The Arena Is a Gold Spike for Downtown

Back Commentary Jan 8, 2018 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

A new page on a new calendar is always a time of optimism. The pages are blank and I wonder what I will have written on them by the time the year has run its course. But right now, I’d like to slow down and appreciate the year we just enjoyed. It’s a good time to linger a bit and savor what the business community in Sacramento has accomplished in the last year or so, before we run head on into the challenges and opportunities 2018 will bring.

When the Golden 1 Center opened in October 2016, it was touted as a spark plug that would light up downtown. Now, after a full year of operation, it appears to be delivering on that promise. The arena, by itself, has transformed four blocks of what was an under-used shopping mall into a dynamic destination with much to offer. It offers something for every taste, from music concerts to monster truck shows and rodeos — and, of course, basketball.

Related: The Golden Promise

Throughout the past year, the dust has kept flying and the concrete has kept pouring as new projects, such as the upscale Sawyer Hotel and the rest of Downtown Commons, create a new skyline for the city.  Down the street from the arena, the city is finally realizing a long-held mission of rejuvenating K Street, as new restaurants, shops and living spaces are planned in the 700 block — replacing abandoned buildings that have long-been a no man’s land between one end of downtown and the other.

At the other end of K Street, there are plans to rejuvenate and expand the Community Theatre and Memorial Auditorium to provide local arts groups with facilities that better-match their impressive talent, potentially drawing more touring performances as well. Included in this theatre arts district are plans to expand the convention center, so the city can host more and larger conventions.

To the west and within walking distance of the Golden 1 Center, West Sacramento’s Bridge District has replaced aging warehouses and abandoned mills with Raley Field, modern homes and The Barn, which is a cool place to unwind on a hot summer night with music, fresh-from-the-farm produce and food trucks.           

It has been 40 years since Sacramento turned K Street into a pedestrian mall and built the community center complex in an effort to attract more people downtown. Some changes worked; some didn’t. I still remember “artistic” fountains on K Street that looked more like concrete bunkers. They have since been (thankfully) removed.

After 40 years, it was time to do something bold downtown. The arena was just the first bold step. Elsewhere in this issue, we explore the effect the Golden One Center has had on downtown.  The story has a lot of stats we know are important to our readers. But I like to focus on a more vital way to measure what the arena has done for downtown in the last year.  

When I started Comstock’s 29 years ago, I had a vision of Sacramento’s rebirth — a dynamism we’d not seen in generations. I often pondered, over the last three decades, what various changes might take place as Sacramento transformed into a world-class city. Now, I see that vision coming to fruition and the excitement around it is palpable. There are days, like the Paul McCartney concert that launched the Golden 1 Center’s debut, when the energy is so thick one can almost slice it. The Golden 1 Center has provided the catalyst for a more vibrant and diverse city, with more people on the sidewalks and more things to do. And there is more coming.

It will take a few years for all the dust to settle. For now, with all the construction underway and planned, the city feels like a house being remodeled while we live in it. When it’s done, I imagine we’ll have more to add to our calendars, as well.

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