Warriors watch parties at Chase Center? Fun!

Sheer joy erupts in San Francisco as Golden State steals Game 1 against Memphis

Turns out Chase is the place. Even when the Warriors are on the road.

A raucous crowd of 2,500 fans and followers showed up at Chase Center’s outdoor plaza to watch Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on a big screen approximately the size of Alameda County. The Dubs delivered, eking out a 117-116 win over the very talented Memphis Grizzlies. And the crowd went wild.

Actually, the crowd was pretty wild all day. It was a lovely, sunny day in San Francisco. People were dancing in the aisles and sprawled around on the grass, reflecting the incredible diversity of this town. Every age, race, gender and credo imaginable pulling together in unison, rooting on the blue and gold with Bay Area flavor. You could smell it in the air and see it in their faces.

Warriors fever is San Francisco’s new pandemic.

“The vibe’s electric here, man,” said Michael Williams, 48, a lifelong Warriors fan from San Ramon. “I mean, I wish they had this at Oracle (Arena). You should be able to experience a playoff series on the road at your home venue. And this is why this place was made.”

Jamaal Carney, 39, was sitting the front row on the grass of the “Thrive City” plaza with his three-year-old son, Jamari. The kid was too cute, dancing along with the booming music played during intermissions and jumping up and down when the Warriors scored on the big screen. The father and son had come over from Oakland. It was their first trip to the new arena.

Warriors fans Jamari Carney, 3, his father, Jamaal Carney, and Demitria Holmes, cheer the Warriors while watching the playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies on the big screen outside Chase Center. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

Warriors fans Jamari Carney, 3, his father, Jamaal Carney, and Demitria Holmes, cheer the Warriors while watching the playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies on the big screen outside Chase Center. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

“It’s pretty dope, man. I like the crowd. It’s all good,” said Carney, the elder. Even with the team playing in Tennessee, “We can still be part of the Warriors Nation. We got these Warriors. They’re Bay Area!”

I spoke with a number of fans about their long-time love affair with Oracle Arena, the Dubs’ old Oakland home. There’s still a lot of love for “Roaracle,” but Chase is definitely starting to grow on these folks. What’s there not to love? The arena is a work of art, inside and out. At Sunday’s watch party, people were eating and drinking at three different restaurants and bars open to the public. Kids were running around everywhere, playing pop-a-shot and getting their faces painted. I even saw a bunch of canine fans in attendance, wagging their tails and barking when the crowd erupted.

Franco Finn, the long-time Warriors hype man, has seen a lot of games, up close. I asked him if it was more fun to be outside, in the sun, watching the game with a couple of thousand of his closest friends.

“You know what’s funny? It actually is more fun in a lot of ways,” said Finn. “Because you got fans from all over. This is an opportunity for them to really cheer with the rest of the fan base. And they feel like they’re right at the game. They’re just part of it. And it’s it’s really cool that we’re doing this for hopefully every round.”

Warriors fan, Sammy Gutierrez from Pittsburg, cheering the Warriors in playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies watching the big screen outside the Chase Center as seen on Sunday, May 1, 2022. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

Warriors fan, Sammy Gutierrez from Pittsburg, cheering the Warriors in playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies watching the big screen outside the Chase Center as seen on Sunday, May 1, 2022. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

That’s a really important point. Tickets to watch the Warriors inside Chase Center are very expensive. Not everyone can afford them. In fact, most of us can’t. But these watch parties are free, casting a wider tent for the fan base to huddle under.

Sheena Way, Warriors vice president for content and programming, stressed that point. This is a way to share the facility in a more equitable way.

“We’ve got great fans and we’re fortunate enough to have a really beautiful place for them to come and cheer on their Warriors,” said Way. “We’re trying to add something for everybody out here. For people that bring their kids, their family, their dog, we try to give them everything that they want to do and have fun all day long here.”

Mission accomplished. Even this crusty sports scribe got caught up in the heat of the fourth quarter, with two heavyweight teams trading punches as the clock ticked away. There’s nothing quite like a close game in the NBA playoffs. It’s emotionally draining … unless your team wins. Then it’s like a jolt of adrenaline. When that final buzzer rang, the crowd at Chase Center was electrified. Sheer joy.

Fans watch the Warriors on the big screen outside the Chase Center in a playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

Fans watch the Warriors on the big screen outside the Chase Center in a playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies. (Craig Lee/The Examiner)

From a basketball perspective, this was a huge win. By winning Game 1 on the road, Golden State flipped the switch on the series. They started on the road because Memphis was a higher seed, and held home court advantage. That means four of the possible seven games in the series would be played on the Grizzlies court. Now, Memphis loses that one game advantage and it’s all square. Three here, three there and maybe less.

Not only did the Warriors use their experience and wisdom to eliminate the advantage — they are now 20-2 in Game 1s in the playoffs, dating back to 2013 — but they put the NBA on notice that the Big Three still have some magic left. Even when Draymond Green commits a bonehead foul and gets tossed out of the game before halftime. The ejection was questionable at best, but the good news is the Warriors rallied to win, without their emotional leader. That’s impressive.

Game 2 comes Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. Bay Area time. The Warriors will be hosting another watch party at Chase. The first 3,000 or so fans will be admitted. They’ve also set up a second viewing area on the east-facing esplanade to accommodate more fans. So, get there early. Bring a lawn chair if you can. And make some noise. It’s the best party in town.

The Arena, a column from The Examiner’s Al Saracevic, explores San Francisco’s playing field, from politics and technology to sports and culture. Send your tips, quips and quotes to asaracevic@sfexaminer.com. Sign up for his weekly newsletter here. And follow him on Twitter @alsaracevic.

Warriors blow out Mavericks. What did you expect?

Golden State holds home court as Dallas, Dončić come out flat

Warriors vs. Mavericks preview: Another series, another superhero

Round after round, Golden State has faced the NBA’s best. Next up, Luka Dončić