Saturday, April 9, 2016

Peace out, ARCO

Sacramento's sports scene runs as part of the fabric of life as the son of Gary Gerould. My father was rooted in Sacramento television as KCRA's sports guy when I was born. My entire 48 years have been connected to sports and media in the 9-1-6. As such, Sleep Train Arena's last days offer an opportunity for reflection. 

Another commencement ceremony.
The last Sacramento Kings game at Sleep Train Arena is upon us. Mixed emotions hover around the finality of saying goodbye to this big inanimate object. There were good times, and life-lesson learning experiences that occurred in the Capitol City's sports and entertainment complex. 

I was among those that worked at the original ARCO Arena and I was a part of the transition from the old building to the new ARCO (now, Sleep Train) in 1988. At the time, I was employed by the Arena, working as an "audio engineer". Basically, I ran the mixing board that played the music inside and outside the arena. I was 20 years-old and I was in way over my head when representatives from Panasonic of Japan came to Sacramento to help Associated Sound install the mixing board at the new Arena. I didn't have any training in multi-channel audio mixing and it is a wonder patrons at Kings games ever heard anything. The board was massive! Super overkill for what we needed to actually accomplish. 

As a "board op" at the Arena I had to be in attendance for just about every event. Like many of you, I had family members that "walked" during graduation ceremonies held at ARCO Arena. How many times can you loop Pomp and Circumstance

In that way, the Arena touched the lives of thousands. My wife took part in two, herself. My nephew recently was a part of the Sac State graduating Class of 2015. 

Luke's Castle

When the new arena opened in 1988, among the requests (actually demands) was to have "castle music" playing on the outside speakers before all Kings games. The guys who ran the Arena, Mike Hyatt, Dutch Van Dusen, Mike Duncan, and others I worked with, all referred to the agenda as "Luke's Castle Music" (in reference to Gregg Luckenbill). It was a pain to have to check on the loop to make sure that the castle music was rolling as fans walked into the building from the parking lots. 


Part of my duties as ARCO Arena "audio engineer" were to set up the national anthem microphones, or any court-side mics that might be needed for Kings games. The ring announcer for boxing at the time was Big Jim Hall, a local country radio personality. Fred Anderson handled the Kings public address duties. 

Ricky Berry died before his sophomore season.
The Arena had hard-wired mic inputs at floor level. I would be running around court side well before the doors opened on a game night. That is how I became friends with Ricky Berry. Ricky, a Kings rookie first-round pick, would always have a comment about my haircut. We both went to a place called Crucial Cuts that had a Sacramento bred Rastafarian barber (James Adwa). Berry didn't know my real name so he just called me "Crucial". He would whoop me in short one-on-one games after I set up the microphones. 

We became good buddies and I spent a large chunk of time with him the summer before what was supposed to be his sophomore season. I was with Ricky hours before he took his own life. To say I was affected by his death would be an understatement. And inevitably the Arena is connected to my memories of Ricky. 


I saw some of the best boxing matches I've ever seen LIVE.  Tony Lopez and Loretto Garza never failed to put on a show. Although the first Lopez / Rocky Lockridge (one of the last events at the old ARCO) was better, the Lopez / Lockridge II at the new building in March 1989 was a great fight too! 

One cool thing about being the board operator was occasionally being able to play the role of "music supervisor". I recall Garza's camp liking my choice of "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" - by Prince as Garza's walk-in music. The kick drum is hyper and easy to clap along to. (listen!)

Arena related memories

I remember one day finding myself driving LaSalle Thompson's Mercedes Benz to the KFC on Northgate, not far from the Arena. As I recall it, I was bored at the Arena and without wheels for some reason so "Tank" gave me the keys to his car so I could run and get some fast food. As a then, 20 year-old, I felt some type of way, driving a car that fancy. 

Basketball memories and thoughts

Jason Kidd dazzled at ARCO as a high school baller. We witnessed his team winning back-to-back California State Championships. 

On the broadcasting side, I was fortunate to interview a young Shaquille O'Neal after a Lakers shoot-around that included Shaq break-dancing. I asked him about Kobe Bryant, who was a rookie that barely played at the time. Shaq said, "You mean, Showboat?" I don't recall what else Shaq said but his initial reaction with the unsanctioned, "Showboat" nickname for Kobe is just one of those things I remember. 

Mitch Richmond (photo at left) was a professional that always impressed with his love for basketball. Mitch was good because he worked continually at his craft. Having a chance to witness his willingness to "put in the work" left a lifelong impression on me. 

The Chris Webber era was all about the fantastic chemistry and skill that team had. Mike Bibby was fearless. Webber and Vlade Divac had assist-to-turnover ratios that rivaled good point guards. Peja Stojakovic was the best Kings shooter ever. 

Isaiah Thomas was/is someone my father admires. I've never met Isaiah but his combination of basketball skills and people skills are extraordinary. 

We took pride in seeing Michael "Yogi" Stewart dominating at Kennedy High School and then transferring those skills to the NBA hardwood at ARCO. Did you know Yogi had a nine-block game as a Kings player? 

Hustles connected to ARCO

Eventually I quit the Arena audio engineering gig to concentrate on finishing my communications degree from Sac State. I was still close to the Kings though, interning for Tim Roye at then, Kings flagship radio station KFBK. As a sports intern you are responsible for getting sound bites so I attended practices and "shoot arounds" at ARCO with regularity. 

Larry Heslin, the Kings equipment manager of the time, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I, became partners in promoting sports card shows in the Sacramento area. Through relationships built at the Arena we did card shows with Kings players as special guests signing free autographs. By far, the biggest show we promoted was at Kennedy High School where we had Lionel Simmons and Duane Causwell signing. We didn't have any cards of Duane Causwell so we hired Rocky Widner, the Kings photographer to make a photo handout of "Causy". We shot the photo around sunset near the Arena. 

Simmons' popularity in Sacramento was through the roof in his rookie season. I remember "Train" being annoyed at Larry and I because we never set a limit on how many autographs Lionel would have to sign. He was such a good dude with a big heart that he begrudgingly stayed longer than he should have and signed every last autograph that was requested. (We had over 900 attendees that rainy day.)  

We promoted shows for Anthony Bonner, Travis Mays, and Kenny "The Jet" Smith too. Simultaneously, I was getting experience behind the microphone acting as CO-host of the Jerry Reynolds Show on KSAC. Jerry and I did the radio talk show live from the KSAC studios in Old Sacramento. That gig helped me gain full-time employment with the Kings. 

Oct.1993, our view at wedding rehearsal dinner. 
Working for the Kings

After graduation I signed on as a part of the transition the Kings broadcast team was making. In 1994, the Kings decided to take their broadcast content "in-house". 

I spent two seasons doing pre and post game radio and even did a few games as the television sideline reporter (1994-1996). It was unbelievably cool to get a job with the Kings fresh out of college. 

In the best of times, I would be court side to do a pre-game radio talk show. I actually did two or three turns as the public address announcer when Fred Anderson had a conflict. My wife, Kim, and I actually had our wedding rehearsal dinner at ARCO Arena in 1993. Mike Duncan helped hook that up. 

To this second, the loudest ANYTHING I've heard in my lifetime, was the sustained ovation from the Kings fans when the team returned home for Game 3 of the 1996 Western Conference Playoffs against the Seattle Supersonics. We did the radio pre-game show from court level and it was so loud you couldn't hear yourself speak with headphones on. 

Another treasured memory is an interview I did with Connie Hawkins. He sat with me live, court side, and we talked about the Lakers and Celtics rivalries for a good half hour. To this day, I wish I had a tape of that interview. 

As the resident young person on the Kings broadcast staff, I was also "Emcee-Boy". I was used to host events such as the NBA Stay in School Jam, or the NBA Draft Party. I didn't know it at the time, but I shared the microphone with future international TV news superstar Lisa Ling at one of the Stay in School Jams at ARCO. 

Attending any Kings game is a truly social event. When you have access as a media member it is even more social. Some of the best times during my run with the Kings was just hanging before the games in the media dining room or out near the court just after the doors opened. Chatting with Jerry Reynolds, Marty McNeal, or the notorious keeper of realness, R.E. Graswich, never failed to enlighten or amuse me. Some nights you might talk with Jason Ross or Guss Armstead, or Anna in the Kings Family Room. 

For all intents and purposes I was fired at the Arena too. It happened in the offices that dwell between the lower bowl and upper deck on the third floor. I was told that the Kings chose to not renew the contracts of myself and Derrek Dickey. 

Being a part of the NBA, no matter how small your role is, is a lifelong dream for many. I learned the hard way how fleeting it can be. 

Music matters

The best concert I saw at ARCO was certainly the 1997 Prince, "Jam of the Year" tour stop. My wife, Kim, favors the U2 "Zoo-TV" show from April 1992. My wife and I were blown away by Sade's vocal power (Sade with Digable Planets July 1993).  

ARCO in concert trim
Meeting some of your idols is a cool life event too. Inside the frame of the Arena I shook hands for the first time with James Harris III, better known as Jimmy Jam. The five-time Grammy winner used to be such a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he attended Kings-T-Wolves Playoffs games in Sacramento. The two other musicians I introduced myself to were a young production/writing duo that were in the band, The Deele. With free access in the Arena as an employee, I wasn't supposed to be back stage at concerts but somehow I weaseled my way behind the stage to give a salute to Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, and L.A. Reid. I recall Edmonds being shocked that I knew his real name. 

Meanwhile Raphael Saadiq was a regular at Kings games during the Mitch Richmond era. Saddiq, a crucial founding member of Tony! Toni! Tone'!, was close friends with Kings forward Brian Grant. 

While Wayman Tisdale was with the Kings, he too, was a friend in music. In my opinion, music was always Wayman's first love. He was a heck of a ball player too. Another friend in music I met was a security guard at ARCO by the name of Raymond Kennedy. Just less than a month ago we attended his funeral services.

Halftime talk

At halftime, for years, before they moved the radio broadcast vantage point upstairs, I would head into the Kings Family Room. My Dad would come back there during his break from calling the games and we would dissect the first half. It was not uncommon to have a short conversation with Wayne Cooper or his wife, Denise, two of my favorite people ever! 

Closing the Doors

We sit in section 115. Our family has had Kings season tickets since 1985. Team Dentist, Matt Campbell and his wife Irene sit right behind us, as do the Sheingold family. We made plans to sit near each other at the Golden 1 Center. 

I absolutely will not miss the narrow concourses at Sleep Train. The Arena just is not BIG enough for a large crowd at halftime or immediately following a game. I also will not miss the squeaky Locker Room door that is in perpetual need of WD40. (Listen carefully to interviews done near or in the Locker Room. You will hear that door!)

So, peace-out ARCO. Let's hope that the Golden 1 Center brings a new era of positive vibrations.