Sacramento Kings & AECOM Design Arena 3.0

  • Downtown Loft: Instead of loges for the new Sacramento ESC, AECOM designed lofts that incorporate couch-like seating options. “We’ve attempted to bring the living room into the arena,” says Mike Wekesser of AECOM.
  • Fit for a King: The 34 traditional suites designed for the Sacramento ESC are some of the largest in the venue marketplace, ranging in size from 580 to 830 square feet. The 17-person suites (expandable up to 25) will have 12 seats, five bar stools, and a community table at their centers.
  • Under Construction: Demolition crews began working on clearing the nine-acre site for the Sacramento ESC this past fall. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.
  • Coming Attraction: Kings President Chris Granger describes the one-of-a-kind experience coming to Northern California: “We’ve said from the beginning that we didn’t want Barclays Center 2.0 or STAPLES Center 2.0. We want a building that’s uniquely Sacramento. Using our values and design principles, AECOM has helped come up with what we’re about to unveil here in Sacramento.”

As noted in the 2014 fall issue of SEAT Magazine, a regal experience awaits Sacramento Kings fans at the team’s new $477 million downtown arena, presently under construction. The cover story of the current installment of SEAT features the Kings Experience Center, which overlooks the arena construction site and offers a preview of the amenities to come at the venue when it opens in 2016. Today, we are breaking down the arena to its core by considering its signature design elements.

AECOM’s design of the Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center (ESC) intends to represent the next generation of sports facility architecture, a challenge prompted by Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé’s original declaration of wanting an NBA arena 3.0.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we didn’t want Barclays Center 2.0 or STAPLES Center 2.0,” says Chris Granger, President of the Sacramento Kings. “We want a building that’s uniquely Sacramento. Using our values and design principles, AECOM has helped come up with what we’re about to unveil here in Sacramento.”

The Plaza

The ESC’s largest contribution to the evolution of sports venue design is its blurring of the lines between sitting inside the arena and being outside the building during an event. AECOM created the idea of looking beyond the arena as a closed box by opening the concourse out onto an adjacent outdoor plaza and the plaza into the concourse. The arena and the plaza are meant to function as a cohesive, holistic experience that extends beyond the venue walls.

“We thought about how we could create a total experience from the time you get out of the car or off of the light rail or bus to the time you get into your seat,” says Mike Wekesser, the project’s lead designer at AECOM.

The arena façade consists of 150-foot glass windows that further mesh boundaries. Those fans without tickets will be able to see into the concourse as well as experience clear views from the plaza of the center-hung video board.

“Anywhere you are inside, you should be able to see outside,” adds Granger. “And anywhere you are outside, you should be able to see inside. It’s unlike any other building in the country.”

This signature design element also provides the Kings the advantage of further connecting the building with the city and its residents by utilizing all spaces simultaneously when hosting additional community events, such as farmer’s markets, food truck festivals, or music festivals.

The Clubs

Premium product locations in the ESC are reversed. “This arena is different from what you’ve seen with other venues,” Wekesser says. “All of the main clubs are located on the event level.”

Four clubs, servicing a total of 825 club seats, exist on the lowest level of seating. Two sideline clubs include the typical buffets and bars, as well as indoor fire pits and casual seating. One courtside club wraps around a circular, central bar and connects to the corridor across from the player’s locker room, similar in theme to the field-level club at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

“[Player interaction] is part of the cachet of the courtside club,” says Wekesser. “[Seat holders] are able to watch the players go onto the court and can actually go through the same tunnel onto the court [to their seats] that the players go through.”

Then there’s the founder’s club, or owner’s club, which is an intimate space for Ranadivé to entertain up to 56 guests. This smaller club is divided into two sections: a back bar area with banquette seating, and a more private lounge area with direct access to the court. All touches in the founder’s club reflect added luxury. For example, there are no bottles; all drinks are served in glassware. And a television is built into the fireplace.

Specific menu offerings are still being determined, but guests will be treated to many display kitchens and carving stations, all influenced by Sacramento’s unique Farm-To-Fork culture.

Loft Suites

Located 13 feet above the main concourse is the loft level with its 48 loft suites, an evolution of the popular loge box. “We started calling these boxes lofts instead of loges,” states Wekesser. “Lofts said something about the urban quality of living in downtown Sacramento.”

The loft suites don’t have stadium seats or caster chairs. Instead, they incorporate big padded chairs on glides, providing the feeling of a couch at home. “We’ve attempted to bring the living room into the arena.”

The lofts seat four on their “couches” in addition to four on bar stools, located behind by a drink rail. Lining the back of the loft suites is a counter with induction burners and an ice chest for beverages.

The loft suites are expected to be a hot seller in Sacramento, which doesn’t have the corporate base to support a large inventory of traditional suites.

Traditional Suites

Thirty-four traditional suites are located on the next level at the ESC. Similar to the lofts, AECOM had the Sacramento urban dweller in mind while designing these spaces. The suites, which seat up to 17 guests, have an open concept with a large table at their centers, matching the communal mentality of Northern California.

The suites are a mixture of sizes, larger in the arena’s corners than along its sides. The corners also include party suites for larger groups of up to 26 people.

The job of any designer is to find the heart and soul of a stadium or arena. The most successful facilities are those that fit into an existing way of life, while elevating it at the same time. From the exterior plaza to the ESC’s suites and seats, Wekesser and the AECOM team have captured the themes of Northern California, Sacramento, and the people who call it home.

“The arena is going to help create a sense of place that Sacramento really doesn’t have right now,” he says. “We’ve challenged ourselves to make this a place that serves as a center, bringing everybody together.”

Extra Points:

  • An additional bar area for suite and loft holders is located on the suite level. It is a Farm-to-Fork environment that incorporates a sophisticated interior design.
  • The loft and suite levels are designed for guests to easily maneuver between the two. In addition to the elevators and escalators in the arena, there are private communication stairs that move patrons between the levels.
  • Suite holders are encouraged to venture out of their lofts or suites and move around the arena and plaza, reflecting an inside-out design concept.
  • Below-grade parking with two VIP entries is available for some premium patrons. An additional VIP entrance is located on L Street.
  • The undulating exterior skin of the ESC is meant to mimic Northern California’s Sierra Mountains.
  • A layer of lush landscaping is found at the arena’s base, paying respect to the agricultural industry of the region.
  • The ESC footprint is 610,308 square feet. The entire site is approximately nine acres.
  • The arena has approximately 10,000 seats in the lower bowl, putting more people closer to the action and creating a denser wall of sound.
  • The arena serves as a catalyst for further development off of the plaza, including retail, office, and residential spaces. The site is meant to be a place for community interaction whether or not there is an event inside the arena.
  • A series of bridges connects the upper concourse as well as the suite level. The upper concourse bridge is open to all ticket holders and serves as a social environment to both watch the game and look down on the plaza below. 


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