New Sacramento Kings Arena

Planning for a new $477 million arena in the heart of downtown Sacramento.

The Sacramento Kings played their home games at the aging Sleep Train Arena, located in suburban North Sacramento. To avoid losing the NBA team, the Sacramento City Council voted to build a new arena downtown. The Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC) will include a 17,500 seat NBA arena and 1.5 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and theater uses and is located at the terminus of three different light rail lines.

Measuring the Environmental Impact

Since this massive development would be located in a more densely populated urban area, it could significantly alter population movement patterns. The project leaders asked us to help develop the Environmental Impact Report, which included both the transportation section of the EIR and a Transportation Management Plan (TMP) that described how the system would be managed during arena events. Our timeline was short, as the plan was to release the Draft EIR by mid-December and prepare a Final EIR for certification by April of 2014 so site demolition could begin in May 2014.

Innovative Use of Data

Traditionally, to identify the distribution for a new arena site, we would review zip code data for current season ticket holders. In this case, that data was not ideal because it represented the location where season tickets were mailed, not necessarily where pre-game trips originated and post-game trips were destined. For this project, through our partnership with Airsage, we were able to:

  • Mine cell phone data to help us quickly and more accurately determine where visitors of Sleep Train Arena were coming from and going to before and after Sacramento Kings basketball games.
  • Use our MXD+ tool to help us estimate trip generation (based on occupied space) for the 1.5 million square foot mixed use portion of the project and for the existing 1.2 million square foot Downtown Plaza shopping center to be demolished. The difference between these two totals represents the increase in travel for the Existing plus Project assessment.
  • Use our regional travel demand model to develop traffic forecasts, which enabled us to compare vehicle miles traveled for a sold-out Kings Game at the ESC and at Sleep Train Arena.


In April 2014, the City of Sacramento and the Kings, released the completed 13-month environmental impact analysis of the ESC site. The report identified significant sustainability benefits of moving from the suburban Natomas location to the urban downtown location. Moving would:


Reduce average miles traveled per attendee.


Cut overall air emissions by 24%.


Reduce travel-related greenhouse gas emissions per attendee by 36% by 2020.

Many fans will drive fewer miles because the new downtown arena will be closer to the region’s population centers and to the Kings’ population base. The cell phone data showed a high share of pre-game trips originating from employment centers around the region, which were people traveling to the games from work, and a high share of post-game trips being destined to more suburban residential areas, which were people returning home. The study also found that 10% of event attendees at Sleep Train travel to the facility directly from the 95814 ZIP code (covering downtown), probably coming straight from work. Many of those people are expected to walk directly to the arena or take light rail.

Forecast analysis indicates playing games at the ESC vs the Sleep Train arena would reduce theVMT per basketball attendee by more than 20%. This proved critical in determining the project’s compliance with Senate Bill (SB) 743, which among other objectives provides additional legal defensibility against injunctions that could otherwise halt arena construction.