By Sheri Williams
Photos by Marc Krichman
The “Pipers” of Local 447 edged out a win against the “Sparkeez” of IBEW Local 340 in the first annual union basketball challenge played on the main court at Golden 1 Center in late June.
“It’s amazing to play on this court, especially after seeing it go from dirt to this and working through a torrential downpour to get it in,” said Plumbers coach and union member Todd Schiavo. “To see our guys who worked on it now play on it, it’s a big sense of accomplishment and pride.”
Like members of other Building and Construction trades in Sacramento, the Plumbers and Pipefitters and IBEW were both part of the union crews that built the iconic arena.
IBEW Sparkee Nick Commons made the first score of the union challenge. The shot started what quickly became an intense and close game, with the Pipers prevailing 70 to 65.
“Whether we win or lose, it’s an incredible and unforgettable experience to play in this arena, on this court,” said Sparkeez team captain Brendan Nelson, who also teaches apprentices at the JATC.
Michael Watts, an IBEW member since 2006, added, “It’s exciting to play on this court and have a chance to enjoy all the hard work our members put into this place, and to sweat with our Brothers on the same court where the Kings play.”
Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, said he planned on making the game an annual event with a traveling trophy.
“It was phenomenal to see our union crews coming together inside a facility that they built, and one that has come to represent the future potential of Sacramento as a city of good jobs and future growth,” said Sasso. “This game is a chance for us to have some fun and celebrate the skills of the women and men who built it.”
The “Battle of the Unions” game was a continuation of an earlier union appreciation effort at the arena, said Sasso.
Last March, more than a thousand local union members and friends met up at Golden 1 Center for Union Worker Appreciation Day to celebrate union’s contributions to the project. Wearing neon green shirts, 1,200 attendees filled the downtown stadium to watch a game between the Kings and the Utah Jazz.
The union event was organized by the Central Labor Council, and included all of the building trades who were key to constructing the arena. As the two major sponsors, Local 447 and IBEW won a chance to play each other on the main court.
“Golden 1 is a tribute to the skill of our members, and it’s great to see some of them get this once-in-a-lifetime chance to feel what it’s like to be the stars on the court,” said Sacramento-Sierra Building and Constructions Trades head Kevin Ferreira.
The March union event was the largest private group event the Kings have hosted, with more than $100,000 in ticket sales. Every Building Trades union was represented.
“We were thrilled to host over 1,300 labor representatives and their families – the largest group we’ve invited to a game in Kings history,” said the Kings Angela Walters after the event. “For us #SacramentoProud is not just a slogan. It’s our promise to support and grow our community. We are very proud that Golden 1 Center was built with local skilled laborers and that most of the project contract dollars went to local companies. The arena – and our Labor celebration in particular – will always be a celebration of what makes Sacramento great.”
The event also helped to raise thousands of dollars for the non-profit Labor Project For Working Families. LPFWF funds union trainings and actions on behalf of the Central Labor Council and plays a key role in helping union members make their voices heard.
Cheerleaders from Dynasty Athletic, coached by the SCLC’s Teresa and Justine Villasenor, provided half-time entertainment with a cheer and dance routine during the June game. The non-profit organization trains girls ages 3 to 18 in competitive cheering, a sport many schools in low-income areas don’t have.
IBEW’s Watts said the union challenge was about more than basketball, but also helped build community and connections among union families.
“It gives the families of union members the opportunity to see what all that hard work helped to build and have a chance to enjoy it,” he said.