Chase Center: Opulence is the price we pay for a privately-funded arena

Despite all these nods to the team’s new/old home of San Francisco, and to those sitting in non-luxury seats it’s hard to ignore the indulgence of the exclusive offerings.

I found plenty to love about the new Chase Center when I toured it on Monday.

The setting and the view of the San Francisco Bay rivals its nearby baseball cousin, Oracle Park. There’s plenty of local eateries represented such as Tony G’s Pizza, La Cocina, and Oakland’s Bakesale Betty and its iconic fried chicken. The Warriors organization built eight full kitchens in the arena so food will be fresh and workers can work on site, and the food vendors will change over time.

Mark Jeffers, Culinary Director for the Golden State Warriors, speaks in front of the Bakesale Betty location during a media tour of the new Chase Center arena on Aug. 26. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

They spent 1 percent of the budget on public art like the sleek Seeing Spheres in the plaza created by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, and there’s a decent number of local artists among the 33 chosen following the center’s 2018 call to artists. Chad Hasegawa, known for his bear art, painted the colorful DUBS mural in the main concourse (which is eight feet wider than the previous hallways at Oracle).

There’s 3.2 acres of public space as well as my personal favorite: the steps to nowhere emerging from the outside plaza. Like the Spanish steps in Rome, people can sit there and just hang out (ok, look at their smartphones).

And, even those with nose-bleed seats can make advance dinner reservations at the Modela lounge and bar, which is just steps away from seats for Warriors season ticket holders, 70 percent of whom carried over their commitments from Oakland to the new arena.

The Modelo Cantina at the Chase Center, which will be open to all ticket holders. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

But despite all these nods to the team’s new/old home of San Francisco, and to those sitting in non-luxury seats — all of which have more leg and butt room than Oracle — it’s hard to ignore the indulgence of the exclusive offerings that have become the price of financing pro sports palaces like this one.

Many of the 136 premium spaces at the Chase Center go absurdly beyond the traditional luxury suites that offer unlimited food and booze, which have been routine in arenas for decades now. More than 90 percent of the suites at Chase were purchased by companies even as some companies have been priced out with Chase’s higher prices.

The premium lounges and boxes beyond the traditional suites are so over the top that if you were to sketch out a comedy skit of the uber wealthy you would include these details.

The lounge area inside the exclusive Chase Club during a media tour of the Golden State Warriors’ new Chase Center arena on Aug. 26. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In these spaces, a “butler” (yes, our tour guides called them butlers) will serve your needs, whether it’s a glass of your favorite vintage, which you can have stocked in the wine refrigerators in advance, or a pint of craft beer from the growlers you asked to be brought in. Dinner is served at an eight-seat dining table in a room that is completely walled off from everyone else.

The game? The concert? Your seats? You can always leave the room and walk back down to your seats. If not you can remain obliviously isolated from the rest of the 18,000 fans, plop down on a sofa and watch the event on the massive screen that makes up one of the walls of the room.

Nick Bisho, Vice President of Suite Sales and Service, shows off a Google Cloud Courtside Lounge suite during a media tour of the Chase Center on Aug. 26, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

And, if you have decided you just can’t get enough of this glorified hotel room, you can come back on non-game days and use the room to work should your office get too mundane for you, or, I don’t want to think about what else.

Basketball is not life, of course. But this extreme segmentation of first class versus steerage, like 19th century ships, mirrors the economic inequities in the The City and the nation that are becoming more and more pronounced.

I love basketball. I love watching the Warriors. But when lockers for the NBA players look more like a Hall of Fame museum with the uniforms of each player in an individual lighted, glass showcase, I find myself cheering a little less loudly for them or any professional sports team.

Yes. The Warriors deserve credit for not using public land or a single dime of public money to build this palatial $1.4 billion arena that will generate tax revenue. That is an extreme rarity these days as municipalities across the nation sell their soul (and forego precious tax revenue) to woo professional sports teams to their communities. We should rejoice that it’s been financed on the backs of the companies and individuals who can well afford it.

The Golden State Warriors’ basketball court at new Chase Center. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

But as I walked through this shiny new Warriors home, I missed the days just 13 years ago, when as relative newcomers to California, my husband and I finally answered the pleas from the Warriors organization to buy tickets. We bought a four-game pack for — wait for it — about $35 a game.

Yes, they were not world champions then. But I think we had just as much fun sitting in those tired, narrow seats at Oracle rooting on Dub Nation, and then riding back home on a crowded BART train bursting with authentic fans.

Deborah Petersen is the editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Media Co. which publishes The Examiner, SF Weekly and SF Evergreen. You can reach her at askeditor@sfmediaco.com

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