A Final Farewell to ARCO Arena

A look back on the beloved Sacramento arena as it crumbles into history

Back Web Only Sep 1, 2022 By Steve Martarano

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.”

Kings fan Patricia Osborne shows off her cowbell and Kings attire before the final NBA game at Sleep Train Arena on April 9, 2016.

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.

Fans packed Sleep Train Arena for the Kings’ final game there on April 9, 2016, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-112.

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.

In the midst of the Kings’ eight-year playoff run, the team’s classic lineup of (clockwise from top) Vlade Divac, Jason Williams, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber and Doug Christie graced the cover of the Feb. 19, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated. (Mike Bibby joined the Kings later that year.)

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.

Jerry Reynolds, former Kings head coach, general manager and broadcaster, addresses an early-morning group of VIPs during the March 18 Farewell to ARCO event inside the arena.

“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.

Attendees of the March 18 Farewell to ARCO event inside the arena — former Kings player and front office executive Vlade Divac; Monarchs champion Ruthie Bolton; Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg; former player and current assistant coach Doug Christie; Angelique Ashby, Sacramento vice-mayor; and Kings mascot Slamson.

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.

An estimated 20,000 attended a final farewell to the arena event on March 19. Fans checked out the inside and outside of the arena for a last time before the pending demolition of the 34-year-old building.

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.

Fans line up to pick up the free memorabilia made available at the Farewell to ARCO event at the site of the arena on March 19.

“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.”

Demolition of the old ARCO/Sleep Train Arena/Power Balance Pavilion, shown here on Aug. 5, began in late July and is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Au revoir ARCO/Sleep Train/Power Balance Pavilion. You served Sacramento well.

Demolition continues on Aug. 12.

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