The 2016 NBA season tipped off this week and with the new season comes hope and excitement for all 30 fan bases. The fans in Sacramento, however, have extra reason to be excited this year. Tonight, the Sacramento Kings will officially open the doors on their brand-new home arena, the Golden 1 Center. The Golden 1 Center combines a focus on civic pride with cutting-edge technology with the goal of creating the best possible in-arena experience for Kings fans.
Over the past decade, professional sports teams have had to begin to compete with the “at home” fan experience. Fans have had a harder time justifying the time and expense it takes to attend games due to the cheapening price of HD TVs and increased accessibility of games due to subscriptions like League Pass. Professional teams recognize this, and have dedicated resources to create an “in-arena” fan experience that transcends the game. Postgame concerts, firework displays, and unique food offerings are all ways teams attempt to create an experience that can’t be replicated at home. “It’s more like a trip to Disneyland than a ball game,” said Lee Igle, a professor of sports management at NYU. With this trend in mind, the Golden 1 Center strives not only to be a place to watch the Kings, but also a “communal fireplace” for the city of Sacramento. The Kings have attempted to make the arena-going experience as “frictionless” as possible for fans while also leveraging Sacramento’s culture and data-driven technology to create an inimitable experience for their fans.
Typically, the most stressful part of the arena experience is the logistics, starting with entering the arena. The Kings have recognized this and installed “smart turnstiles“. These turnstiles allow fans to enter the stadium three times faster than any other NBA arena. Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive hopes to eventually utilize facial recognition software that will allow fans to simply stroll into the arena without having to produce a ticket. Walking into a Kings game could soon be as simple as walking into a sports bar. Furthermore, the Kings new app provides real-time traffic information and Uber service to make coming/going from the game that much easier.
To provide a uniquely Sacramento atmosphere, the Golden 1 Center features locally-known food vendors, decorative art pieces meant to evoke images of the city, and historic relics of Sacramento’s past. In place of the generic food offerings typically found at arenas, 90% of the arena’s food is grown within 150 miles of Sacramento, and it is all served by local establishments. Additionally, the arena proudly displays historic neon signs that were once iconic in downtown Sacramento, further demonstrating the civic pride imbued into the arena.
When fans inevitably get the itch to look down at their phones, the new Sacramento Kings app provides engagement with the Kings, the game, and the arena. One of the key features of the Golden 1 Center experience, the app serves as each fan’s “remote control”. Hungry but don’t want to miss any of the action? Check the app to see which concession stand has the shortest line or, better yet, get food delivered directly to your seat. Fans can also order Uber rides to/from the game, compete against each other in real time competitions, interact with KAI (Kings Artificial Intelligence) to get questions answered, and much more. On the other side of the coin, data gathered through the app will allow the Kings to proactively engage with fans and make their experience even more unique. For example, a fan attending a game on his/her birthday could be identified through the app and guest services could offer a complimentary seat upgrade. With minimal cost, the Kings can create an impactful, lasting fan experiences through the utilization of data generated from the app.
In an attempt to “future-proof” the Golden 1 Center and ensure it stays on the cutting edge of technology, the Kings have developed an “arena bus” IT architecture. All data within the Golden 1 ecosystem (ticketing, traffic, app data, video data, etc..) is housed within one platform with the purpose of integrating every single data point that, when combined, makes up the ever-important fan experience. The Kings are well-positioned to stay at the bleeding edge of fan experience with this investment in such a tightly-knit and highly integrated data architecture system. In addition, Ranadive has intentions of opening this data platform to outside developers by allowing access to the arena bus API in the future.
Ultimately, it is difficult to tell how much staying power the fan experience provided by the Golden 1 Center will have. After the initial excitement and “new toy factor” dies down, will fans still be excited to attend games if the Kings aren’t in contention? Only time will tell. For now, though, the fans in Sacramento certainly have reason to head down to a Kings game.