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United Airlines named Founding Partner of Warriors' Chase Center

As a result of the partnership, United becomes the franchise's official airline. Plus, some other important Chase Center news.

The arena is set to open in 2019.
The arena is set to open in 2019.
Manica Architecture

The Warriors have announced United Airlines as a founding partner of Chase Center, the franchise's billion-dollar San Francisco arena set to open for the 2019-2020 season.

"Adding United Airlines as a Founding Partner of Chase Center continues to show our commitment to building and operating a world-class sports and entertainment facility in San Francisco," said Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts. "Chase Center will be the best destination in the world and adding United Airlines as a Founding Partner is integral in getting this privately financed venue built."

As a result of the partnership United becomes the official airline of the Warriors (hopefully fans will be able to get special flight discounts a la the Portland Timbers of MLS). The team will engage in various sponsorship activations starting this season in Oracle Arena, including on the radio, social media, and in the arena. Once Chase Center opens, United will be the sponsor of the East Side Club space and will also provide in-arena advertisements. MileagePlus members will also be able to redeem miles for premium seat and suite access, as well as VIP experiences and autographed Warriors merchandise.

United is obviously thrilled to attach its brand to the Warriors, who are the favorite to win the NBA title for the second time in three years.

"As the official airline of the Warriors, United solidifies its leadership and commitment to the San Francisco and Bay Area communities," said United Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Julia Haywood. "San Francisco is a key market for United, and this relationship demonstrates further investment in our employees and our customers," she continued.

(It remains to be seen whether this partnership will include prime real estate as the Warriors' future jersey sponsor as well. In February, the Philadelphia 76ers announced an exclusive partnership with Stubhub to be its official ticketing partner, and three months later Stubhub became the team's jersey sponsor for the season after next, the first such sponsor in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings recently became the second team to acquire a jersey sponsor, with Blue Diamond Almonds signing on for a reported $5M per year. In April, the NBA announced the three-year jersey sponsorship "pilot program," which will begin in 2017-18.)

In addition to the United partnership, the franchise has recently taken a number of sundry critical steps toward successful passage of the completely privately-financed arena and is hoping to start construction in January, team owner Joe Lacob said earlier this month.

The franchise announced the hiring of the executive director of Chase Center, Eric Bresler, who will direct the overall activation -- programming, content development, and venue operations -- of the entire arena and complex. Besler comes to the franchise from AEG Facilities, where he oversaw programming and business development for the company's wide portfolio of facilities as Vice President of Event Booking and Development.

Stephen Collins, the Chief Operating Officer of Chase Center and Bresler's new boss, said of the new hire: "Eric brings more than 25 years of experience in venue management in the sports and entertainment industry."

Bresler has been involved in the opening and development of numerous professional sports arenas, including the Miami Heat's American Airlines Arena.

"I am thrilled to be working with the team to launch and activate Chase Center ... [which] will have a worldwide impact and be a premier destination for entertainment in the Bay Area," Bresler said.

The team also announced its interior architect, Gensler (a San Francisco-based firm), which will do all of the public interior design for the arena.  The firm's sports division has extensive experience in stadium and arena interior design, its recent work including the Cleveland Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium and Toronto FC's BMO Field; the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), the MLS expansion team set to begin play in 2018, has hired Gensler Sports to do the interior design for their stadium as well.

"Gensler is a perfect fit for Chase Center, bringing both incredible local experience and extensive global expertise to our project," Collins said. "We want an arena that is a reflection of the Bay Area [and] a stand-out in the world of sports and entertainment. Gensler will help us achieve that mission."

"When complete, [Chase Center] will be a showpiece for the NBA, the Warriors, and the Bay Area," said Gensler Sports Principal-in-Charge, Ron Turner.

Over the summer the Warriors emerged victorious in court against the Mission Bay Alliance (a somewhat covert cohort of activists and UCSF benefactors looking to take any means necessary to stop the construction of the Warriors' arena), wherein the environmental impact report was upheld by Judge Garrett Wong of the San Francisco Superior Court. The Mission Bay Alliance expressed concerns over how game traffic caused by Chase Center would affect ambulances and the UCSF hospital system nearby; in a district court, Judge Wong rejected their complaint without comment.

Currently, the Mission Bay Alliance has asked the court of appeals for a review, which is likely to be heard "this month" with a decision rendered "soon after," Lacob said. Even if the franchise wins that ruling as well, the process could be held up by additional appeals.

"There is the possibility that the [Mission Bay Alliance], if they lose, could ask for an appeal to the Supreme Court of the state of California," Lacob said. "I'm not a lawyer ... [but] as I understand it that's very rare that the [Supreme Court of California] would hear a case like that, that at two levels of the courts [would have] been decided strongly."

The appeal looks like it will merely delay construction a few months (until "January," Lacob said) rather than actually having the effect of halting the project. The Warriors have been victorious in essentially every step thus far; the city of San Francisco, led by Mayor Ed Lee, vigorously supports the project; and the Mission Bay Alliance is reeling, with several recent losses -- the defeat in court, as well as the exiting of its legal team Boies Schiller & Flexner and main spokesman Sam Singer due to "strategic differences."

Lacob said the franchise is prepared to move full speed once they get the go-ahead from the judiciary, hopefully starting construction in January 2017.

"The architects [and] the design, all that work is done. The money is in place, has been for a long time. We're ready to go. The city unanimously approved. We just need the appellate court ... and then we're gonna go get this thing done."

"We're going to break ground very, very soon," Lacob said firmly, "and it's going to be one of the greatest arenas you've ever seen."

Follow me on Twitter @samsorkin23

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