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A wood-fired pizza and craft beer brought to your seat at the stadium - and other new perks
Walk-through security scanners, checkout-free concession stands and self-serve terminals, 5G networks and 4K scoreboards, automated ticket checking, face and age verification via biometry – these are some of the innovations increasingly adopted by sports stadiums over the past few years. And a lot more is coming: virtual reality headlines are popping up here and there, claiming the future of sports is in the headset.
Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings and the indoor arena for many a concert, has been at the forefront of the innovation drive – already at the construction stage, it was built with cutting-edge tech in mind.
For starters, it’s officially the nation’s greenest stadium, being 100% solar-powered. But the arena’s sustainability goals go well beyond energy use, just as new-wave technology is laden into its walls. Let’s begin with an ode to catering.
What comes to mind when you think of ballpark foods? Hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, cotton candy? Snacks mostly – typical, greasy, pre-made, and overpriced. Well, Golden 1 Center went on a mission to break that stereotype and wow attendees with its food offerings.
How about handmade tacos, wood-fired pizza, or a bier hall sausage? Golden 1 Center partners with local Sacramento restaurants and pledges to source 90% of the ingredients in its meals from local farmers, growers, and producers, who follow the Slow Food philosophy – good, clean, and fair practices. And that means a fresh, unique, and diverse dining experience, even if it’s just eating a hot dog.
Currently, Golden 1 Center lists the following local eats, to name a few: fresh-baked hot dogs from Big Cheese Dog House, burgers from Café Bernardo, tacos from Centro, burritos from El Jefe, pizza from Selland’s, gyros from Petra Greek, brisket from Smokehouse BBQ, rice bowls from Star Ginger, cocktails and wine from Union Wine, Spirits & Ale, and much more. Vegetarian and vegan options are present, and so are the food and beverage carts, not to break the tradition. But even the carts feature local offerings like craft beer from breweries nearby.
What’s more, many of the local eats will deliver orders to corresponding stadium levels. Guests can place an order via the Kings + Golden 1 Center app on their phones and get food brought to their seats. This option is not available during concerts, but can come in very handy at games. The app does require credit card info, however; Apple Pay is not accessible.
On a side note, the app also offers help finding parking and seating.
Further, Golden 1 Center operates a checkout-free convenience store. The arena partnered with Zippin back in 2019 to implement its AI and sensor platform. “I can’t think of a better place than a sports venue to eliminate the checkout line,” Zippin CEO Krishna Motukuri said at the time. “Sacramento Kings fans will be able to walk in, grab a beer, and walk out in under 30 seconds.” Without waiting in line, without scanning the items – quick and simple.
Circling back to the topic of sustainability, Golden 1 Center strives to serve meals in compostable and biodegradable disposable containers. Leftover food gets transferred to local food banks and charities. According to Golden 1 Center, it donated 71,345 pounds of food to the Sacramento Food Bank in its first five years; that meant “59,478 meals for those in need and resulted in 38,705 pounds of CO2 saved from the region’s landfills.” (see my recent food waste stories: 1 & 2)
Lastly, about VR. The Kings have been using virtual reality tech to offer fans an immersive experience. Headsets can take viewers from any seat in the house (or elsewhere) right onto the field where the game takes place, in addition to other perks like instant replays. This proved especially convenient during the pandemic – from late 2020 to late 2021, the Golden 1 Center became the sixth-largest venue globally in terms of ticket revenue.
Certainly, Golden 1 Center isn’t the nation’s only high-tech stadium, or one offering local eats for that matter. The Chase Center in San Francisco, the base of the Golden State Warriors, stands as another arena featuring local dining experience and sustainable practices. And about 100 checkout-free stores launched at sports venues just over the past year. Yet Golden 1 Center certainly beat them as it combined just about all accessible technologies in one place.
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