Do not Tear down Sleep Train Arena

I was within a few feet of Sacramento’s former City Manager John Shirley, when he announced the Sleep Train could not compete with the new arena. Something about a non-competing clause. Sealing the fate of the 30 year old complex.

Arco, (now Sleep Train) opened in 1988 its cost a mere 40 million (below average in 1988) dollars to build. Sixteen years after it opened, the Maloof family, then owners of the Sacramento Kings deemed Arco inadequate and wanted the taxpayers of Sacramento to construct a Shiny New Arena (estimated cost 600 million) in the Railyards.  Sacramento e voters told the billionaires owners of the Las Vegas Palm hotel, no..

The original home of the Sacramento Kings ,the Sacramento Sports Arena (opened in 1985) The arena had just over 10,000 seats. Small by NBA standards. The name was later changed to Arco Arena. Today, the building at 1625 North Market still operational as an office building

While Arco Architect Rann Haight said the arena could be modified and expanded. The City of Sacramento fearing the Kings would leave,joined the Maloof’s chorus insisting there were no fixes that could improve Arco Arena.

100 hundred acres

The land the Arena sits on is massive, only the airport has more parking spaces. The City once considered building a new stadium for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders next to Arco. Other visionaries, envisioned a complex with fields for soccer, volleyball, rugby, Little League baseball, softball and other non-professional sports. It could include a small, 10,000-seat stadium. For many Sacramentians the location near Interstates 5 and 80 was ideal.

To remain competitive in an ever changing marketplace Older arenas are routinely updated. Again this isn’t true of Arco, as the arena aged the owners (Maloofs) assuming they would eventually move to a new Arena ,made no significant improvements to Arco .

Magicians In Oakland and Seattle

When Oracle (Oakland Coliseum) Arena opened in 1966, its capacity was 15,000. After a major renovation in the late nineties, 4000 seats and luxury boxes were added to the facility without removing any exterior walls.

The Key Arena opened in 1962 in Seattle . The arena has been renovated three times. When it opened, its capacity was 13,200. When the current renovation is completed in 2021, it will increase to 18,600.

Image result for selland arena fresno

When the Selland Arena opened in downtown Fresno in 1966, its capacity was less than 7000 thousand seats.  Today the capacity of the 53 year old  Arena is over 11,000.  Its last update in 2006,  brought  a new video replay scoreboard, message boards and a new ice-cooling system for hockey games and the installation of new seats .  While many competing venues receive updates.  With the exception of paint, and signage changes. The 31 year old Acro/Sleep Train arena looks the same as it did when it opened in 1988. 

Arco/Sleep Train was one of the busiest Arenas on the West coast. Hosting more than 200 events a year. The Arena had hosted international acts: Tina Turner, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Garth Brooks. Until it wasn’t. Peeling paint, a leaking ceiling and an indifferent landlord.

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How old is old?

West Coast Arenas currently in operation.

The 17,000 seat,Arco Arena opened in 1988.

The 16,000 seat, Cow Place opened in 1941

12,000 seat, Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Portland ) opened in 1961.

17,000 seat Key Arena (Seattle) opened in 1962

10,000 seat Long Beach Arena opened in 1962

19,000 seat Oracle (Oakland Coliseum) opened in 1966

17,000 seat Perchanga (San Diego Sports Arena) opened in 1966

6600 seat Selland Arena (Fresno) opened in 1966

17,000 seat Forum (Inglewood) opened in 1967

17,000 seat SAP (San Jose Arena (San Jose) opened in 1993

21,000 seat Staples Center (Los Angeles) opened in 1999

16,000 seat Save Mart Center (Fresno) opened 2003

The City of Sacramento wants Sleep Train Torn Down

The City of Sacramento has a large ($255 million) debt in the Golden One Center, which may not paid for several decades. This debt, doesn’t include the future upgrades the Kings will demand from the city to remain competitive with other NBA arenas.

Sacramento doesn’t want any competition to Golden One. College and High Schools Commencement events were redirected (at a higher cost) from Sleep Train to Golden One.

NBA organizations like the Sacramento Kings are not in the business of being landlords. However, Kings owners Vivek Ranadive and Partners are businessmen. The Arena is worth much more in its present condition than rubble. Perhaps they signed a blood oath with the City preventing them from placing the building on the market. Even in its present condition the building is worth considerably more than 40 million it cost to construct in 1988.


Golden One Center is a success. Pollstar a trade publication for the concert industry. Ranked Golden One Center #9 in the United States and #18 in the world, selling over 150,000 tickets to arena events from November 22, 2018, to February 20, 2019. Golden 1 Center was also the only Northern California arena to make the top twenty in Pollstar’s first-quarter ticket sales rankings.

Over two million people live in the Sacramento Metro Area. Sacramento is currently the fastest growing large city in the state  Fresno, (metro population 1,1 million) has two operating arenas. The 11,300 seat Selland Arena, opened in 1966 and the 16,000 seat Save Mart Center opened in 2003. The Selland Arena is located in the Fresno Convention Center complex downtown.

Updates have kept the 53 year old venue competitive. The city doesn’t see the long term benefits of keeping Sleep Train.  Sleep Train can accommodate events that the Convention Center and Golden ! cannot.  RV and Cars shows, indoor and outdoor sports conventions.   These events would generate business in Natomas and additional Tax dollars.

There are nearly 1400, rooms within five miles of Sleep Train in Natomas and several under construction with more to come in the next couple of years.  Upgrading Sleep Train is considerably less than building or expanding any venue downtown. With its acreage, it currently has the acreage flexibility to host sporting events larger than UC Davis and Sacramento State combined.

Bulldozing Sleep Train is shortsighted. Acts are choosing choose Golden One based on its reputation and if the city is committed to updating the center as needed, it could remain one the premier venues on the west coast.

 The City of Sacramento is spending more than 200 million dollars to expand the Convention Center which has not yielded fruit for the city.   The Convention Center has  lost money every year since its first expansion in the nineties.   A portion of the 200 million includes improvement on the under used  Memorial Auditorium and renovating the Community Center Theater.  

Arco\Sleep Train would appeal to Act’s and Shows that night find Golden One too expensive and Convention Center and Auditorium too small.

Jehovah’s Witness and Aftershock

The Jehovah’s Witness Convention is far and away the Convention Centers largest client. Last year, the Witnesses moved their meetings from the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco to Sacramento. Last year their meetings were held at Sleep Train. Last year the city said the Witness’s brought $28 million to city . In that same year, the manager of the Malabar restaurant on Del Paso Road welcomed the business. “ With Sleep Train just sitting there being empty ,we’re losing a lot of money and a lot of business, so 16 weekends out of the year sounds great to me.”

This year they will meet in Sleep Train, while the Convention Center is renovated. Between May and September there will be 16 events at Sleep Train. Averaging nearly 11,000 attendees per weekend, more Jehovah’s Witness Conventions are held in Sacramento than anywhere on the west coast. Last year,despite the aesthetics (weeds) some of the attendees said they preferred the Sleep Train location over the Convention Center due to the availability of near by moderately priced hotels.

Many businesses in Natomas felt the absence of Sleep Train. Many of them saw in increases in business last year when the venue held the Jehovah’s Witness Convention. Like many religious organizations there is no charge to attend the convention.

As a result this organization hold their events in secondary locations. For years, their events were held at the Cow Palace. The Cow Palace may be in its final days, a victim of age and location. Golden One, The Oracle in Oakland, the SAP in San Jose and the new Chase arena in San Francisco are too expensive for organizations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses   Its very possible they may outgrown the Convention Center and without the option of Sleep Train, leave Sacramento for Fresno, Stockton, Long Beach or Reno .

Sacramento’s largest two day event is Aftershock, it is held the 2nd week on October. Attendance has grown steadily through the years, from 35,000 attendees to 60, 000 last year, making it one of the largest music events on the West Coast.

The Aftershock Festival began seven years ago at Gibson Park in Elverta. A few years ago, the venue moved to a smaller location at Discovery Park. Attendees currently have an option of parking their cars at Sleep Train and being shuttled to Discovery Park. Last year the Festival was responsible of filling nearly every hotel room between Woodland and Downtown. Last year the event generated nearly 14 million dollars to Sacramento . While to goal was to grow the three day event to forty thousand people per day, Sacramento has limited the capacity to 25,000 per day.

Enter Sleep Train, the festival is currently using the parking area and providing transportation from, Sleep Train to Discovery. Temporary Amphitheaters could be constructed on the properties existing 100 acres. Insuring the Festival will remain in Sacramento for years to come.

A 28 Million Dollar Lesson

In 1929, William Fox built the San Francisco Fox Theater considered by many the most opulent theaters in the Fox Chain. The theater had 4600 seats. But it was troubled from its opening, the location was too far up Market. and the other theaters. Rapidly decaying, leaders viewed it as a loser for the city. However, there were others who believed the building had other uses. The City left the decision with the Citizens and in 1961 the citizens voted to demolish the theater and sell the land. Which is currently theFox Plaza.

Less than twenty years later, the San Francisco Symphony needed a home.  It was sharing the War Memorial Opera house with the San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Opera Company. As a result the Symphony was unable to expand to a full year schedule.

In 1980, The Louise M Davies Symphony Hall opened two blocks away from the site of the Fox Theater Site.

There are many cities who have hastily torn down theaters, stadiums and Arenas. Some of the cities were unwilling or lacked the vision, of what could be. There are other that had the vision to re-purpose these building. With the Sleep Train in place, Sacramento has four venues, and the city could directly benefit from events held at Sleep Train. Golden One and the Convention Center along with the Community Theater are the premier venues in Sacramento.

Sleep Train at, 30 years old, is still a relatively young venue. It currently has something the other venues don’t , the potential for growth. It will have most likely to appeal to a different client similar to The Staple Center and the Inglewood Forum. T’he city will benefit from both venues. The owners of the Sacramento Kings should place Sleep Train on the market.

Sacramento should revisit the area around Sleep Train as an alternative to downtown. Possibly changing the zoning to high density (vertical ) commercial and residential that would make better use of the land and compliment. The West Coast Headquarters of Centene and its projected 5000 employees.  Who might might enjoy a an event three blocks away.

The City of Sacramento continues to struggle with its identity  Despite having more than area population of more of two million.  It zones its land as if it were Roseville or Elk Grove instead of Oakland or Portland.   The majority of cities  population reside in Natomas and most of its growth will     half . It wants to be world class, however its decisions are shortsighted. Its continues to zone like it was 1963. A subdivision and a Raley’s.

It’s plain, its basic and like it or not, Sleep Train/Acro Arena is an iconic building for Sacramento. Outside of the Capital, it was the most photographed televised building in Sacramento. Many local are proud of its history.

Bulldozing Sleep Train will not guarantee the success of Golden One. Like, Sleep Train, it will age and there will be newer Arenas, with larger screens. Perhaps, our leaders need to Google World Class Cities. Many have theaters Arenas and Stadiums that are much older than Sleep Train. Our civic leaders need to be reminded. The Iconic Sleep Train is still a viable. In 2016, in its worst condition Garth Brooks performed 8 eight shows,sold nearly 90,000 tickets generating over 2 million dollars for singer. The building was very successful but the landlord let it down, let it leak. But they are no longer in Sacramento.

To bull doze Sleep Train Arena and replace it with another Beazer subdivision doesn’t make Sacramento World Class . A city that could attract high tech companies like Amazon or Google and their employees Short term decisions like this continues to make our river city look like a random bedroom community with a capital building.

Do not Tear Down Sleep Train Arena

Contact your Councilperson and Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings

(Check the City of Sacramento’s Website for Email addresses and Telephone Numbers)

District 1 – Angelique Ashby
District 2 – Allen Warren
District 3 – Jeff Harris
District 4 – Steve Hansen
District 5 – Jay Schenirer
Vice Mayor Eric Guerra (District 6)
District 7 – Rick Jennings, II
District 8 – Larry Carr