SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some fans might look at the new Golden 1 Center and see a fancy place to watch basketball. Vivek Ranadivé sees something much bigger.
“This arena is the 21st Century cathedral,” the Sacramento Kings owner said this week. “It’s the communal fireplace, the place where people used to gather in old times.”
Two years after construction began, the new arena here is complete and ready to demonstrate its technical prowess. Paul McCartney will kick the tires right away at the approximately $550 million arena, bringing 24 tractor-trailers’ full of lighting, rigging, and sound equipment with inaugural events on October 4-5. The NBA’s Kings get under way on Oct. 10 with their first preseason game.
The city currently owns the arena, but the Kings are the operators and in control, said Joelle Terry, Kings’ vice president of communications. The arena’s capacity for NBA games is 17,500, and more for concerts. It is the anchor to the city’s new Downtown Commons. a $500 million-plus, 1.5 million-square-foot project featuring retail and restaurant spaces along with an adjacent hotel and condos.
During a media preview this week, GeekWire got a sneak peek at the technological wizardry that has been accomplished with Ranadivé, the tech executive who co-founded TIBCO Software, at the helm. He referred to the effort as part of “City 3.0, the city of the future.”
“Were now living in the time where the world’s largest bookseller has no bookstores and the world’s largest taxi company owns no cars,” he said. “If land was the raw material in 1.0 and energy and steel in 2.0, then in this new era, it’s data, information, imagination.”
The arena includes plenty of high-tech talking points. Perhaps the most obvious are the six-story tall, 150-feet wide hangar doors that fulfill the Kings’ intention to create the first indoor-outdoor arena. The doors take advantage of the cooling, ocean-fed Delta Breeze that prevails here in the evenings, to help people to feel comfortable. With the so called “Grand Entrance Doors” opened, an event could accommodate 15,000 seated in the bowl, with another 5,000 in the plaza with the doors open, watching on large screens and hearing the same music that the people inside are hearing, similar to an amphitheater experience.
“Our weather here is amazing in the nighttime,” said Kings President Chris Granger. “We’re really trying to blur the lines between sitting inside and watching an event or sitting outside and watching an event.”
Kings games will have the capacity to be played with these doors open; the team just needs to guarantee on-the-court temperature, humidity, and wind are within the range of NBA standards. Adding to the comfort, a cutting edge ventilation system will deliver conditioned air directly beneath each seat and will eventually allow people to adjust the temperature with their phones.
Another feather in Golden 1 Center’s cap is that it is the first such building to be designated LEED Platinum, which is the highest level of recognition for excellence in carrying out sustainable building standards. The arena’s environmental consciousness is reflected in its locally sourced food and beverage offerings, waste management, and renewable energy practices. Partnering with some 700 farmers within a 150-mile radius, the arena’s farm-to-fork program “is better than most restaurants,” said Michael Tuohy, the arena’s executive chef.
“We want to be responsible citizens; we want to be cognizant of the type of planet we want to leave to our kids,” Ranadivé declared. The arena is 100 percent solar powered, expects to save 1 million gallons of water annually by virtue of its irrigation system that will draw 40 percent less than a typical system, and energy use will be 30 percent less than state code requires.
A walk through the arena’s 6,000-square-foot Data Center and Control Center reveals a jaw-dropping array of techy, geeky wonders including a rack that controls the NBA’s first 4K ultra-HD video board. The Data Center “is the room that makes Golden 1 Center the world’s most connected sports and entertainment venue,” said Ryan Montoya, Kings chief technology officer.
“With over 70 cabinet and rack positions, Cat 6A copper, and the world’s first deployment of wide-band multimode fiber, the data center is built to meet Vivek’s vision for an arena that is future-proofed and able to grow with the increasing demands of new technology,” he said. “The arena is the fastest today, and will remain the fastest for years to come.”
The Data Center also includes infrastructure capable of handling some 200 Gbps (gigabits per second) that can process 250,000 Instagram and 1 million Snapchat messages per second. “The average U.S. home has a connection of 11.7 Mbps, which means that the 200 Gbps number is the equivalent of over 17,000 homes, or a small city,” Montoya said. The Data Center manages 802.11ac Wave 2, 4×4 MU MIMO wireless technology with approximately 1 million feet of WiFi and cellular coverage.
Inside the Command Center, monitored arena activities are shared among teams including guest services, social media, building operations, food and beverage, police, weather, traffic — 12 groups in all.
“This platform allows our staff to monitor the building at all times, and process that information with the help of various software platforms,” Montoya said.
Illustrating the arena’s capability to create a frictionless, seamless experience, Montoya used a fictional “Jenny Jetson” as an example. From the time Jenny prepares to park, the arena’s mobile app will allow her entertainment experience to be enhanced in several ways, such as real-time info on bathroom lines, food service lines, etc.
The app will also include a chat feature, betting (for points, not money), video feeds, merchandise info updates, and more. It is important to note that participation in the app is based on the users’ preferences to engage themselves; the features are managed by the user’s opt-in choices, Montoya said.
With such robust information sharing, if Jenny’s kid drops her hot dog, it will be possible to respond and bring her a new hot dog in no time at all.
The Kings, which were early adopters of Google Glass, Bitcoins, and virtual reality, are strengthening their commitment for VR, which began in 2015 when the team broadcast a Kings-Clippers game to audiences at a nearby hospital and to a school in Mumbai, India. The Kings also incorporated VR technology when unveiling their new jerseys and logos, and as part of their marketing tools for Club Boxes and Luxury Suites, all of which are now sold-out for the season. All Kings games are set to be broadcast via Virtual Reality 180-degree view, allowing anyone with a mobile VR headset to watch the game – replays and all – from any seat in the house.
And then there’s the scoreboard, developed by Panasonic and the Kings. At 84-feet across and offering the aforementioned 4K ultra-HD LED technology, it is said to be the biggest indoor scoreboard in the world. The two main screens are 44-feet wide and about 25-feet tall. In all, more than 32 million pixels across four screens will capture the action. In addition, about 1,500 feet of LED ribbon boards circle the arena bowl providing even more content.
Even the turnstiles at the arena are high tech.
“As part of Vivek’s mission to make this the arena of the 21st century and remove all points of friction for a seamless fan experience,” said Montoya, “these turnstiles use technology to help get fans get in more quickly. These turnstiles can accept printed and phone barcodes, as well as wireless technologies like RFID and NFC to make this a paperless process.”
For concerts, trade shows, and other events, for which the arena’s itinerary already includes such varying setups as Disney on Ice and a Professional Bull Riders rodeo, the arena is prepared. “It has a 200,000 lb. rigging capacity, and can handle 12-15 trucks simultaneously,” said Kings General Manager Juan Rodriguez. “Each speaker and monitor can be singly or whole-system adjusted, with the touch of a cell phone.”
Ranadivé’s vision is now complete. “This arena is an iconic structure in a way,” he said. “We flipped the whole paradigm about how arenas were built. From the time you think about getting to the game, parking, food, etc., all the assets should be serving you. You should be able to access all the resources through your handheld.”