Home-court advantage

Settling back to rub the belly after a huge Thanksgiving feast last week, pondering things for which Sacramentans should be thankful, it struck Bites how woefully underappreciated good ol’ Arco Arena is.

OK, OK, perhaps it wasn’t as profound a Thanksgiving notion as personal health, proximity of family or the fact that Americans today can accumulate more stuff than any human beings in history. And maybe the revelation stemmed from the unusually good fortune that sent Bites to Arco the two previous nights, for the U2 concert and the Kings-Blazers game.

But still, that was just the catalyst for observing that this is still a venue with a lot of life and versatility left in it, even though there are those willing to mothball it in favor of some kind of latest and greatest sports/entertainment mini-mecca in Downtown Sac.

One night, Arco Arena hosts the Kings’ trouncing of the Houston Rockets. The next night, it’s transformed into an intimate yet high-tech concert hall with a heart-shaped stage worked to the hilt by one of rock’s biggest acts. The next night, it’s back in basketball shape for a nail biter against Portland. And each night, it was packed full with enthusiastic fans having a great time. No alternative venue could have amped up the volume higher at any of these events. And still, they call it “obsolete.” Amazing.

In our disposable culture, it’s astounding how quickly good things become obsolete. The whiz-bang computer you buy for the kids this Christmas will seem obsolete by Santa’s next visit. Buy that cell phone with Internet access today and you’ll miss the one tomorrow that cooks your breakfast for you.

Instant obsolescence isn’t just a problem with products either, but also with plans and ideas. The Natomas Community Plan’s forward-thinking approach to community-building was scrapped by the Sacramento City Council before it could even be implemented (see Sidelines on the next page). Which takes Bites right back to where we started this column, with Arco Arena and its owners, the Maloof family.

The Maloofs are among the developers who twisted the City Council’s arm into approving a big box retail center in a North Natomas site that had been designated to house a major employer because it was along a light-rail line that would allow workers to forgo driving cars. The Brothers Maloof want to build two restaurants in the complex: a Garduños Mexican Restaurant and another joint with an NBA theme.

These guys seem content to tromp all over our best-laid plans. Even though the Maloofs have hardly begun to pay off a city loan they used to create the Arco of today, they and Mayor Heather Fargo are studying the idea of building a new stadium of tomorrow in the downtown area, complete with the most luxurious of luxury boxes to maximize profits.

Sure, proponents of the plan try to argue that building a stadium downtown is the kind of urban infill development that the Greenies love, allowing downtown denizens to just walk or take light rail to games.

And that might even be a good argument, except for the fact that the heaviest traffic now headed to Kings games at Arco seems to come straight down Interstate 80, probably from the gated Placer County enclaves where people can actually afford the ridiculously high ticket prices to games these days.

No, this is really about valuing private profits over public benefits, an old and all-too-familiar story. Having just blown a cool million bucks on the recent grand opening party for their new Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, the Maloofs can easily afford to stay put at Arco, or fund their own damned study if they’re feeling so restless.

Or better yet, they can support a light-rail expansion that would truly connect Arco to the Sacramento community, and instead of working to actively subvert sound planning principles, they can help Sacramento efficiently grow into and toward their stadium.

Arco Arena is a great facility, one that could serve Sacramento for many years and stand as a testament to one of the core American values of the Old Economy: made in America and built to last. It could stand for a rejection of a world that puts profits before people … although we’d probably have to change the arena name first.