Hey, Sacramento, ultra lounges still suck

The new arena appears on track—let’s make sure there’s something for everyone

Some of this week's column previously appeared on SN&R's new blog, Page Burner: www.newsreview.com/pageburner.
Follow Nick Miller on Twitter at @NickMiller916.

Just when you thought ultra lounges were done, Sacramento-arena proponents want to bring them back.

But before I spend the next some-odd words deconstructing Sacramento’s love affair with leather, house music and $20 cover charges, it’s worth noting that an anti-subsidy group still hopes to gather enough signatures to put the proposed Kings project to a vote, via special election. This seems highly unlikely, this corralling of some 33,000 sigs. But most people said the same thing about the Kings staying. (See Cosmo Garvin’s Bites column this week, on the next page, for more on the initiative effort.)

Anyway, about those ultra lounges:

The latest Sactown Magazine features a story by its co-editor called “#HereWeBuild”; The Sacramento Bee also ran a version of this story in its Sunday opinion section. I have a lot of respect for the team of journalists at both outlets, but some of these ideas for what the arena needs are starry-eyed and stale.

Or maybe I just need Google Glass, because my Think Big vision isn’t working.

One popular idea—not exclusive to Sactown—is that the new arena needs a tower with an ultra lounge at the top.

Sactown co-editor Rob Turner envisions a structure that rises 100 feet above street level, so that the entire cityscape can be soaked in.

It’s not far-fetched; as he noted, there is a “stylish” One80 Grey Goose rooftop ultra lounge at the recently opened Amway Center basketball arena in Orlando.

Apparently, this idea has legs. Activist group Here We Stay, who was instrumental in keeping the Kings in Sacto during the past three years, wrote a letter to new Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé last month also asking for a skyline ultra lounge to hang out in after games.

Perhaps I no longer have my pulse on what gets a Sacramentan’s jones going, but I can assure you this: Grid dwellers eat ultra lounges for breakfast, whether in Midtown or on top of a damn skyscraper.

Remember Lounge on 20? That ultra lounge couldn’t survive on the busy K and 20th street corner. Yet its successor, German bierhall LowBrau, is one of the more popular hot spots on the grid. And former Lounge on 20 chef Pajo Bruich sells out reservations at his new spot, Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar, to much fanfare (including an SN&R cover story last week).

The take home: It’s not about “pizzazz.”

High-rise, five-star hotels for 1 percenters; multimillion-dollar public artworks by Claes Oldenburg (i.e., the guy who sculpts 50-foot-tall paintbrushes); bright lights; luxury condos—what’s up with glitz and ritz fascination?

I think people’s hearts are in the right place. The arena shouldn’t be a “black hole,” and it should have things we can enjoy 365 days a year. Plus, housing and public-art investments are crucial.

It’s just all those ideas are haves-and-have-nots visions. And the new arena should be something everyone can enjoy, not a 916-baller-status fantasy dropped into the middle of Downtown Plaza.

I did like many of the Here We Stay arena ideas on Sactown Royalty’s website. Building an arena with local contractors, engineers and sound designers is essential, especially because of the public subsidy. Solar panels, bike valet and eco-friendly features—yes, please.

But if you want rooftop martinis, go to the Palms.

A quick word on this year’s Friday Night Concerts in the Park: Wow!

The Downtown Sacramento Partnership has injected new juju into the summertime concert series, and the team over there deserves massive kudos. Last week, they somehow persuaded one of the city’s most beloved bands, indie dance-funk darlings Chk Chk Chk to headline a free show for their hometown. This gives CITP big-time gravitas and name ID.

Also, DSP’s team has transformed the park. No longer do a smattering of sweaty, possibly creepy shadow dancers decorate the stage front while beer drinkers are behind fences. Now, throngs of people elbow up to see the bands, some dancing, some even with kids sitting atop their shoulders.

CITP is once again a must-do Friday-after-work event.