The Golden State Warriors of San Francisco

The We Believe Movement.

Photo credit: Flickr user sjsharktank

Being a smart fan and making that jump from being casual fan to a diehard is about knowing your team, warts and all. In that spirit, let’s take a critical look at the home team: the Warriors.

Oaklanders take their sports seriously, it’s what makes Warriors games such a loud and fun experience. Barring the occasional gaffe, like the awful sweet and sour pork on Asian Night 2013 (this theme food was an affront to sweet foods, sour foods, and Asians generally), the Warriors are built for bandwagon fandom. Since the tech boom, the Warriors is the one thing that Oakland’s melange of out of town transplants, growing young urban professional population (some would call gentrifiers), long-time residents, and radical organizers can get behind together. Being a perpetual underdog who has occasional highly improbable playoff runs on the backs of charismatic small guy ballers (Baron Davis, Stephen Curry) just adds to the charm.

[As a side note, for an out-of-town team diehard like myself, the Warriors are a necessary evil (like capitalism for liberals!) to watch the team you’re actually rooting for. That’s why I don’t like buying discount group tickets with your non-profit fundraising group – it’s better to be heckled by strangers than by two dozen of your friends. Just kidding! Please keep me on your mailing list! End side note.]

So let’s look at the Warriors. There are worse owners in the NBA than the Warriors ownership group. That says something of the low bar of sports team owners and also something about the geographic location of the Warriors, being based in generally progressive Bay Area. Joe Lacob is the majority owner, and made his billions  as a venture capitalist, making him your garden variety Bay Area billionaire. Your privileged  first-world life was probably incrementally improved by something this man invested in. Early investments included medical supplies, clear/invisible orthodontics, and Autotrader.com.Other investments include biotech (Genenetch), online retail (Amazon), and pointless Facebook time sinks you’re nonetheless addicted to and can’t help but post your online gaming habits of (Zynga).

Political donations are nothing exciting or out of the ordinary for this type of Silicon Valley liberal techie, boatloads to Democrats. 70% of donations from people in the franchise went to Dems. Sorry, no disaggregated data on who, and if they’re the fake pro-business, pro-polluter Democrats that infest California.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Warriors, in all likelihood  will not stay in Oakland. Joe Lacob has made a huge deal since buying the team in 2011 about moving the team back to San Francisco the original home of the Warriors after moving from Philadelphia. The team will probably drop the euphemism “Golden State,” which stands for “the city the Warriors play in that shall not be named because we’re afraid of it. We’re not racist. Really.”

Pier30-32 Rendering

Image credit: San Francisco City & County

Currently the move is in the colored-pencil drawings of happy urban people phase of development. Take a look, I’m not kidding. Based on the renderings, it’s going to be AWESOME, like if they played basketball in AT&T Park where the Giants play baseball (and whose concessions contractors short their workers). They’ve also given San Francisco elected officials great political cover by privately financing the construction of the project estimated at $975M. Nobody wants a repeat of the Jeffrey Loria-Marlins debacle in Miami where public financing sunk the city, right? So here’s a project with privately financed stadium at no additional tax payer expense!

Not so fast. The pier is currently unusable, and would require between $100-120M in repairs before construction would begin. The Warriors say it will cost $100M, but overall as much as $120M may be needed. The Warriors, in the generosity, are willing to front the costs but these repairs would be later reimbursed by the city through other giveaways according to the SF Chronicle:

The Warriors are proposing to put up all the costs in exchange for a long-term lease to the site. The team hopes to recoup the money eventually in the form of rent credits from the port or other givebacks, and from having sole access to the arena’s revenue stream.

I’m not a planner, but givebacks doesn’t sound like a good deal and basically giving away something (land in this case, through a long-term lease) seems suspect too. Oh, and did I mention it’s not just an arena? It’s luxury condos, retail space, and two hotels. One could make an argument that the Warriors is a public good, especially when the team is winning and as fun to watch now. But all this private development on public dime? That’s land the city could have sold and it’s a $120M reimbursement that’s going to have to come from some city budget line item when the Warriors do submit that check request. It all sounds like the LA Live development that now houses the Lakers/Clippers/Kings/Grammys – a development that also required big time fight to make sure the community got something out of that deal.

And what about Oakland? What about Oakland? Somehow, despite all these plans and the City and County of San Francisco already with a website of the project with fancy illustrations, the Warriors assure Oakland still has a chance to keep the team. Huh?

Fred Blackwell, Oakland’s assistant city administrator, said the Warriors met with city officials last week and assured them Oakland was still in the running for the team’s new home. “We asked them straight up whether or not we were still in the game, and they told us we were,” Blackwell said.

Coliseum City Mock-up

Image credit: JRDV

Perhaps Oakland can counter with it’s own waterfront land giveaway, like the offer of the Jack London Square site that was thrown at the A’s. Too bad the A’s are still angling for San Jose. Another story for another day. Or the Coliseum City super development, which looks a lot like LA Live. Or Pier 30-23. Sorry these retail/luxury condo/hotel/arena developments all start looking the same after a while.

Seriously, don’t just take my word for it – not my team and I’m not ready to perform the cleansing rituals needed to jump on the Warriors bandwagon. But I thought this Warriors fan put some of the concerns best:

“I think it will change the crowd,” Oakland’s Mark Mendez said. “If they move to San Francisco, they’re not going to have the same kind of fans that they have here in Oakland.”

Mendez, who has attended Warriors games since his childhood, said he fears being priced out if the team moves across the Bay Bridge.

“It will be more expensive, no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m already struggling to buy tickets to this place.”

I’m not a Warriors fan but I do live in this city; this city that I love. If Oakland plans to match or exceed SF’s $120M reimbursement offer to the Warriors out of Oakland’s already tapped general fund, then it IS my problem. Never mind.  It’s still my problem if this deal rolls through SF. You’d have to be a jerk to want to see your neighbor fleeced. I’m a sports fan, not an ass.

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