Fans Say Goodbye to the Old Barn in Natomas

Center court was center stage at the Farewell to Arco Arena event. / Photo by Sukhman Rekhi

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Sacramento Kings fans said one last goodbye to the “old barn” over the weekend in Natomas.

Thousands of people of all ages attended “Farewell to Arco Arena” Saturday, March 19. The event was meant to memorialize the 28-year home of the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento Monarchs professional basketball teams. The building is expected to be demolished in the coming months to make way for new development.

Since opening in 1988, Arco Arena hosted thousands of NBA and WNBA games, concerts, and events which brought in nearly 43 million visitors to the Natomas site. The building seated 17,317 fans.

Several members of the Sacramento Kings organization — past and present — as well as Sacramento city officials spoke during a VIP event in the morning. In the afternoon, the building was open to Kings season ticket holders and later to the general public.

“This was the venue where the fans were the soul and we were the show,” said Doug Christie, assistant coach of the 2021-2022 Sacramento Kings. Coach Christie played starting shooting guard for the Kings from 2000-2005 and later served as a Kings color analyst.

Sacramento Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé described the Natomas arena using the analogy of a fireplace.

“The arena is the firepit, the players lit the fire, and the fans huddled around the community fireplace,” he said.

Sacramento Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby, who represents North Natomas on the city council, described the event as “bittersweet.”

“It’s very fitting for this little corner of our city that has brought so much joy and so much happiness to our lives to now know that its next phase is going to be a place of service,” Ashby said.

Front row (from left to right): Jerry Reynolds, Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Matina Kolokotronis, Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby, Vivek Ranadivé, Ruthie Bolton and Anjali Ranadivé. Back row (from left to right): Brad Miller, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie. Photo by Sukhman Rekhi

Other speakers included Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg; Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton, who played for the Sacramento Monarchs from 1997-2004; Sacramento Kings emcee and creative director of entertainment, Scott Freshour; original Sacramento Kings owner Gregg Lukenbill; and the Sacramento Kings first head coach Jerry Reynolds. Reynolds also served as the Sacramento Monarchs general manager until 2003 and as a Sacramento Kings TV broadcaster until his retirement in 2020.

Fans were allowed inside of the arena for a final look at the building. A gallery of photos highlighting memorable moments at the arena, such as the inaugural Sacramento Kings game in 1988 and the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals, were displayed from the rafters.

Attendees also wrote farewell messages in chalk on the floor and walls, and some were able to take photos on center court.

Activities outside of the arena included dance performances by the Sacramento Kings 916 Crew, a live DJ, half-court basketball games, and food trucks. Season ticket holders were seen taking pictures with former Sacramento Kings players Vlade Divac and Brad Miller, and Sacramento Kings radio broadcaster Gary Gerould.

The most popular attraction was the memorabilia tent where attendees were allowed to fill bags with free Sacramento Kings and Sacramento Monarchs merchandise including signed jerseys, basketball shoes, posters, bobbleheads, license plates, basketballs, and other items. By most accounts, nearly all the merchandise was gone by the time the gates opened to the general public.

Fans sift through free memorabilia. / Photo by Sukhman Rekhi

According to posts on social media, some fans also left discouraged without going into the arena citing a lack of crowd control and lengthy lines. Kings spokesperson Kari Ida did not know how many people attended the free event, but said that more than 20,000 tickets had been downloaded from Ticketmaster.

“Being back at Arco after so long was so great because even seeing the new development of hotels, houses, and the Healthnet building was shocking,” said Antoinette Clay, director of guest services at Golden 1 Center, who attended the farewell event. “And now they’re going to go over there and build this beautiful hospital, which is awesome.”

Clay started her career with the Sacramento Kings and Monarchs in 1997 as an usher, ambassador, and later worked as the parking manager at Arco Arena.

Antoinette Clay with Monarchs player Nicole Powell (2005-2009) at Arco Arena. / Courtesy Photo

“The Kings have meant so much more than entertainment, they were the seeds that grew farmland into a thriving community,” said Natomas resident Marcos Seide. “I hope the hospital and Innovation Park keep those seeds rooted and strong with a place that we can entrust our community to rely on.”

The Sacramento City Council approved the plans for this “Innovation Park Project” in February. The arena site will be redeveloped as a teaching hospital and college campus for California Northstate University.

An additional 12 acres of the land will be bought by the Natomas Unified School District to make room for a school campus. Redevelopment of the site could also include housing, retail stores, and other services.

According to social media posts, several fans reported not getting into the old arena due to long lines and lack of crowd control. / Photo by Sukhman Rekhi

“The promise has been kept, it’s no longer just an empty building anymore,” said Mike Tavares, founder of Crown Downtown. Crown Downtown lobbied for a new arena downtown to keep the Kings in Sacramento and advocated for reuse of the site in Natomas.

Tavares added he hopes redevelopment will boost the Natomas economy with the hospital and commercial services planned for the site.

While the farewell event was nostalgic for many, others said they are looking forward to the proposed Innovation Park Project plans.

“I used to watch my daughter perform karate during halftime shows all the way up there from the nosebleeds 25 years ago,” said Sheri Smith, one of the fans in attendance on Saturday. “Take a look at that parking lot. It’s nothing, nothing is there. Turning that into something vibrant is fabulous for the community.”

California Northstate University vice president Norman Fong said that the goal is to consolidate the teaching hospital and college with the university’s other academic programs at the Natomas site.

Added Fong, “We got really fortunate to partner with the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings.”

Click here to read Fans Share their Favorite Arco Arena Memories

Attendees wrote farewell messages in chalk on the floor and walls. / Photo by Sukhman Rekhi


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