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Warriors' San Francisco arena to be called Chase Center

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JPMorgan Chase has acquired the naming rights to the Warriors' planned $1 billion San Francisco arena, set to open in 2019.

Chase Center will be the name of the Warriors' San Francisco arena.
Chase Center will be the name of the Warriors' San Francisco arena.
Manica Architecture

Chase Center will be the official name of the Warriors' planned $1 billion arena, after the New York-based bank JPMorgan Chase acquired the naming rights in a 20-year deal. The San Francisco Chronicle's J.K. Dineen reported the news earlier; the website Domain Name Wire first had the scoop.

"To do this now was incredibly important to financing the project, an absolute cornerstone," Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts said.

JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon announced the news alongside fellow executives and Stephen Curry in a press conference Thursday. Over the past few days, JPMorgan Chase has acquired web domain names referencing the arena, including ChaseCenter.com and ChaseCenterGSW.com.

"The Bay Area is a beacon for technology, innovation, and education, and we expect that the Chase Center will become a beacon of great art, culture, sports and entertainment for this great community," Dimon said in a statement.

The naming rights deal represents "our commitment to the Bay Area and how important this market is to us," he remarked.

Despite three years separating this announcement and the planned opening of the arena -- the 2019-2020 season -- the Warriors felt that this was absolutely imperative to get accomplished now.

"It sets the right tone for the other discussions," Welts told the Chronicle. "It won't be the last deal we announce, but it will be the biggest and most important deal we'll announce."

The franchise is currently being sued by the Mission Bay Alliance (one of two lawsuits brought by the anti-arena group), but Welts brushes their challenge off as a futile attempt to stop the process, especially in light of the naming rights deal.

(For their part, the Mission Bay Alliance issued a response to the news. Sam Singer, the group's spokesman, said that "the arena is far from a done deal and that any announcement about the naming rights to an arena in Mission Bay is premature.")

The franchise's naming rights deal with JPMorgan Chase shows the "inevitability" of the project's completion, he said, according to the Chronicle. "We are just one shovel away from putting a shovel in the ground."

David Carter, the Executive Director of the Marshall Sports Business Initiative at USC, had similar thoughts about the probability of completion in the near future.

"Getting the deal done at this point was very important because they are privately financing the venue," he told me in an email. "In completing the deal now, a sense of inevitable success is felt, and this will allow the team to more easily secure marketing partners."

Though the financial terms of the deal were unannounced, many experts believe that JPMorgan Chase is paying a record amount to put its name on a basketball arena -- more than the $200 million that Barclays paid to have its name on the Brooklyn Nets' Barclays Center, the current peak.

JPMorgan Chase Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Lemkau said the Warriors are "one of the hottest brands in sports."

Unprecedented success has enhanced the franchise's value fourfold over the past four years following an ownership change. Behind Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, the defending NBA champions own the best record in basketball. In its most recent NBA team valuation rankings, Forbes Magazine values the Warriors franchise at $1.9 billion, sixth-highest in the league.

Chase is also the official sponsor of and owns the naming rights to MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks, Madison Square Garden (home to the NBA's New York Knicks and NHL's New York Rangers), as well as the U.S. Open tennis competition in New York City.

"Our strategy is to have big arena assets that can work for both sports and entertainment in key markets," Lemkau explained.

"In short," Carter wrote me, "the team's strategy and vision aligned with the long term goals of JPMorgan Chase."

Other than Warriors games, the franchise aims to host around 200 additional events per year, including conventions and concerts, at the 18,000-seat Chase Center.

The swooping in of the New York financial services company to acquire the naming rights surprised many in the Bay Area, given the franchise's close proximity to and relationship with technology companies like Salesforce, Facebook and Twitter. Also, large Bay Area-based companies have recently acquired the naming rights to numerous pro sports teams in the region. Levi Strauss paid $220 million over twenty years for the rights to the 49ers' stadium name; Redwood City-based Oracle, of course, is on the name of the Warriors' current home in Oakland.

Lemkau admitted JPMorgan Chase does not have the same name recognition in the Bay Area that those companies do, nor that of banks with San Francisco roots like Wells Fargo or Bank of America.

The company only recently began its expansion to the West Coast, in 2008. Now, Chase owns 250 total properties in the Bay Area. Furthermore, two years ago the company uprooted its technology division from New York to San Francisco, leasing space at 600 Harrison Street in the San Francisco Financial District. With the naming rights deal, JPMorgan looks to take advantage of increased skin in the game and maximize their exposure to build business in the Bay Area.

"Believe me, we ran the numbers rigorously on what the investment and returns would be, and on all the models we ran through, it will pay off for us," Lemkau explained to the Chronicle.

Lemkau said the region is an increasingly crucial part of all its core businesses -- consumer, commercial and investment banking; credit cards; and wealth management.

Not only did JPMorgan Chase acquire the naming rights, it also set aside $25 million over the next three years to enhance Bay Area disadvantaged neighborhoods, including renovating and building sports and entertainment complexes. Welts, the Warriors president, believed that Chase's philanthropic commitment was integral to the deal.

He explained this component of the deal shows the two corporations are well-suited to partner in both business and the greater community: "We wanted a partner that not only was a great name brand, but a company that was going to be additive not only to the economics of the building but the experience people were going to have there."

"It's as if it's your house and somebody is moving into it for the next twenty years -- that is the way we approached it."

Lemkau succinctly explained JPMorgan Chase's reasoning behind accomplishing the deal. "If ever there were a city and a team we would aspire to [join with], it would be San Francisco and the Warriors."

Follow Sam Sorkin on Twitter @samsorkin23

For more on this story, check out our storystream about the Golden State Warriors' San Francisco arena project.