Sacramento State remains without arena despite recent initiatives


The Nest was built in 1955 and has a seating capacity of 1,200.

State Hornet Staff

A decade after Sacramento State students voted for a new event center that would have served as a spot for concerts, recreational activities and graduation commencement ceremonies, the arena has yet to be built.

In April 2004, an Associated Students Inc. referendum measure proposed the construction of one structure with three different center components: wellness, recreation and events.

Out of the 4,378 students who voted, 2,415 approved a $72 million center that took six years to complete, but when President Alexander Gonzalez cut the opening day ribbon in September 2010, the event center aspect was nowhere to be found.

Leslie Davis, executive director of Union Well Inc., said the absence of the center was due to market prices raising in 2006, caused by Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts and Chinese intervention at the exact time when construction was scheduled to begin.

“Costs skyrocketed because all the construction material was going to New Orleans,” Davis said. “At the same time, China was buying up all the steel and so prices just soared.”

With the project costing more than estimated, a cut in the initial proposal had to be made. Adjusting the plan to incorporate a reduced event center with 3,500 seats was under consideration but ultimately was voted down in favor of keeping two basketball courts, racquetball courts, the mac court and half of the fitness space intact.  

Last semester, Union Well Inc. recognized the new event center needed to be addressed since former students had voted for one and the school had nothing to show for it. It held about 27 open forums and emailed questionnaires to attending students, gauging support for a new event center as well as Union and Well expansions.

The Union Well Inc. was ready to move forward with the event center students had waited almost 10 years for, but a majority of the 400 students who participated in the questionnaires voted against the newest proposal because they did not agree with a $250 increase in student fees.

“Students clearly wanted the services, but they just didn’t want to pay for it,” Davis said. “We listen to the students.”

Even though the latest event center proposal was voted down by the students and Gonzalez, the expressed need for one is shared by administrative officials.

Kim Nava, Sac State director of News Service, said the center would build a sense of pride and connection on the campus for students, faculty, staff and the greater community.  She said the current court for the Sac State basketball teams, The Nest, needed to be replaced a long time ago.

“The facility is just awful and it is really unfortunate,” Nava said. “We want the team to have a venue that matches their skills, ability and desire to win.”

Davis said with the other types of resources already available to students on campus, the lack of a decent basketball court makes no sense.

“They are in a glorified high school gym right now,” Davis said. “ It is embarrassing for a Division I team to be in that type of a facility.”

Athletics Assistant Media Director Ryan Bjork said in a statement a new arena would benefit the department and campus.

“We’ve known for a long time the future of our athletics program is contingent upon building a facility of this nature,” Bjork said. “We look forward to a time when this goal is accomplished, and the facility will be a great asset to the University and the athletics department when it happens.”

The men’s basketball, women’s basketball, gymnastics and volleyball teams play its home games inside the 59-year-old facility.

While the need for an event center is clear from an athlete perspective, ASI President Nielsen Gabriel said some students oppose it  because they would prefer funds went toward improving education.

He said he respects that opinion, but those students need to realize money raised by Union Well Inc. cannot legally be used for academics, and emphasized the indirect benefits the center could have on learning.

“School is much more than just coming to a classroom,” Gabriel said. “It’s getting that experience and being a part of the community.”

Nava said the administration wants students to graduate on the campus they have been attending for the last four or five years. She also said the center would provide more job opportunities for students, serve as a major draw for basketball students and would generate its own revenue.

The appeal of the center is something Nava said Sac State is already familiar with.

“Look at the Well and the opportunities it has provided for students on campus and the event center could take us to the next level in that same way,” Nava said.

Gabriel said other schools such as San Diego State and University of Southern California have big event centers and it has led to more donors for those institutions.

Despite several failed attempts, the plan for constructing an event center is still not dead. Davis said Gonzalez has taken on the task of seeking fundraising through university foundations.

There have not been any comments against having an event center on campus, Nava said. She only has heard complaints from students not wanting to pay for something that will not be built until after they graduate.

“It’s a wonderful legacy they can leave to other students down the road, just like students did for the Well in 2004,” Nava said. “They were not thinking of themselves, but of the students in years to come, and that was a wonderful statement about our students.”

Davis said there was no attempt last semester to lower the proposed fee increase to appease student voters because the administration did not want to do a watered down version of the center.

“We wanted all or nothing, and we got nothing,” Davis said.