The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA serves locally-sourced, delicious fare to its fans with this creative business model.
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Executive chef Brien Kuznicki (left) and farmer Michael Bosworth at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.
Credit: Salgu Wissmath

Sports stadiums are not necessarily known for their epicurean fare. While in recent years some locations have added local produce and healthier dishes to their menus, and implemented sustainability measures like composting, the changes have been slow to roll out. When Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings, was preparing to open in 2016, the culinary team knew they could deliver a more elevated food experience while highlighting the region's agricultural abundance—there are nearly 2 million acres of farmland in the Sacramento area—along with great beers and wines. Those choices would also keep the arena's provisioning dollars in the community and help make its operations as environmentally sustainable as possible.

What They Did

The culinary team implemented a program called Local Eats, with 90% of the arena's food and beverages coming from within 150 miles. "It was the first of its kind," Golden 1 Center executive chef Brien Kuznicki says of the program. "No one had ever really tried to do it." Working with hospitality partner Legends, which runs the arena restaurants, and local foods distributor Next Generation Foods, chefs buy directly from farmers, growers and other regional companies. While not everything is local (the potatoes for the fries do hail from Idaho), the 17,000 guests who show up for games and other events get to dig into tofu veggie bowls featuring rice from nearby Bosworth Farms and nosh on all-beef hot dogs from Fairfield, just 45 miles away.

Why It's Cool

The program—which so far has saved the estimated carbon equivalent of taking 221 cars off the road—goes far beyond sourcing locally. In addition to other measures, the arena saves its vegetable and meat scraps for treatment in a groundbreaking new initiative called California Safe Soil. Organic enzymes process the waste in a giant food digester and it's then pasteurized, filtered and returned to the earth in easy-to-absorb liquid form at local farms. An added bonus: Golden 1 Center's program creates long-term relationships with farmers, which in turn provides them with a more stable source of income. "You can count on being profitable every single year," says farmer Michael Bosworth of Bosworth Farms. "In farming that's pretty much never the case."

This article first appeared in EatingWell magazine, March 2022.