Sacramento Kings fans say goodbye to Arco Arena

Gloria Mercado, right, and her grandson Maddox Mercado, 12, attend

Gloria Mercado, right, and her grandson Maddox Mercado, 12, attend the Sacramento Kings “Farewell Arco Arena Final” on Saturday in Natomas. “He’s been coming with me since he was six weeks old,” she said. The arena, also known as the Sleep Train Arena and Power Balance Pavilion, was home to the NBA Kings and WNBA’s Monarchs, and hosted the Kings’ last game in 2016.

It was not so much a Saturday afternoon awakening as it was a celebration of life for an old building.

Hundreds of Kings fans stopped by the Arco Arena for one last peek as the venerable venue will soon be demolished to make way for a teaching hospital. If Kings fans know especially well three things, this is it: They know how to cheer, they know how to tolerate heartache and they know how to say goodbye.

“We’ve said goodbye to this place a few times,” said fan Scott Levine, surrounded by girlfriend Lauren Jess, in a long line writhing all over the parking lot. “Lots of memories here. We cheer for our team here. We’ve been to the new arena (Golden 1) but there’s nothing like being inside the Arco.”

Levine and Joyce discussed going to the event. Why deal with morning rain and traffic? Why doesn’t he leave at last?

“We decided to go,” said Jess, who works like Levine at a local nonprofit organization for the deaf and hard of hearing. “Once we crossed the gates here, it evokes nostalgia.”

Jess was evidence of nostalgia. She wore Mitch Richmond’s No. 2, jersey, in honor of the Kings goalkeeper in the ’90s. This T-shirt is a keepsake of Levin, a Kings fan since 1990. The sweatshirt was Guis that belonged to her father, another Kings fan.

Arco’s parking lot reflected a lack of use: weeds were everywhere. Heraldry of kings has long been withdrawn, but their shadow always remains on the walls. The Arco was built for $40 million in 1988 and closed to basketball business in 2016. During its operation, the Arco quickly aged, but fans didn’t notice or simply didn’t care. Their focus was on the product ahead of them, and for all the misery of kings, there were the magical eight seasons of the game in a row, from 1999-2006. The Kings have not sent a winner or supplement team since then.

And it wasn’t the building that made Arco unique in a town with a mini-market that came alive in the big times. It was the people, that is, the masses.

Gary Gerold said a lot on Saturday, as a reminder, and he will know like no one else. G-Man has been the voice of Radio Kings since the Kings moved out of Kansas City in 1985, and he’s still going strong. Jerrold was poised for one last stop inside Arco, where Kings VIP fans, long season ticket holders, sponsors and the like were able to see a patch of the original Arco floor highlighted by the Kings logo.

Retired Kings players or front office staff who have played a prominent role in Sacramento’s best seasons spoke inside Arco on Saturday, with reflection and laughter from Vlad Divac, Doug Christie, Brad Miller, Jerry Reynolds, current principal owner Vivek Ranadev and original Sacramento Kings owner Greg Lukenbell, who was the driving force. To bring the Kings to Sacramento, he led a group that bought the club for $10.5 million in 1983. Luckinbell was also the one who built the Arco Arena.

“The old building had character,” Gerold told The Bee, marveling at the long line of fans eager to peek at a handful of memorabilia or take home, like autographed basketballs. “But the passion of the fans inside that building is what made it so special. That line, all these people here today… just wow.”

Inside Arco, fans could hear a number of Jerrold’s radio calls, and nothing was more exciting than the playoff moments. But Arco also caused a lot of heartache, and fans touched on it in these lines to get to the venue for the last time. For every dramatic Mike Baby game winner, there has been a crushing loss to the Lakers, no more than Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the dreaded Lakers.

Los Angeles won that series and then the NBA championship, a title many Kings fans felt should have been theirs. Christie, one of the Kings’ bodyguards in that series, recalls being in “shock” that he had a friend drive him home. Kristi didn’t even shower. He went straight to the parking lot, in his own shirt

“I was here for that game, Game 7, Kings Lakers, wearing my Doug Christie’s jersey, and cried all the way home like a baby,” said retired teacher Robert Miller, looking at the same trusty Christie’s jersey. chest Saturday. “It hurts then and it hurts now. For the most part, I think we will remember the good times. These will live with us forever.”

This story was originally published March 19, 2022 2:50 pm.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988. He is a 14-time awardee from the California Prep Sports Writer Association. In 2021, Davidson was honored with CIF Distinguished Service. He is a member of the California Coach Federation Hall of Fame. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, involved in soccer and track.