Monday, October 24, 2016

A Cramped Feeling about the Overhyped Golden1 Center.

Look, I know I'm a cynic about the Kings.

But can you blame me? They never fail to astound you in terms of pure futility. They are the NBA's Ultimate Fail. Every move is a disaster. Every season an experience of painful, sadistic torture.

So with that said, I really wanted to love the Golden1 Center. I wanted to prove my sunny disposition. I wanted to show the naysayers that I could be a delightful supporter of this team and their noble effort to build a brand new home for the Kings.

And I actually felt a twinge of pride as I ambled up to the spanking new building for a concert last week. I turned to my wife and said, "You know, it's pretty cool having something like this downtown."

I could picture the surroundings brimming with nightlife and restaurants in a year or so, a hub of activity, a real epicenter of community.  We walked the perimeter of the arena, taking in the living wall of greenery on the exterior.

And hey, I gotta admit, the entrance to the new arena is impressive. Open and huge and spectacularly inviting.

Maybe this place was gonna live up to expectations. And then...

Sad trombone.

Okay, here's where I'm gonna get real.  For the next three hours, I had one of the most underwhelming, uncomfortable and disappointing arena experiences in my life.

First impression: The main concourse is, well, a concourse. Unadorned concrete. A few nostalgic neon signs tacked up without rhyme or reason. Very little wow factor.  And to make it worse, the concourse is populated with horribly overpriced and pretend versions of name-brand restaurant foods from the Sacramento area.

My wife and I both ordered pizza from the Selland's stand. It was dry, tasteless, meager and 10 bucks. A beer was $14. A bottled water was $5.  Thirty dollars later and we were wondering if Selland's was going to sue Golden1 for destroying their brand.

All of these names - from Selland's to Star Ginger to Centro to LowBrau - are essentially institutional food stands with cool names.

We spoke to others who had similar less-than-tasty experiences. But okay, maybe we set our sights too high. And maybe they are still working out the kinks. After all, arena food isn't expected to be haute cuisine.

We decided to explore a little. We had seats in the lower level, but decided to check out the upper bowl just for the fun of it.

Unfortunately, my wife took one step out into the upper bowl, looked up, looked down, and then retreated inside. "Never buy seats for me up there," she said. "Ever."

I couldn't resist and had to go back and check it out for myself. The seats are great - if you have a sherpa to guide you. It feels like it's straight up. And it's scary steep. Even after you sit, you need a minute or two to let the feeling of vertigo seep from your body.

I have read that other modern arenas are just as steep, but if this is considered modern-day arena design, it's time to go back to the drawing board. It just doesn't feel safe. And I never had that feeling at the old Arco.

With just a few minutes before the concert, we strolled back downstairs. The pitch of the lower level is far friendlier and we finally managed to find our row and seats without much difficulty.

And that's when we discovered the worst design flaw of Golden1.

They forgot to leave room for your legs.

I'm serious. They must have forgotten.

I mean, I've never seen anything like it. My wife - who is 5-foot-7 - could literally not sit without her knees pressed hard against the chair in front of her. She could not relax and had to sit upright the entire time. Lucky for me, I was on an aisle. And at 6-foot-5, there is literally no way I would have been able to sit through the concert.

I sat with my legs in the aisle the entire time. I looked around at the other rows. People were sucked into their seats, unable to move.

And when someone needed to get up for a bathroom break or a beer run?  It was everyone on their feet leaning backwards.

I won't go into the sound system - it was muddy - because I just can't get over the poor design of the seating. I mean, isn't seating the No. 1 priority of an arena? Don't you want people to be comfortable?

I left the arena seriously thinking I may not come back again, unless I am somehow able to score an aisle seat again.

So was it just me? Did anyone else have this experience?

I Googled Golden1 Center legroom and I found results like this.

The Yelp reviews for the arena aren't exactly stellar, either.

I think Golden1 most likely has a decent honeymoon period with people willing to accept some flaws in exchange for a terrific entertainment venue. But I wouldn't be surprised if the complaints continue as more and more people come home with sore knees and unmet expectations.