Just one month before the Golden State Warriors begin their 2018-19 season – the last the team expects to play at Oracle Arena in Oakland – construction workers cheered as the very last steel beam of the Warriors’ new home in San Francisco was hoisted in place.
The beam, topped with an American flag and an evergreen tree and signed by more than a thousand constructor workers, was raised at private “topping out” ceremony on Friday.
There’s still plenty of work to do before the 18,064-seat arena opens a year from now in September 2019, but the milestone marks the completion of the steel support structure.
“It’s a very cherished tradition of the iron workers in this country,” said Jim McLamb, a senior vice president with Clark Construction Group. “It symbolizes that a job has been built safely and without loss of life.”
Construction workers said they were thrilled to work on the arena.
“I get to drive by this site every day with my daughter, and every time I tell her ‘your father was part of that project,’” said Scott Santos, who has worked on the project for more than a year. “That’s bragging rights that we all have, that we were a part of this. Not too many people can say that.”
“It’s one of the milestones we’ve been looking forward to since this project started,” said Rick Welts, president and chief operating officer of the Warriors. “Hoisting that last beam on top with all of the signatures of everyone who has worked so hard on this project is pretty thrilling for us, and it’s a big milestone.”
The Warriors announced they would be leaving their current home in Oakland and returning to San Francisco in 2012 but it hasn’t been a completely smooth process. Their first choice location for the new arena – at Piers 30-32, adjacent to the Bay Bridge – was scrapped due to regulatory challenges and the passage of Proposition B, which amended the city charter to require new waterfront construction projects obtain voter approval before being granted height limit increases.
Two years later, Welts announced the Warriors were abandoning plans for that site and had instead purchased a 12-acre lot from Salesforce.com in Mission Bay for an undisclosed price.
The new location faced hurdles of its own, including a lawsuit which argued the arena would bring traffic jams and hinder access to the UCSF Medical Center across the street.
“To get a project of this magnitude done in the City of San Francisco is one of the hardest things certainly that I’ve ever been involved with,” Welts said, adding that the project has been entirely privately funded, using no tax dollars.
He also acknowledged the work of the late Mayor Ed Lee, who championed the project.
“He made it his mission to bring the Warriors back to San Francisco,” he said. “This wouldn’t be here today if it were not for Mayor Lee. His spirit is with us today and will be with us every time we open the doors at Chase Center.”
Welts said elaborate festivities for the grand opening next year are being planned, “but I’d have to kill you if I told you what it is now.” He did share that it would be designed to show the versatility of the building for hosting not only basketball games but also music acts and shows.