Over the past year or so I have had multiple opportunities to take tours of the Golden 1 Center as it was being built and even after it was completed. I ended up turning all of those invitations down, mainly because I wanted my first experience in this arena to be a Kings game. I wanted to see the building in action. Last night, as the Kings played their first ever game in downtown, I finally got my opportunity and I was not disappointed.
I’ve never actually been to another professional basketball game at a different arena than Sleep Train / ARCO but even still, I can tell that the new Golden 1 Center is something that most cities don’t have. The Grand Entrance leaves an indelible impression as soon as you walk in, especially with those giant windows open. The first level is so open that you can basically walk the entire circumference of the arena and still keep an eye on the action the whole time.
I was a little bit worried about the parking situation going in, but it couldn’t have been easier. I used the city’s new “Sac Park” system to reserve parking in advance just a few blocks away from the arena at a price that was lower than parking at Sleep Train last year. Even on the way out of the arena it didn’t take me all that long to get back to my car and I was on the freeway and back on my way home in minutes. Admittedly, the preseason game against Maccabi Haifa wasn’t a huge draw and the arena wasn’t packed, but I’ve heard from multiple people that it’s been pretty easy to both come and leave even after packed events like FanFest and Paul McCartney.
The variety of food and drink options available was awesome as well. The section my dad and I are located in for our season tickets is right above Petra Greek, so we got gyros to eat, not something I’d ever thought I’d be able to get a Kings game. There were a ton of people at the Sierra Nevada Draught House right above the main entrance, watching both the action on the court and the Giants-Cubs game on the TVs there. Even without another game like that on and available to watch, I imagine that the Draught House will be a very popular hangout for fans throughout the season.
My seats were in the upper level and I had heard a lot of mixed feedback about the steepness and narrowness of the rows. Admittedly the rows did seem a bit narrower than at Sleep Train, but the steepness itself wasn’t actually that bad. What did make a difference however was how much higher up the second level was. At Sleep Train, you had the lower level and then immediately the upper level. At Golden 1, there’s the lower level, than two sections of suites on top of each other, and then the upper level. That can definitely cause a bit of vertigo when you’re in the upper level and see a decent sized drop in front of you.
The sight lines were great from up top though, as they definitely tried to keep the action as close to the court as they could without sacrificing too many seats. The new video screen was also very impressive, although it was suffering from some glitches throughout as sections of it appeared to black out for short periods of time. I was also more than satisfied with the WiFi, which I didn’t even bother using at Sleep Train because it was so slow. Here it seemed faster than at my house and I was able to upload pictures to social media almost instantaneously (I should note that I did hear from some people that the WiFi was not working or was slow in their section).
Overall, while there’s definitely some kinks to still work out, I could not have been more happy to know that this is the building that we will be enjoying Kings basketball and a multitude of other events in for years to come. This arena was decades in the making, and so far, it looks like it was worth the wait.