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Stepping inside the Sacramento Kings’ new home arena

The new Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Center seats 17,500. The modern arena features five bifold, strap latch main entrance doors made of a combination of steel and aluminum frames, with clear openings of 10 and 9 m (32 and 28.8 ft).
Photo © Paul Crosby Architectural Photography. Photo courtesy Schweiss Doors

While Sacramento Kings fans celebrate winning basketball games at the city’s new arena, the Golden 1 Center, design/construction professionals can get excited about something else: the facility’s doors. Made of low-emissivity (low-e), safety-laminated glass installed by Bagatelos Architectural Glass Systems, they weigh approximately 12,700 kg (28,000 lb) each. Three of them measure 9 x 12 m (29 x 41 ft), while the other two are 101 mm (4 in.) wider.

Rob Rothblatt, design principal architect of Aecom Architecture, says the doors are highly innovative, unique installations.

“One, they are canted on an 11-degree angle,” he says. “They are not battened. They are not the same length. Two of the doors are angled and three doors are straight, meaning they don’t travel the same distance and don’t stack exactly the same way.”

This 11-degree angle is implemented on three of the five entrance doors, for shading and reflectivity reduction. Each of the bifold strap latch doors are lifted by a trio of 5-horsepower motors requiring 480V, three-phase, 50-amp electrical power, and feature liftstraps double the normal width.

“It was a one-of-a-kind project that was hard from everbody’s standpoint: engineers, architects, installers. It was really challenging,” says Rothblatt, going on to praise the doors’ dynamism, ‘industrial feel,’ and aesthetic. “What I like most is that when you open the doors and stand on the balcony, you don’t know if you are inside or outside the building. That is just fantastic!”

On the second-story plaza, visitors to the stadium can look through the bifold glass doors to the city outside. The doors are glazed with small fritted glass and low-emissivity (low-e), safety-laminated, gray-glass non-reflective panels to prevent birds from flying into them.
Photo © Paul Crosby Architectural Photography. Photo courtesy Schweiss Doors

This ‘inside-outside’ quality was crucial during the design and construction process, as it reflects the character of Sacramento. The arena had to work well with the area’s climate, incorporate indoor and outdoor elements, and stand up to the rigorous standards of California’s Title 24. For instance, the bifold doors allow for natural cooling of the structure, ventilating the breeze through small vents under the arena’s 17,500 seats.

“We are the first LEED Platinum arena in the whole world,” says Rothblatt. “Part of being uniquely Sacramento is to be kind to the flora and fauna and celebrate farm-to-table and the delta. We are absolutely state-of-the-art in bird protection; it’s partly because of the doors. We don’t have any reflective glass. We have fritted glass and small panels that allow birds to see ahead of them.”

He adds that the doors “are glazed with gray glass, so birds will never bang into them by mistake. We’ve had no crashes at all.”

Not only is the Golden 1 Center the first indoor venue to receive Platinum under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, it is also the first professional sports venue to be completely powered by solar energy. Also contributing to its energy-efficient designation is the building’s water usage—the center should save about 3.7 million L (1 million gal) of water each year compared to a typical similar facility.

“We felt we had to set a new bar,” says Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Kings. “We have to be cognizant of the kind of planet we want to leave our kids and next generations. This had to be the greenest arena ever built. I fully expect that arenas in the future will be even better, be even more sustainable. Hopefully, what we have here is an example of how to build a great arena and still be responsible to the environment.”

Each of the bifold canopy hangar-style doors weighs in at about 12,700 kg (28,000 lb) and is lifted by three 5-horsepower motors. The liftstraps are 152 mm (6 in.) wide.

The team has also begun holding practices with the doors open (creating the indoor-outdoor melding Rothblatt describes) to gauge the potential for holding a game in this environment and to see what conditions will need to be met to match the temperature, humidity, and wind of an indoor arena.

Extensive testing was completed prior to installation to ensure the doors would work safely and correctly, with the first piece being tested over a few months. This emphasis on safety was further supported by Bill Schmidt Construction, which completed the three-month door installation despite the various challenges posed by the design.

“It was pretty hard,” says Bill Schmidt, the company’s CEO. “We had to use a chain hoist and a forklift because of the weight limitations on the concrete. The plaza level is on the second story and it’s just decking and concrete. We had six people at one time drilling all the holes. The headers were box headers with center webs in them; we had a 25-mm (1-in.) plate to drill through, three holes per bolt. The side rails were hard to do because the doors weren’t vertical, but leaning out 11 degrees. The engineers put thicker side rails on than normal.”

Approximately 4000 construction workers (e.g. sheet metal installers, electricians, and plumbers) participated in the erection of the facility, which was also part of a $1-billion development project including 139,354 m2 (1.5 million sf) of mixed-use property. The center also includes technological features that have become fairly standard in modern arenas, such as apps for ordering food and watching replays, giant screens, and high-speed Internet.

The Golden 1 Center opened near the end of 2016, and will give attendees of concerts and conventions as well as sporting events the chance to walk through its complex doors.

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