By Jim Williams
Special to S.F. Examiner
As the Golden State Warriors begin the NBA Playoffs, there can be no doubt they are successful on the court with strong hopes of winning their third title in a row. Still, there is a bittersweet end to an era coming. This is the final season for the team at Oracle Arena in Oakland, where for the last 47 years they have been playing before some of the loudest and most passionate fans in the NBA.
But there are loud noises coming from San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood — the sounds of construction, as the finishing touches are being put on the 18,064-seat Chase Center. There’s also the faint sound of cash registers ringing up big sales.
The Warriors will be setting up shop in a brand new state of the art arena that is part of a $1 billion dollar, privately-financed commercial development area. Two office towers with plenty of retail shops and restaurants will be part of this massive complex when it is finally finished, but for now, it is the Chase Center that is the focus of attention.
Being one of the NBA’s most successful franchises on the court means that plenty of fans and corporate partners want to be part of the Warriors family. The Chase Center is already raking in cash before the Warriors play their first preseason game there, slated for Saturday, Oct. 5, against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has already met its goal of selling 14,000 season tickets for the 2019-2020 season, and they have a waiting list of over 44,000.
It has become very clear that Golden State is following the lead of other successful franchises like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Washington Capitals to name a few, who are no longer just sports teams. They’ve become brands. Warriors CEO Rick Welts spoke recently to the Washington Post about the team’s transition.
“We’re transforming from being a basketball team that rents its building to a sports and entertainment organization that’s responsible for every aspect of its business,” Welts said, noting that the Warriors will add 100 business-side employees and 1,000 part-time employees under the new operating arrangement.
According to Forbes, between personal seat licenses (PSL’s), corporate suites and naming rights, the Warriors should see about $700 million over 20 years. That doesn’t count the over 200 non-sports-related events slated per year, including renowned Italian singer, songwriter and producer, Andrea Bocelli, to Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony and Celine Dion to name few of the performers who already are booked for the new venue.
Another major point is how important the Chase Center is to the city of San Francisco. When competing for major events, you need an anchor indoor arena and for decades San Francisco has been out of the loop on that count.
You can’t bid to host the Olympics, a major political convention or other major event without a facility like the Chase Center.
Welts addressed that point in an interview earlier this year in Forbes.
“For people in San Francisco, there’s never been a facility like this,” Welts said. “Our hope is that we earn the reputation amongst the artist community that no artist will feel that his or her resume is complete until they have played Chase Center, much like they today they would feel about the O2 in London, or Madison Square Garden in New York, or Staples Center in Los Angeles, and maybe one or two other arenas elsewhere in the world.
“That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s for us what justifies the well over billion-dollar expense and private investment that we’re making here. But we think it also is the type of facility that a city like San Francisco, that plays in such a big way in the world stage in helping determine the future of the world through the companies that are located here, it’s what San Francisco and the Bay Area deserve and we’re pretty confident we’re going to deliver that.”