Newsletter Subscription
Print Subscription
Change Address
Hoop Dreams
After fight to keep the Kings franchise, Sacramento shows off new basketball arena design.
Courtesy AECOM

Arena 3.0. That’s what designers at AECOM call the Entertainment and Sports Center (ESC), Sacramento’s upcoming downtown basketball arena. But while the nickname evokes cutting-edge design tools, it is about conceptual as much as technological innovation. What makes ESC stand out is how it reimagines the relationship of a sports facility to the city around it.

Last year, Sacramentans watched as a group of Seattle investors tried—and failed—to lure the Kings to Seattle. “People were saying, ‘no, let’s not let that happen.’ We shouldn’t just keep this team, we need to move it to the heart of Sacramento, both physically and metaphorically,” said AECOM’s Rob Rothblatt. The catch? Basketball arenas tend toward introversion, as did the shopping mall ESC will replace.


“What we did was really invert the [arena] type,” said Rothblatt. “The building is placed in such a way on its site that it’s going to make a public plaza instead of an indoor mall.” The building’s openness is signaled by a 50-by-150-foot Grand Entrance, multiple exterior balconies, and outward-facing concessionaires. A portion of bleachers pulled onto the plaza blurs the boundary between indoors and out.

ESC’s design honors Sacramento with local materials, including sand from San Benito and rocks from the Sierras, plus a glass pattern evoking the city’s one million trees. The bright white color suggests optimism about the future. “We are fully engaged in the city. That’s led to a very different kind of building,” said Rothblatt.

The stadium is set to break ground this summer and open in the fall of 2016.

Anna Bergren Miller