Diehard sports fans come in many tax brackets.
But it would be hard to dispute that those for whom a trip to the arena to watch their beloved team in the flesh is a rare, special event probably enjoy it most. These are the people who work hard every day to make ends meet, save or scrape together funds for a game perhaps only once per year, and cherish the hell out of the experience. These are the fans who cheer the loudest.
This is not an attack on those in a higher tax bracket. Some of these fans know how to strip off their expensive ties, or kick off their designer shoes, and have fun. But television cameras over the years have allowed millions of viewers to witness the wet-noodle reactions of fans in some of the wealthiest NBA cities, like Miami and Los Angeles, where clapping and screaming one’s head off just don’t happen.
Is this what the Warriors should expect from its latest ticket hike and upcoming move to San Francisco? If middle- and lower-income fans cannot afford tickets, should Golden State prepare itself for an arena full of people with the energy and attitude of a dead fish?
Details of the hike
First, it must be stated that top-tier NBA teams are worth billions of dollars. As of its 2016 report, Forbes business journal puts the Warriors’ net worth at $1.9 billion (yes, billion, with a b), with revenue of $201 million and operating income of $57.6 million.
But, a fancy, state-of-the-art arena in the world’s tech hub isn’t free, and construction of the San Francisco-based Chase Center is reported to cost $1 billion. The team and the league had the decency not to hand the cost down to taxpayers. But the funds have to come from somewhere, and Golden State and the NBA have apparently decided to place the burden on ticket-buying fans.
According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, season-ticket holders can expect a 15- to 25-percent increase, depending on seating location.
In dollars, fans who buy season tickets for the cheapest seats can expect an eight-dollar increase per game, from $32 to $40, while those paying to occupy the best courtside seats will see a per-game increase of $90, moving the price from $625 to $715. If the Warriors make it to the Finals, the highly coveted front-row seats will go for $2,600, which undoubtedly will cushion the asses of the pop culture elite, like Drake, Beyonce and Jay Z — all of whom have attended Warriors’ games in the past — as well as any wealthy new bandwagoners looking to be seen.
By comparison, at the start of Golden State’s 2014-15 title-winning season, the cheapest season-ticket seats were priced at $18 per game, and courtside season-ticket seats were $450.
According to Warriors’ Senior Vice President of Business Development, Brandon Schneider, “One of the pain points with our fans was our prices for the postseason. So we decided to freeze those and, if we make it, prices to the NBA Finals will actually decline 15 percent.”
This is excellent news for those who could afford Playoffs or Finals tickets in the first place.
But when a franchise-record 99.5 percent of season-ticket holders renewed from one season to the next, and your team has 32,000 people on a season-ticket holder wait list, the sky’s the limit!
And this, unfortunately, is where the not-so-well-heeled diehard fan gets left behind.
Out in the cold — literally
A recent article by Jon Becker of The Mercury News highlights the Chase Center amenities that fans are guaranteed to adore. His list includes:
- Ease of accessibility. The arena will hold 18,000 fans, but Chase Center will have only 950 parking spaces. The exciting transportation alternatives that he mentions do not exist yet — a subway stop, CalTrain access and a ferry dock.
- Interactivity. This amounts to “state-of-the-art scoreboards,” some undefined way for fans to interact with data and statistics, and “enhanced internet bandwidth.”
- Food options for foodies. In other words, there will be expensive dining options both inside and outside of the arena — “San Francisco-quality eateries” — to go along with the high cost of tickets. If only hotdogs or burgers are in your budget, don’t worry. There will reportedly be chain restaurants, too.
- “Fannovate”. This is mentioned in the part of the article pertaining to Chase Center’s “state-of-the art practice facility.” It is an “interactive tool ... that encourages fans to help provide any input or ideas that lead to a better experience for all.” (A: How does this work? and B: Notice how everything is “state-of-the-art”?)
- Star power. Chase Center will partially serve as a concert venue, too, so this means the hottest names in popular music will drop by to sing you some songs ... for ticket prices undoubtedly as astronomical as those for Warriors’ games.
- No cost to taxpayers. This is, perhaps, the best part about Chase Center. It is the nation’s first privately financed sports arena, with no burden placed on taxpayers. However, as previously stated, that burden has been passed off to fans, which will make it impossible for many of the Dub Nation diehards to attend games.
It’s one thing for fans to be metaphorically left out in the cold because of high ticket prices, but this final Chase Center “amenity” makes the concept literal:
- “No ticket? No problem. You can still soak in the game experience even if you can’t score a ticket. There are the aforementioned restaurants, housed just a long Steph Curry shot from Chase, where you’ll be able to watch the game as if you were seated courtside. There are stores to check out. Plus, there’s a 35,000-foot public plaza to hang out in, which includes a 5 1/2-acre waterfront park to enjoy your priceless views.”
So, fans are supposed to be excited about taking BART to the nearest jumping off point to the arena, walking one-half mile to the arena area, and sitting in a bar to watch the game on a flat-screen TV while guzzling spirited beverages and nibbling on overpriced appetizers? During the cold and rainy months, it’s more probable that fans would prefer to enjoy the games from the cozy warmth of their own living rooms rather than as peons who can only afford to get close to Chase Center, but not actually enter it.
The team’s departure from Oakland comes with a lot of painful context for many. As Bay Area New Group’s Marcus Thompson put it, the Warriors are high-tailing it to San Francisco because “Oakland is too violent, too ghetto and too ugly and [the league doesn’t] want to share in that brand. Even where the stadium is located — deep East Oakland, where the undesired grime and ruggedness is the décor — is deemed unfit for such a glamorous team.”
So, not only are the Warriors leaving Oakland, they’re making it impossible for many of their most faithful fans to follow.