Warriors owner admits new SF arena isn’t happening for 2017

Remember last summer, when the San Francisco Chronicle said there was no way a Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco would be approved in time to open in 2017, and the Warriors owners said “will too!”? Guess who was right?

Warriors owner Joe Lacob finally admitted during a KNBR interview Thursday that plans to play games at a proposed San Francisco waterfront arena starting in 2017 might not be completely realistic.

“If everything worked perfectly, our goal was to be in for 2017-18,” Lacob said in an in-studio interview with Gary Radnich and Larry Krueger. “I think that is going to be a challenge. We’re trying. We’re going to keep trying, but we need to do it right. It’s not just about getting it done. It’s about getting it done right. If it takes a year a longer, it takes a year longer. I’m not going to be concerned with that.”

The way things are going, this could be either the usual bumps in the road that end up delaying projects a year or two, or a sign that Lacob is desperately trying to keep momentum going for a project that is facing a public vote in a city that hates development so much that it’s willing to pay exorbitant rents as a result. Your guess is as good as mine, seriously.

Warriors co-owner says “100% not true” that he’s looking to buy A’s

So remember how the Golden State Warriors owners are maybe interested in buying the Oakland A’s and building them a new waterfront stadium? Somebody actually asked Warriors co-owner Peter Guber that on Wednesday night, and he said no, no he’s not:

“Absolutely not true,” Guber told The Times. “100% not true.”

Guber declined comment about whether Lacob might be interested but called it “categorically incorrect” to say he might be.

“I have not had any conversations with the league or any of the owners about buying the team,” Guber said. “I love the Dodgers. I love the Warriors.”

That “I love the Dodgers” is because Guber is also part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and would have to sell his share in order to buy the A’s. Which he could always change his mind and do, or Lacob could buy the A’s without him, or “I have not had any conversations” means he’s thinking about it but hasn’t actually met with anyone, or it could all just be smoke that Oakland officials are blowing to try to get momentum for a stadium plan at Howard Terminal. Who knows, really?

Warriors owners reportedly interested in buying A’s, building stadium in Oakland

The Oakland A’s stadium situation has gone from “no action since the late Pleistocene” to “everything happened all at once” in record time. In the last two days, we’ve seen a bunch of Oakland corporate magnates release renderings of what a stadium would look like on the Oakland waterfront (cranes! lots of cranes!), which was followed by A’s owner Lew Wolff calling that site “absolutely impossible” but for the first time indicating that the current Oakland Coliseum site is possibly “a place in Oakland where you could do something,” which for Wolff is practically a ringing endorsement.

And then, last night, there was this:

According to knowledgeable sources, the owners of the Golden State Warriors are part of one of at least three potential investment groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the new ballpark in Oakland on their own…

Despite being spurned by Wolff, the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team is not willing to give up on the waterfront plan. In fact, sources tell us the group knew full well that Wolff might reject their proposal. As such, they made contingency plans and have been shopping around the Howard Terminal proposal for potential investors, identifying at least three groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the Howard Terminal ballpark themselves, sources say. And one of these groups, sources say, is led by Warriors’ owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber — two wealthy men who had tried to buy the A’s previously.

Given the timeline here, and that the story (in the East Bay Express) is based entirely on unnamed sources, it seems pretty likely that this is Howard Terminal stadium advocates trying to talk up their site in the media. Still, that doesn’t mean a sale to Lacob and Guber couldn’t happen: Even if it’s the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team that came up with the idea, if Wolff eventually tires of waiting in vain for MLB to give him the right to move to San Jose, he could conceivably throw in the towel and let the whole mess be the Golden State Warriors owners’ problem.

Said problem, meanwhile, would first and foremost be how the heck to pay for a stadium at Howard Terminal, which has been estimated to have a $500 million price tag, but that’s 1) probably an underestimate and 2) not including land and infrastructure costs. Lacob and Guber are currently pursuing a mostly privately funded arena on the San Francisco waterfront, of course, but that’s 1) in exchange for development rights to nearby sites, which Howard Terminal can’t really offer (this is Wolff’s main gripe about the site), 2) an arena that can be used 200 or more days a year, not a stadium limited to baseball, and 3) in San Francisco, not Oakland. Shuffling around sites and rich guys is all well and good, but unless you find one so eager to build that he’s willing to lose money (or at least take on massive risk) on the deal, the real trick is figuring out how to pay for it. Maybe the A’s could charge fans extra for crane rides? Just a thought.

Warriors tweak proposed arena design again, make no one happy

With San Francisco waterfront activists threatening a public ballot measure on their proposed $1 billion arena project, the Golden State Warriors owners have trimmed their design a bit to assuage some concerns that it would be a great hulking eyesore that would take up precious public space on the bay. Design 3.0 (their name, not mine) would include a slightly smaller roof, a slightly smaller seating capacity, more public green space, and “a gently sloping shop-lined path with a switchback,” because who doesn’t like switchbacks?

Depending on your perspective, this is either an indication that public opposition to the project is forcing the Warriors to work toward a compromise, or, what’s that you say, former mayor Art Agnos?

“It just sounds like window dressing,” Agnos said of the design changes. “The bottom line is this is a mega real estate project.”

Yeah, this sucker is still headed for a public vote. The only question is whether the San Francisco public’s legendary disdain for large construction projects can be overcome by the universal human love for switchbacks.

Anti-condo organizers threaten ballot measure on Warriors arena plans

In addition to the stadium-related ballot items up for vote on Election Day, San Francisco voters cast ballots on a waterfront condo plan, defeating it handily. Which you should care about why? Because this why, that’s why:

Opponents, led by former Mayor Art Agnos, on Wednesday used their election day momentum to call on Mayor Ed Lee to relocate the Warriors arena to Candlestick Point or the Caltrain Station at Fourth and Townsend streets.

The waterfront should be preserved for affordable housing for teachers, artists and others, Agnos said, and if Lee won’t budge from what he calls his “legacy project,” the same group that defeated the 8 Washington condos will sponsor a ballot measure to defeat the Warriors arena, too, he said.

It’s not entirely clear that a victory over a waterfront condo tower is going to translate into a victory over a waterfront arena — say what you will about the modern sports industry, the general public does actually get some use out of a place to see basketball games and concerts, which can’t be said for rich people’s apartments. But it does look increasingly likely that the Warriors plan is going to end up going before voters, so expect this to turn even more into a public war of words between the team and Mayor Ed Lee on one side, and Agnos and his allies on the other. In fact, look, it’s already started:

“Art Agnos just won a game of pingpong, and now he thinks he’s a Wimbledon champion,” said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for the Warriors project.

Because ping pong is a wimpy sport, get it? Because it uses tiny balls. And that’s just the kind of thing sports people say.

MSG’s new “drop beers on other fans” seats, and other stadium news

After a long weekend thanks to the celebrations for the father of the transatlantic slave trade, I’m facing a busy work day and a pile of small stadium news items that I don’t want you guys to miss. So: bullet points it is!

  • The “sky bridges” in the renovated Madison Square Garden turn out just to be a new deck of seats suspended from the ceiling. Also, pretty obtrusive to fans sitting in the back rows of what used to be the blue seats. And there’s still the low railings that will allow fans to drop beers on the heads of those in the pricey seats below them. A win-win-win!
  • Some Minnesota Vikings fans say that personal seat licenses at the new stadium will make them give up their season tickets; others say they’ll just put off buying a new boat.
  • San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee compared a new San Francisco Warriors arena to the Statue of Liberty, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler has brought out the sarcasm stick.
  • Qatar’s plan for hosting the 2022 World Cup will cost an estimated $200 billion, including building a stadium for the final in a city that doesn’t exist yet. Also, an estimated 4,000 migrant workers will likely die building all this stuff. Maybe that Columbus guy isn’t sounding so bad by comparison.

Oakland gets a potential stadium developer, now just needs to find money

Stop the presses! Oakland may have a developer for its planned “Coliseum City” stadium and entertainment complex! Or, well, has a developer maybe interested in building it, though it’s not clear that they’re interested in being the ones to pay for it:

The investment group is composed of Colony Capital LLC, which manages investments totaling $32 billion, and Rashid Al Malik, an investor who recently served as deputy CEO of a multibillion dollar aerospace firm founded by the uncle of Dubai’s ruling sheik.

Operating under the banner Bay Investment Group, LLC, Al Malik and Colony are slated to join Oakland’s master-planning team for the Coliseum complex and help fund a new stadium feasibility study.

More importantly, they also want to take the lead in redeveloping the Coliseum complex, which is surrounded by parking lots and cut off from surrounding neighborhoods and city life.

The Coliseum City idea has been kicking around for a couple of years, and would potentially include new venues for the Raiders, A’s, and Golden State Warriors, though since I don’t think anyone’s put a price tag on any of this, it’s all complete wishcasting at this point. Still, the fact that there’s at least one developer who doesn’t think this is a totally crazy idea, plus Raiders owner Mark Davis’s insistence that he only wants a new stadium if it can be in the exact same place as the old stadium, already has people speculating that this spells the death knell for the A’s in Oakland. Like, for example, Forbes “contributor” (read: unpaid blogger) Alicia Jessop:

While some may see this move as the A’s waiving the white flag and succumbing to life in Oakland, the Raiders may slowly riding in as the A’s knight in shining armor.  The shield that the Raiders hold in this case, is that team’s desire to build a new facility on the current coliseum site.

The A’s have made it clear that they have no desire to rebuild or build a new stadium on the current coliseum site.  Thus, if the Raiders’ new stadium plan is approved the possibility exists that the A’s will be left without a place to play when construction is ongoing.  Thus, if this situation arises, might MLB be more inclined to allow the team to move to San Jose?

How should I put this? “No.” Though the image of Lew Wolff calling Bud Selig (or his successor) and crying into the phone, “They’re going to put all our stuff on the curb! Puhleeeeeze tell the Giants they have to let us move now!” is pretty amusing.

Also, note that the white flag is now available to any other A.L. team on waivers. Either that or Forbes doesn’t bother to proofread its “contributors,” and surely that can’t be the case.

Warriors waterfront arena plan hit with more cost hikes, schedule delays

The now-$1-billion Golden State Warriors arena plan in San Francisco is now at $1.05 billion, according to a city memo, thanks to the increased projected costs of refurbishing the piers that it would sit on. A Warriors spokesperson denied that the cost overruns are quite as high as $50 million, but admitted that the pier work would cost more than the $120 million originally budgeted.

This is an issue in part because the proposed arena deal has the city fronting the money to redo the piers, and the Warriors repaying the money over time from arena revenues — but only up to $120 million. Which means that San Francisco would effectively be on the hook for cost overruns in shoring up the piers.

The San Francisco Chronicle also notes that things aren’t looking good for the team’s proposed 2017 arena opening, given that so many things are still up in the air:

The Warriors insist that their engineering reshuffle won’t delay a 2017 opening, but the team is months behind the project schedule set in November for financial agreements and completing environmental review.

Shifting dates is standard for big projects, [Warriors spokesperson P.J.] Johnston noted, and they still have time to complete everything before fall 2017. But there is little margin for error in a project that could face lawsuits and is also waiting on legislation in Sacramento that would endorse it as a public benefit, a finding needed for waterfront development.

A draft of the state-required environmental impact report was supposed to be released in June, according to the project schedule from November. Instead, that draft report won’t be ready until early next year, said Chris Kern, the senior city planner handling it. The Planning Commission was to vote on the final environmental report in December. That is not expected to happen until late 2014, Kern said. Construction and other permits, including from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, can’t be granted until the environmental report is certified. The team is planning on construction lasting about 2 1/2 years.

In other words, while the project still has lots of political momentum, it’s still very early in the game. Don’t buy your San Francisco Warriors season tickets just yet.

Can a $1B Warriors arena in San Francisco pay off?

This slipped past me last week: Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts told the editorial boards of two San Francisco TV stations that a new waterfront arena in San Francisco could now cost $1 billion, thanks in part to being built on piers that are currently “falling into the Bay.” And that number — which would be a record price tag for a new arena — could still rise as Warriors officials evaluate the site prep costs.

Still, Welts says the Warriors are moving full steam ahead with their San Francisco arena plans, which raises the obvious question: What are they smoking? Is it really possible that a San Francisco arena would boost team revenues by enough to pay off $1 billion or more in construction costs?

I’ve written before about the difficulties of getting arenas to pay their own way; to quote me, quoting longtime arena manager John Christison:

The marketplace for arenas is not as profitable as it used to be. When it comes to raking in revenues, a basketball/hockey facility has one advantage over baseball and football stadiums: It can be used for bushels of non-sports events, ranging from concerts to circuses to Disney on Ice. “As a rule of thumb, you need around 200 revenue-producing events a year in an arena to start looking at covering your costs—and that doesn’t include your debt service operations,” Christison says.

But according to Christison, such events aren’t nearly as lucrative as they once were. “Ten years ago, if you’d asked any arena manager in the country, even if they had a franchise housed in their building, they’d say that concerts are the bread and butter,” he says. But today, with a fragmented music industry that’s producing fewer acts that can draw arena-sized crowds and competition from an increasing number of both arenas and casinos, “the concert market has become incredibly difficult,” he says. “Nobody’s making much money except maybe the artists.”

Still, if you do manage to fill 200 nights — or more — a year, there is definitely he potential for gold in them thar arenas. The Brooklyn Nets‘ Barclays Center, for example, has been packed since its opening last fall, which should help pay off its construction cost of somewhere near $1 billion. (Though admittedly no actual profit figures have been made public, and it’s going to take 30 years’ worth of gangbusters business at Barclays to keep paying off those bonds.) And Brooklyn is probably a decent analogue for San Francisco: a massive population with lots of people with disposable income, and a market currently underserved by existing concert venues.

The arena world is very odd right now, with a mix of small-city venues that can’t come close to paying their own way (see: Kansas City and Louisville) and big-city ones that seemingly could turn a profit even if they were built with three helicopter pads and a ballroom. The difficulty is for mid-sized cities — hey there, Seattle! — to figure out where the line lies between windfall profits and utter disaster, and which side of it they lie on.

Or, of course, cities could decide that this literally isn’t their business, and let the risk fall on arena operators. Which would be fine and dandy, except that private arena builders so often turn to the public for bailouts when their revenue projections go awry. Not that this is likely in San Francisco, which has the world’s only recent privately funded baseball stadium in large part because of its ability to say no to subsidy requests. But it does make one wish we could see the revenue projections for this $1-billion-plus Warriors arena plan, just to see where all this money would come from.

Warriors owner boasts “we are killing it” on SF arena project

Golden State Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has written to San Jose Mercury News writer Tim Kawakami — who you may recall wrote recently that the Warriors’ plan for a waterfront arena in San Francisco may be running into trouble — to say that it’s not in trouble at all, nuh-uh, no way:

The truth is that Pier 30-32 is going VERY well. The Mayor, the port, the SF planning department, the mayor’s staff, the Board of Supervisor’s, major politicians with influence (you know the big names ) AND the people, our fans and residents of San Francisco,  are VERY supportive. That’s what they say and that’s what the polls show.  Think about that. How difficult is it to get that kind of confluence of thought in SF and the Bay in this day and age? Without being arrogant or too confident, I would say we are killing it. We have made great progress and are in great position overall to advance this concept to reality. I honestly do not know HOW we could be doing much better.

What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, since Lacob would presumably write the same thing whether 1) things are going great with the arena plan and he’s upset that Kawakami is implying otherwise or 2) things are going lousy with the arena plan and he’s defensive about the fact that Kawakami made it public. Mostly what we’ve learned from this is that somebody needs to take Lacob’s caps lock key away, stat.