In its 34-year life span, the arena in North Natomas became ingrained in Sacramento lore. The WNBA Sacramento Monarchs won a championship there, and the Kings were arguably the best team in the NBA during the 2001-2002 season in the midst of a thrilling run of eight straight playoff appearances. Sacramento fans, armed with cowbells and strong lungs, earned its reputation of being the loudest venue in the league. Meanwhile, the band Cake, with roots in Sacramento, included the instrumental “ARCO Arena” on its 2001 album “Comfort Eagle.”
While the arena has continued to sporadically host events since the Sacramento Kings played its last game there more than six years ago, it was eclipsed in relevance once Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento opened its doors in late 2016.
Now its final chapter is near, as Sleep Train Arena (known as ARCO Arena from 1988-2011 and Power Balance Pavilion from 2011-2012) faces demolition and is on schedule to be completely gone by the end of September. It has enjoyed a final goodbye tour of sorts, with a celebration attended by an estimated 20,000 people back in March that gave fans a chance to check out the “old barn,” as it was affectionately called, one final time.
It was the second ARCO Arena, opening in 1988 with 17,000 seats, a nifty upgrade from the next door 3-year-old temporary 10,000-seat version built when the Kings arrived in 1985. The arena set records for decibel levels, and played host to more than 4,800 events, with nearly 43 million people coming through its doors. In addition to being the home of the Kings (“the greatest show on court,” Sports Illustrated proclaimed in a 2001 cover story) and the champion Monarchs, it also hosted NHL games featuring Wayne Gretsky, NCAA tournaments, professional bull riders and hundreds of concerts spanning every genre imaginable, including Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Justin Bieber, and Sade.
“That arena was widely known as the loudest place to play in the NBA, and the memories created there will last forever because one thing that remains consistent is the passion and devotion of our fans,” Sacramento Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé said in March before the ARCO farewell event.
A medical school and teaching hospital is scheduled for the Natomas site, the result of a June 2021 partnership with the Sacramento Kings, the City of Sacramento and California Northstate University. The agreement includes 35 developable acres of land donated to the university to build the hospital complex.
Sacramento developer and former Kings owner Gregg Lukenbill tried and failed to bring pro sports to Natomas in the 1980s before he was part of the group that purchased the Kansas City Kings in 1983, bringing the team to Sacramento in time for the 1985-86 season.
“I’m very proud of the impact this building had to help raise our quality of life,” Luckenbill said during the March Farewell to ARCO Arena celebration. “I’m very proud this building is actually giving way to what I call the light and principles of an educational facility dedicated to the medical profession.”
Au revoir ARCO/Sleep Train/Power Balance Pavilion. You served Sacramento well.
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