SF Chronicle cut and pasted Warriors arena press release, ran it as news story

I know I’ve often criticized the sports media for doing little more than reprinting teams’ press releases when it comes to stadium and arena coverage, but even I didn’t expect this: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Golden State Warriors reporter has been suspended for literally reprinting a team press release about the Warriors’ arena plans:

The headline for the original Chronicle story and the Warriors’ press release on NBA.com were the same: “Warriors formally purchase Mission Bay site.” The initial story was identical to the release, except that the team referred to itself as the “NBA Champion Golden State Warriors” in its lede, and the Chronicle story left out the “champion” superlative. The only other change was a semicolon in the press release that became two sentences in the Chronicle story.

That’s pretty terrible, but the story gets even worse, as Deadspin has uncovered six more examples of times Warriors beat reporter Rusty Simmons, or his editor Al Saracevic, flat-out copied-and-pasted Warriors press releases. (Most of these were on far more boring topics than arena dealings.) They also asked Simmons for comment, and got this reply:

“I would really like to tell you how that happens, but I’m not allowed. I’m so sorry. …My suspension should be lifted in a couple of days, and we’ll talk.”

I think I speak for everyone when I say: We can’t wait to hear this one.

Warriors’ arena to include $10m/year traffic fund, but read the fine print

The battle the last few months over the Golden State Warriors‘ proposed new arena on the San Francisco waterfront has been especially dull — basically, a bunch of rich donors to UC-Francisco opposed the plan because they were worried it would create too much traffic around the university’s hospital. This seemed like the sort of thing that was going to be easily compromised over when it first emerged in April, and sure enough, a settlement with UCSF (though not necessarily the donors) was announced yesterday. But it’s the details of the settlement that should be raising eyebrows:

At least $10 million in revenues from the 18,050-seat arena annually would be used to fund traffic mitigations for the life of the arena, pending approval from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.

Wait, $10 million a year? That is a huge amount of money, the equivalent of maybe $150 million in present value, which even on a billion-dollar project is a significant chunk of change. If Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber really agreed to pay that much to ease traffic concerns, that would be unprecedented.

It’s not entirely clear, though, whether this is actually Lacob and Guber’s money: Mayor Ed Lee’s press release just said the traffic funds would “come from new revenues generated by the Warriors sports and entertainment center,” which could easily mean city tax money, not team checks. Neither Lee’s website nor the city’s database of legislation has the text of the bill that Lee introduced on Tuesday, and it’s 6 am on the West Coast right now, so your guess is as good as mine what this actually means.

Not that it makes much of a difference in terms of the project’s financing overall, which is still extremely city-friendly: Lacob and Guber are paying for the full construction cost, plus the cost of acquiring the land, plus property taxes on the whole megillah. If anything, it’s set to be a model of how much team owners can afford to cough up for a new building when public funding is off the table — though admittedly, San Francisco is a bit of a special case since it’s a city full of rich people who currently have no full-sized arena to go and drop $300 a pop on Eagles tickets at. Still, it’ll be interesting if someday soon the bayfront features two sports facilities built with effectively no public money — it’ll be like visiting England, only with better seafood.

Bunch of unnamed rich folks form opposition to Warriors’ SF arena

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier & Ross report that the Golden State Warriors‘ San Francisco arena project has acquired some deep-pocketed opponents — even if it’s not quite clear who:

An anonymous group of what organizers describe as big-bucks donors to UCSF hired an imposing cast of consultants — including former UCSF Senior Vice Chancellor Bruce Spaulding and, for a time, Chronicle columnist and former Mayor Willie Brown — to block the plan for the arena and adjacent twin office towers in Mission Bay near the waterfront.

Also on board, and working without pay: Jack Davis, once the biggest political consultant in town and still a force to be reckoned with in semi-retirement.

“This arena is going to essentially ruin decades of good work and planning in Mission Bay and make it impossible for people to access the hospital there,” said public relations pro Sam Singer, who has also been hired by the antiarena forces.

Now, nobody concocted big-money campaigns to oppose development project just because of bad planning processes (or the risk of ambulances getting stuck in traffic, another objection that’s been raised by UCSF), so clearly these folks — whoever they are — must have some ulterior motive. Either way, though, the power to hire lobbyists and lawyers is a key factor in the success of opposition to sports development projects (and all development projects, really), so this could be more than a minor stumbling block for the Warriors’ owners — depending on what it’ll take to placate these mystery men, anyway.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs actual journalistic report on arena project (just not Milwaukee’s)

I’ve been very harsh on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Don Walker, with good reason, but credit where credit is due: He wrote a good article on Saturday on NBA arena plans, even citing Judith Grant Long’s research on total subsidies to sports facilities. It was an article on the Golden State Warriors‘ plans for a privately funded arena in San Francisco, mind you, not on the Milwaukee Bucks‘ plans for a mostly publicly funded one in Milwaukee, but still, at least Walker did lay out the basics of the Warriors plan and contrast it with the Bucks one.

Sure, it would have been nice if he’d dug deeper into how the Warriors owners expect to recoup their investment (development around the site, plus being the only sizable arena in one of the nation’s wealthiest markets) and whether it makes sense for the Bucks owners to do the same, but at least it quotes more than one person. Though the conclusion still leaves a bit to be desired:

In San Francisco, “They have a vision to make the Warriors world-class, second to none,” [Warriors spokesperson P.J.] Johnston said.

The Bucks leadership seems to have that same vision. Just a different way of getting there.

Yup, just two ownership groups trying to make their arenas the best they can, one by paying for it, the other by sticking taxpayers with half the bill. Potato, potahto, right?

Warriors: We need a new $1B arena because we don’t like the restaurant manager at the old one

The San Francisco Business Times has a report out on the pressing matter of “Why the Raiders, A’s and Warriors want new homes” (verbatim headline), and the answer is: They all need to tear down their old venues and build entirely new ones at a cost of billions of dollars because they don’t like the concessionaires, duh!

Consider the recently opened BMW Club at Oracle Arena. BMW is a Warriors sponsor, but the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority contracts arena operations to Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG, in turn, contracts arena restaurant management to Levy Restaurants.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge” to make customer service part of the overall game experience when food service and stadium operations aren’t in the Warriors’ control, team President and COO Rick Welts said.

Here’s a crazy idea: If your main complaint is the guys the county hired to run the arena operations, why don’t you offer to buy the arena operations rights from the county, and then pick your own operator? Sure, it might cost you something, but less than the billion dollars it will cost for a whole new building.

The real answer, of course, is that this is about the 74th most important reason for these teams wanting out of their old stadiums, but it’s what the Warriors president told the Business Times, so it’s what they’re going to report, dammit. Remember, kids: Friends don’t let friends read news stories that only include sports team execs and stadium developers as sources!

Warriors redesign arena to stop jokes that it looks like a toilet seat

Renderings! The people have spoken, and the Golden State Warriors have listened, redesigning their planned San Francisco arena to look less like a toilet seat:

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross say it now looks more like a Sony Discman, which is both true and also a more pleasant image for your $1 billion arena. (It’s about time for portable CD players to be retro now, right?)

The whole thing doesn’t look too bad, though unless I’m mistaken it includes a whole bunch of mid-sized buildings that don’t actually exist now, in order to make the arena look less hulking by comparison. And, as always, don’t expect that any of it will actually look like this when it’s built, assuming it gets built — though I think we can safely predict that whatever it ends up looking like, it will definitively not be a toilet seat.

Oakland gives Raiders another 90 days to turn pockets inside-out hoping stadium money falls out

You’re going to have to hold your breath a little bit longer to see any start at a resolution of the Oakland Raiders and A’s bipartite stadium battle: After the Raiders brought in some new investors to their Coliseum City vaportecture project, the Oakland city council last night voted to give the team a 90-day extension in which to finalize plans for a new stadium on the Oakland Coliseum site.

And that should be no problem, because as Newballpark.org points out, here’s all that Raiders owner Mark Davis has to work out to make his vision a reality:

  • Sign at least one tenant, preferably the Raiders to start

  • Engage the A’s and Warriors (even though neither team is interested)

  • Provide deliverables and reports that haven’t been completed yet (deal terms, financing, 2nd phase market analysis)

  • Bring in a master developer

  • Line up needed capital for stadium phase and ancillary development phases

  • Figure out who pays for the remaining debt at the Coliseum and Arena (if necessary)

  • Gather support of the JPA and Alameda County

Piece of cake! Three months is way more than enough time to win $750 million at Powerball, right?


New Warriors arena renderings still look like toilet, sorry

When Snøhetta, the super-hip Norwegian architecture firm, released its initial overhead renderings of a proposed Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco last month, everyone was quick to say, “Ha ha ha ha, it looks like a toilet lid!” Well, now we have additional renderings on hand from more human angles, and:

Yeah, that’s pretty much a toilet.

It looks somewhat better from street level:

One problem with these renderings (aside from that they’re black and white line drawings, so it’s tough to tell what they’d really look like) is that they lack any context: How tall would that building on the right tower over the surrounding area? What would that plaza full of tiny blob-people open onto? Again, given that this is Snøhetta’s wheelhouse, I’d think we’d be seeing more of that here, but even for design firms that pride themselves on fitting architecture seamlessly into surrounding space, the first rule is “the customer is always right.”

(And before anyone says anything: Yes, at least the Warriors owners say they’ll pursue the project with all private dollars, including paying for the land. Unless you count trying to skip out on their debt to Oakland for their old arena, of course.)

Warriors release rendering of what new SF arena will look like from orbit

People love the arena renderings, even if the actual buildings seldom end up looking quite like the original drawings, so here you go. Courtesy of the San Francisco Business Times, renderings of the latest Golden State Warriors arena plans:

Toilet bowl? Trash can lid? The Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy? (Snohetta designer Craig Dykers actually compared the design to one of these three — see if you can guess which!)

Okay, this doesn’t actually show us much of anything of what the arena will look like to humans who aren’t paragliding overhead. (Snohetta didn’t release any ground-level renderings.) You can see where two 160-foot office towers would go (only a bit taller than the arena itself), but other than that, for now you’ll just have to imagine yourself being one of those teensy dots looking up at the building.

Warriors plan to skip out on their Oakland arena debt, lease-schmease

Leaving aside what went terribly wrong with this Bloomberg News headline, there’s some actual news here about the Golden State Warriors owners’ plans to decamp Oakland’s Oracle Arena in 2018. As you may recall, the Warriors still owe $62 million on outstanding debt for the Oakland arena’s reconstruction in 1996, a debt that their lease says they can get out of if the arena ceases operations. Apparently, though, the team’s owners think they can just walk away from it regardless:

“We have every intention to completely fulfill our obligations in the agreement with the JPA and live up to the terms of the contract that were negotiated between the two parties,” Raymond Ridder, a team spokesman, said in a statement, referring to the joint powers authority. The team says it’s only obligated to pay debt service until the lease expires.

The arena’s county owners beg to differ, and according to the Oakland Tribune, “The lease states that if the Warriors leave before June 30, 2027, the team has to pay any debt service that is not covered by the arena’s net operating revenue as long as the arena remains open for business.” The Tribune further reports that the unpaid debt issue is likely to come up during negotiations for a lease extension to allow the Warriors to play in Oakland for the 2017-18 season until its new arena is ready; I really really hope that county officials have the gumption to say, “Pay us what you owe us, or we’ll see you in court. Enjoy your season in the Bill Graham Auditorium.”