When Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Warriors for a then-record $450 million just about three years ago, they set about making drastic changes in order to build a product that was deserving of that record price tag.
This included trading away star player Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, much to the extreme chagrin of the proud fan base, and handing the reins of the franchise to talented but oft-injured point guard Stephen Curry. This included giving the then-injured Curry a four-year, $44 million extension, a decision that now looks like a massive bargain due to Curry's cosmic rise to superstardom. More recently, this included navigating around a surefire luxury tax bill in order to sign Andre Iguodala this past offseason to a four-year deal; Lacob also negotiated a questioned three-year extension with Bogut, ensuring that the core of Curry-Iguodala-Bogut will be around until at least the 2016 season.
However, the pièce de résistance of the new ownership group is the gorgeous planned arena on the piers of San Francisco. Lacob and Co. are hoping the arena is built by 2017, when the ten-year lease on Oracle Arena is finally at an end. Lacob said in an interview with SFGate.com, "Everything this organization does is about the future." It's no secret that the Warriors (and Raiders and Athletics) would love to leave the old, gradually decrepit pastures of 7000 Coliseum Way for much greener fields in San Francisco.
Still, the proposed projects have been facing hostility from others, mainly former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos. Despite facing "the biggest, most high-powered political machine in (the) city," Agnos relishes being the underdog, the David to Lacob's Goliath. Aiming to defeat the team of Lacob, Guber, current mayor Ed Lee, and a star-studded group of strategists and PR experts, Agnos's angle hasn't changed since starting in politics: Go door to door and person to person. Political reporter Randy Shandobli has said that Agnos "is who he is" and isn't "changing for the times."
Art Agnos says that the new arena would be a "view-killer all dressed up in a basketball uniform," that the stadium and additional luxury hotels and condominiums would be a "traffic killer," and that Lacob and Guber are two billionaires who don't have the city's best interests at heart.
But is it really true that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber don't have San Francisco's best interests at heart? I'll tell you who doesn't have their city's best interests: Michigan governor Rick Snyder, who in July declared Detroit bankrupt the very same week as granting $650 million (almost $300 million in public funds) to build a new hockey arena. Later that month, Dave Zirin of The Nation bashed the governor's actions, saying:
"This is actually happening. City services are being cut to the bone. Fighting fires, emergency medical care and trash collection are now precarious operations. Retired municipal workers will have their $19,000 in annual pensions dramatically slashed. Even the artwork in the city art museum will be sold off piece by piece. They don’t have money to keep the art on the walls. They do have $283 million to subsidize a new arena for Red Wings owner and founder of America’s [sic] pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, Mike Ilitch, whose family is worth $2.7 billion dollars."
This is a completely different circumstance. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are billionaires, yes. But it's the fact that they are willing to pay for nearly all of it in private money that's important here; the fact that they aren't greedy like Illitch. Piers 30-32 are full of wood that's slowly crumbling into the ocean, a dilapidated, broken-down area. The San Francisco Arena group is proposing to clean it up and put a new state-of-the-art arena and complex in, what would be, as Agnos himself called it, "the prettiest area in the city," if not for the deteriorating woodwork done on the piers. How is that at all "wrong"? AT&T Park is beloved for its' views of the Bay; judging by the plans, the new stadium will likewise have an area for fans to walk around nearby and enjoy the waterfront views.
With the new arena in San Francisco, the Warriors' franchise would become even more celebrated than it has been in the past few months. Currently, Oracle Arena is the oldest stadium in the National Basketball Association; further, the stadium is in the middle of a city that has over five times the murder rate as the rest of the nation, and is surrounded by a boring parking lot, the 880 Highway, and the crappiest (literally) ballpark in Major League Baseball. What would the franchise be viewed as with an updated, au courant arena in the heart of Silicon Valley - one of the richest areas in the world - and on the the shores of the beautiful Bay?
Much like how AT&T Park with the Giants sells out nearly every game, and is nationally renowned for its beauty and breathtaking location on the water, I believe the Warriors' arena will be the basketball equivalent. I mean, we've all seen the plans, right? It looks amazing and would easily be the envy of all the NBA.
Despite the Agnos concerns, the project will be majorly financed by Lacob and the ownership group themselves.
The Sporting News wrote in October:
"The project will be financed entirely by private money ... in order to skip over the messy business of securing public funding, which, as the decade-long slog toward a new arena in Sacramento showed, is a near-impossible proposition."
Props B and C - named the 8 Washington projects - were designs to build condos on the waterfront, a mile away from the proposed arena site at the deteriorating Piers 30-32, and supersede a parking lot and tennis club. Due to the project's rejection last week, some are skeptical that people would vote for accepting a project, in the Warriors' arena, a great deal bigger than condos.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote last month that:
"The 8 Washington results are already being shaped for the next waterfront fight: the proposed Warriors' arena, less than a mile away. Many of the same objections about size, lost views and traffic will be used again, though the sports palace is a much different project with a separate audience and list of public benefits."
The city may have voted against the 8 Washington projects, but those results should not be treated as a harbinger of the outcome of the Warriors arena. Just because one project on the waterfront was rejected doesn't mean Golden State's San Francisco spectacle should be.
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