In May of 2012, Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber stood proudly on Piers 30-32 of the Embarcadero with the magnificent view of the San Francisco Bay as a backdrop. It was quite a spectacle, with plenty of important people on hand. San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, then-NBA commissioner David Stern, popular sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, “The Logo” himself, Jerry West, and even David Lee joined the festivities.
The reason? To build a new waterfront arena by 2017 on those same dilapidated piers.
But not just any arena.
“We intend to build the most spectacular arena in the country,” Lacob stated proudly. Guber didn’t shy away either, saying that they wanted it to be a “world class venue.”
Looking at the sketches and designs that were subsequently released, it most definitely would be the most spectacular arena in the country:
However, you can plan and scheme and sketch and design and dream all you want, but nobody will truly believe you until the first shovel digs into the dirt, and the building is actually being physically constructed.
Not many people believed the Warriors could pull it off, and with Sunday’s news that the entire project would be put on hold for at least a year, all the skeptics were right.
This was nothing but a pipe dream, concocted by Lacob and Guber as something that could excite fans and create a stir around the rest of the country.
I mean, did they actually believe they could pull it off? As in build a $1 billion arena on the waterfront of San Francisco in five years? Really?
We’re talking about San Francisco here, a diverse population of one million people who have varying opinions and ideas. This may be true for every city, but especially in San Francisco. What did Lacob expect the reaction to be when he announced plans to plop a $1 billion building right next to the Bay Bridge?
There are plenty of issues with the project that have irked San Francisco residents. Critics have complained about various issues, from traffic to environmental impact. Others point out that the arena will just become a large playground for the rich to lavish in, while the average citizen will be priced out of tickets.
Then, there’s the issue with voters. The Warriors need approval from voters on the June ballot because the proposed arena, which would be 125-feet high, would exceed the height limit of 40-feet. Last year, voters overwhelmingly struck down a proposal from the Warriors to build luxuries condos near the arena. In a recent poll conducted by a Bay Area news station, out of 400 possible voters, only 36 percent would support the project.
What Lacob needs to understand is that major developments such as this one take time, and they also take dire circumstances. The Warriors are not in desperate need of a new arena. Yes, Oracle Arena is the oldest facility in the NBA, but it still looks relatively nice, and the fans pack the house on a nightly basis. When it comes to “home court advantage,” there’s no place like Oracle, especially during the playoffs.
What are dire circumstances? Look back at 1992, when the San Francisco Giants nearly relocated to Tampa. Owner Bob Lurie had sold the team, and they were all but gone. But then local investors Peter Magowan and Larry Baer swooped in and convinced the other National League owners to strike down the deal. They did, and the team was subsequently sold to Magowan and Baer, who then convinced the voters to build what is now AT&T Park, moving the team away from the problematic Candlestick Park.
Those are dire circumstances: when a team is on the brink of leaving, is saved, and needs a new stadium to usher in a new era.
The Warriors need no such boost, and are in no such situation. They are doing just fine in Oracle, and they should be in no rush to bolt town.
Lacob seems to be moving too fast, with his goals too lofty. Three and a half years ago, he bought the Warriors. Since then, he’s hired a new coach, found a new GM, traded away their franchise player, gotten booed by 18,000 fans at home because of it, then smugly watched as his team made the postseason for the second time in 18 years, developed a superstar point guard, signed a marquee free agent, and created a national buzz around the team that hasn’t been seen in decades.
Not bad for a man who has spent less than four years on the job. But then you want to relocate the team across the bay, and in just five years?
C’mon Mr. Lacob. You’ve done a lot for this franchise in a short period of time, but this new arena thing doesn’t seem to be catching on too well. Just ask the 64 percent of voters who are against you.
It will take time, and who knows, maybe Lacob and Co. will pull it off. But for the foreseeable future, the Warriors are staying in Oakland, and all the critics can laugh at Lacob’s pipe dream.