Was it the views? Or Mayor Ed Lee’s full-court press? Whatever it was, the Warriors made it official today – they’re coming to San Francisco.
In a swanky tented area on Piers 30 and 32, complete with silver coffee urns and chocolate croissants, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob explained the team’s decision to jump across the Bay.
“I think if you come here and you look at this,” said Lacob pointing to the waterfront, “and you get approached by San Francisco in a way that was so aggressive, so entrepreneurial, so positive, it’s kind of a hard package to beat.”
It took a five-month courtship to land the team – Mayor Lee says the final agreement wasn’t in place until a few days before Tuesday’s announcement. And it wasn’t until the day before the press event the team actually informed Oakland it was leaving. “For purposes of this press conference and the way it was staged we couldn’t do it until yesterday,” admitted Lacob.
The team plans to build a state-of-the-art arena on Piers 30, 32, in time for the 2017 season. The city will give the team the land and the Warriors will foot the bill for restoring the piers, estimated around $75-100 million dollars. The revenue from the arena will go back to the team. Lee said the city will reap the sales tax from ancillary businesses, like local restaurants and bars. He also admitted the agreement takes some of the sting out of losing the 49ers to Santa Clara.
“Some things that you wish didn’t happen, occur,” pined Lee. “And then are you going to brood about it or are you going to wake up the next day and say I’m moving forward.”
Apparently ‘moving forward’ in high gear was the ultimate decision. Lee pursued the team owners aggressively, even sending the team a letter signed by eleven San Francisco Supervisors pledging full support. The political red carpet seemed to have some success, as well as some good old fashioned stats.
“We looked at the majority of where our fan base comes from,” said Lacob. “They’re really evenly split between the East Bay and the West Bay.”
Those East Bay fans may be feeling like jilted lovers, having snatched-up Warriors tickets for decades, despite the team’s less than stellar record.
“I hope that the people in Oakland, the fans in Oakland, are not alienated by this” said former Warrior standout, Nate Thurmond. “Because they have been so supportive over the last 15, 17 years, of teams that were not that good.”
The Warriors and San Francisco leaders conceded the agreement is a mere first step in what will likely be a long, thorny process – if San Francisco’s history holds true. Environmental groups said they were waiting for more details before weighing in on the project.
But in thoughts that could foreshadow future battles, environmental watchdog Save The Bay said it was opposed to projects that block views of the Bay and limit the public’s waterfront access. Executive Director David Lewis also pointed out that several heavily touted waterfront projects have gone down in flames after trying to qualify for State and Federal environmental permits.
Team owners say they considered the hurdles when sizing-up locations, which included other sites in Oakland. They also say in addition to basketball, the arena will fill San Francisco’s void for a large entertainment venue.
“It’s going to be a lightning rod for all those people that work here, perform here,” said Warriors executive Peter Guber.
The Warriors left San Francisco for good in 1971. Thurmond said before that, the team rotated between the Cow Palace and several other Bay Area venues. He said players would check the schedule – not to see who they were playing, but where?
Now, four decades after heading across to the East Bay, the team will make a return trip to San Francisco, in glorious style.