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Power Balance Pavilion isn't being passed by on concert tours or by the National Collegiate Athletic Association because of anything wrong with it physically.
The facility is good enough for Lady Gaga and Britney Spears to play there this spring and summer. The arena which has been the long-time home to the Sacramento Kings has many good points, according to people who've spent a lot of time there.
However, some big conventions and events, primarily religious conventions, have skipped Sacramento altogether because the arena isn't close to enough hotels.
Its money-making capacity is hindered by the smaller number of seats and luxury suites, compared to newer arenas.
Other problems exist because it is an aging arena that lacks opulence and more comfort, and it may not have been as well maintained as it could.
NCAA has no problems with Sacramento’s arena
City officials and business leaders have pointed to the fact that the NCAA basketball tournament hasn't played here since 2007 as proof the arena must not be good enough for the Kings.
NCAA basketball tournament rounds staged here in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2007 sold out the arena. But the last time the Sacramento Sports Commission put in a bid to bring the tournament back – believed to be 2009 – Sacramento wasn't chosen.
City officials got no details about how that decision was made from the person who gave them the news, commission Executive Director John McCasey said.
"His comment was the city has to work on its arena issues," McCasey said. "They never ever had the courtesy to tell us why."
But the NCAA executive overseeing all championships said the basketball tournament has not returned simply because the honor of hosting the games must be rotated among cities. Sixty to 70 cities put in bids to host 12 basketball slots each year, said Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's interim executive vice president of championships and alliances.
Power Balance Pavilion has no physical or size limitations to the NCAA tournament playing there. In fact, the tournament doesn't even use NBA buildings for all the slots. Campus buildings and other sports facilities like the Honda Center in Anaheim have been used, said Shaheen, who visited what was then Arco Arena in 2002 and 2007.
When it comes to arenas, the needs of the tournament are not the same as the needs of the Kings, its permanent tenant, he added.
"It's not an apples to apples comparison," said Shaheen, adding the person who informed Sacramento about the lost NCAA bid was likely referring to the fact the NCAA was monitoring discussions about a new arena in Sacramento.
Seat capacity may be biggest challenge to concerts and shows
Concerts and other shows face challenges there because there's only one loading dock and extra riggers must be used to hang sound and lighting equipment from steel beams hanging from the ceiling at an angle to the stage.
Arenas are notoriously difficult places for sound reproduction. The sound at Power Balance is not as good as other facilities, but it's unclear whether that's because of the arena, the production company or people coming through on tour.
Bette Midler got fantastic sound there after sending an advanced sound specialist and Neil Diamond has played the arena many times, said Susie Owens, a stagehand who's helped set up and take down shows at the arena since it opened in November 1988.
Shows face bigger problems at other venues, primarily theaters. Many old vaudeville theaters are still being used for productions.
"I've worked in so many places that are so much worse than that and have so many ridiculous things that are still in operation," Owens said. "I just walk in and go, 'Oh mother of god – what are we doing here?' You literally have to put your show in with a shoehorn. At Arco, you just don't have to worry about that sort of stuff."
Dressing rooms are nothing special but that doesn’t stop people from touring there. The biggest obstacle to shows and possibly concerts is the arena only seats up to 17,317 people, said Owens, who helped load Cirque du Soleil in and out of the arena last weekend
Smaller shows usually go to bigger facilities to make enough money to cover tour costs, then extend tours and go to smaller venues only if they can.
Owens said she would like a new arena to be built out of self-interest – that's where she works – and so a wider variety of shows can be put on in a more comfortable environment with better sound. Power Balance has been a good investment that has served the region well, she said.
"I certainly understand why people don't want to spend the money that way – that people want to spend it on education, and when police and firefighters are showing up at the city council wanting to keep their jobs, you want to support them," she said.
Despite any problems, the arena is popular for concerts. Shows don't skip the arena because of any production issues, according to Live Nation Entertainment, whose subsidiaries include Ticket Master, Live Nation Concerts and an artist management company.
"The Power Balance arena is very widely used and continues to be a successful venue in the market," said Jodi Goodman, senior vice president of Northern California for Live Nation.
"Little stands in the way of shows playing Power Balance Pavilion if a tour has enough dates on their routing schedule for secondary markets. Sacramento is always at the top of the list."
More arena pros and cons
Representatives from Maloof Sports & Entertainment and the National Basketball Association were not available to comment on why they believe a new arena is needed in Sacramento or to provide a tour of Power Balance Pavilion.
Interviews with others touched on pros and cons of the existing facility.
The arena hasn't been well maintained over the years. Problems include smelly bathrooms; an outdated kitchen; uncomfortable, small plastic seats; and a small, broken-down visitor's locker room considered one of the worst in the league, said sports reporter Marty McNeal, who covered the Kings for The Sacramento Bee, where he worked from 1990-2009. He currently blogs on Marty Mac's World.
The Kings' locker room, however, was renovated six or seven years ago and is quite nice, he said.
Most modern arenas now have twice as many as luxury boxes as Power Balance Pavilion, which has 30.
Some people are fairly happy with the luxury suites, which come in two sizes. Some hold 26 people and some hold half that.
They have an intimate setting because they're small, close to other fans and each comes with a set of regular seats outside right in front of the box.
Suites have their own bathrooms, TVs and really good service – sometimes from just one person assigned to that box. They're not as isolated as luxury boxes at other arenas, said Doug Elmets, spokesman for Thunder Valley Casino Resort and its owner, the United Auburn Indian Community.
The tribe sponsors a luxury box at the arena and recently pledged $1 million toward the effort to stop the Kings from moving to Anaheim. Elmets previously worked for Arco and the oil company's arena suite was managed through his office.
"One of the real hidden benefits of the suites at Arco is it's much more intimate than I've experienced at other arenas," Elmets said. "It's rarified air but not too snobby."
He described the suites as beautiful but a little outdated. New arenas have more cushy and luxurious suites.
"They could certainly be more opulent," he said. "They're sufficient, but they are not opulent."
McNeal agreed, saying, "There's not a bit of opulence around that joint."
However, others said luxury boxes are "a bit tired" and small luxury boxes are cramped and awkward, making entertaining difficult. They're not laid out as well for viewing and acoustics could be better, said Tom Kandris, chief executive officer and managing director of American River Packaging, another of the 30 companies whose financial commitments to the Kings kept the team in town.
The first three rows of premium seats are right on the floor. That arrangement means other premium seats are close to the floor rather than set back like at other arenas, said Kandris, whose company has both premium seats and a luxury box.
Business executives like Kandris want to keep the Kings in Sacramento and see a new arena built because basketball games are good places to bring people together and build relationships with employees and customers. They also think having an NBA team and a new arena is a vital boost to the community's image, he said.
"A lot of business owners are not trying to save basketball per se. They're trying to create and enhance civic pride.... and show the community has spirit," Kandris said. "My love for the community is larger than my love of basketball."
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.