games, agricultural festivals, charity races and farm-to-fork celebrations.

In the broader community, Sacramento is being energized by young people brewing beer, cultivating wine and making unbelievable food. Some sneer, but they miss the point of our food movement. It’s about celebrating who we are and doing it publicly, unabashedly. This is not phony or fleeting. It’s real and long overdue.

It’s been going on quietly for a long time. Like most people I know, my home became an extension of what’s great about Sacramento. The backyard became a way to enjoy being outside almost any time of the year. Being outside and communing with other people is what we love about Sacramento. It’s who we are.

There isn’t really a public building that celebrates Sacramento in this way, but there could be. Early discussions surrounding the Kings downtown arena envisions an indoor/outdoor building – a public space that is inviting and representative of what’s best about Sacramento.

It’s all still very much in the planning stages, but the new owners have briefed city officials of their ideas of an arena as a public building that would be characteristic of how we inhabit space in Sacramento – a large scale version of a family room opening up to an inviting backyard. It imagines an arena with a sunken lower bowl with concourses at the ground level of surrounding city streets so people can look in to see the attraction while communing in an outdoor space.

Instead of a big block of concrete and steel, the new owners are studying the feasibility of large windows that would showcase the action on the inside to passersby or diners at adjacent bars and restaurants. By year’s end, we’ll know whether these owners can achieve this vision. It’s on them since they are responsible for cost overruns on the project.

But if their vision is possible, Sacramento could have a building to match its beauty.