Sleep Train Arena has served as the home of the Sacramento Kings for over 25 years. This season will be the last, as the Kings move into their new digs in downtown Sacramento.
It's always been a bit of a weird arena, located all the way in Natomas on the very fringes of Sacramento. The design is utilitarian and practical, built with no real frills of any kind. The one ornament is a copper 6 on the lawn, symbolizing the love the team had for the fans. By NBA standards, the place is a dump, and a large reason why the city almost lost this team on multiple occasions. Every single relocation battle centered on the fact that Sacramento needed an arena to replace Sleep Train.
Yet I can't help but feel that I'm going to miss the old barn, mainly because of the memories I've made there. For all of its faults, Sleep Train Arena is a great place for watching basketball, with hardly a bad seat in the building. The wood floors, considered a throwback now, are our instrument to conduct the famous "ARCO Thunder".
I've never been to a Kings game anywhere else, as this arena is the only one I've known all my life. I still remember my first game as a small child, not really understanding what was going on but being transfixed by the crowd and the spectacle. I never had the good fortune of attending a playoff game (there's still a chance guys!), but watching the team on TV, the arena was a prominent character, with the fans in attendance creating an atmosphere that must have been unbelievable in person.
My dad and I got season tickets to the Kings games during the relocation attempts so I've attended more games in the past few years than I ever did during the good days but I still remember how excited I'd get when we would be able to go to a game. I still remember to this day certain games, even if I don't remember the exact result. I remember attending a Kings-Suns game where some guy named Kevin Johnson came out of retirement to play in place of an injured Jason Kidd. I remember a Kings-Timberwolves game that I didn't get to attend because I got grounded and my dad took my sister instead.
I got to see a new side of the arena when I started writing for Sactown Royalty and attending Kings games as media (for all the talk about how the Kings are behind the times on the basketball side, they were one of the first teams to acknowledge bloggers as powerful voices in their own right). I got to visit the locker rooms, sit in on coaching press conferences and see all the things that go into making the place run. It was in the media room of Sleep Train Arena where I first met Blake Ellington, and where "Here We Stay" was effectively born. It was where I got to speak with Jerry Reynolds for the first time and make jokes about the "Brock Ness Monster" nickname, a conversation I still treasure. It's where I saw my first and only buzzer beating game-winner, which pumped me up with so much adrenaline that I couldn't go to sleep for hours.
I'm incredibly excited for the opening of the Golden 1 Center. I've been to the Experience Center, I've seen the new building up close, and I think it's going to be absolutely amazing. But I'm still going to miss the treks out to Natomas to that drab, cement building off I-5. It's where I, and I'm guessing many others, fell in love with basketball.
Here's to one more season full of memories.