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.”

New Warriors home in SF could leave Bay Area with arena glut

As soon as news broke last week that the Golden State Warriors owners were planning to build a new arena in San Francisco entirely with private money, I wondered if having only their old home, Oakland’s Oracle Arena, to compete with would make it easier for them to avoid the fate of, say, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which has had to offer discounts to touring acts to beat out Madison Square Garden for concerts. And now the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Bay Area might not be big enough for the both of them:

For now, the Oracle Arena has two things going for it: The Golden State Warriors and the fact that the nearest competitor for major shows is 40 miles away in San Jose.

But that soon will change, and the arena, which already fails to turn a profit, will have to change too if it is to survive, sports facility experts said…

The Warriors accounted for nearly half the 110 events staged at the arena during a recent 12-month period — and even with the team still around, the arena is forecast to post roughly $6 million in operating losses this year and next, according to budget records from the Alameda County-City of Oakland Joint Powers Authority.

A San Francisco arena would definitely have the upper hand in luring acts — it’s the side of the bay where more of the money is — but the competition could end up being bad for both buildings, since promoters could play the two off each other to get the best rates. Which could be bad for Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as far as paying off their construction costs — though, of course, since it’s their own money they’re risking, that’s not our problem.

All this is assuming, of course, that Oakland doesn’t simply pack it in on Oracle and demolish it to make way for a new Raiders or A’s stadium, something arena board chair Nate Miley floated last week, though of course without any details about cost or who’d pay for all this or anything. One complication, according to the Merc News, is that the Warriors apparently have a lease clause that lets them off the hook on $62 million in outstanding Oracle Arena debt if the building ceases operations. Meaning we could be seeing Oakland weighing whether it’s a good idea to keep a money-losing arena in operation just to avoid letting its former tenant get out of paying for the arena’s last renovation. I really can’t say it often enough: Get somebody to read these leases before you sign them, people.

Warriors buy land in Mission Bay, now plan all-privately-funded arena

It’s been rumored for a while now that the Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were looking for a Plan B now that his proposed Piers 30-32 arena site was running into stiff opposition, but that still didn’t make yesterday’s news any less of a bombshell: The team owners have bought 12 acres of land in Mission Bay, south of the Giants‘ AT&T Park, and plans to build a new arena there by the 2018-19 season. And Lacob and Guber say the project will be entirely privately financed, including the price paid for the land.

This makes a lot of sense on many levels: The main opposition to the old waterfront site was from locals concerned about the arena and its accompanying condo towers blocking views of the bay, less of an issue in Mission Bay, which (for the moment, anyway) is mostly occupied by a hospital, office space, and old industrial sites. There’s a new Muni Metro underground streetcar line set to lead to Mission Bay by 2019. And by ditching the old site, the Warriors owners will avoid paying an estimated $200 million on shoring up the piers there.

Still, with the condo development now off the table — the 12-acre site will be barely enough for an arena — Lacob and Guber are now looking at building a roughly $1 billion arena entirely on their own dime, something remarkable enough that the San Francisco Chronicle felt it necessary to note it as “a rare instance of a modern sports venue that would use no taxpayer funds or public land.” The Warriors organization didn’t reveal how much it paid for the new site, but given it’s part of a 14-acre site that the land’s previous owners paid $250 million for four years ago, you have to figure the NBA team paid something close to that. So we’re talking $1.2 billion that needs to be repaid entirely from profits on running an arena — meaning the building will need to run something like $100 million a year in the black just for Lacob and Guber to break even.

That seems crazy, given that most arenas have trouble turning an operating profit at all. San Francisco, though, is a special market: Not only is it chock-full of wealthy people who can buy top-priced tickets (and whose eyeballs advertisers will pay a pretty penny for), but it’s the only major city in the nation that I can think of that lacks anything like a modern sports and concert arena: The Cow Palace is undersized and across the city line in Daly City, leaving Oakland’s Oracle Arena as the only real option for touring acts requiring a 20,000-seat indoor space. This means a Mission Bay arena stands a good chance of being full for the 200+ days a year needed to run a successful business — and also may avoid the fate of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which thanks to the presence of Madison Square Garden across town has had to offer cut-rate deals to artists to woo them away from Manhattan. And, of course, the Warriors stand to appreciate in value significantly from a move across the bay to a more fashionable address.

It still sounds like an awfully risky gamble to me, but fortunately it’s not my money at stake. And — at least if the Warriors owners live up to their promises, which isn’t always the case — it won’t be San Francisco residents’ money either, since a privately owned arena on privately owned land should even pay its fair share of property taxes. There are a lot of details still to be divulged — actually, pretty much all the details are still to be divulged — but so far, knock wood, this may actually be the rare case of a new sports facility that’s a win-win for both the team owners and the city. Maybe San Francisco’s penchant for voting down development projects that it doesn’t like isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Can’t tell the rumored Warriors arena sites without a scorecard

The Golden State Warriors are looking for a new arena site” rumor mill continues to churn, with the latest unsourced reports being that the team is now looking at multiple backup sites now that the Piers 30-32 site has gotten more expensive and is likely to face a public vote. In addition to the parking lots near the San Francisco Giants‘ stadium, there’s this:

Another option getting initial discussion, sources say, is part of the 14 acres in Mission Bay that Salesforce bought in November 2010 for about $250 million to hold its corporate campus. The San Francisco software giant announced in February 2012 that it was shelving its plan to build there. A portion of the site, bounded by Terry Francois Boulevard and 16th, Third and South streets, across from a bayfront park, could hold an arena…

Despite its proximity to the bay, the site is not on Port of San Francisco property, and therefore it is not subject to the ballot measure that limited-growth advocates qualified for the June ballot.

The Mission Bay site isn’t without its own problems, though, starting with that $250 million that Salesforce paid for it, which they’d presumably want to be paid back — making the land even more expensive than the $180 million  rehab cost that is reportedly making the pier site too spendy. (The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Coté speculates that Salesforce could cut its price if it got naming rights to the arena, but that’s not much of a solution, as then the team wouldn’t get to use naming-rights revenue to pay the rest of the  arena costs.)

In any event, the problem still remains that the Warriors owners were planning on paying off the more than $1 billion cost of an arena by building condo towers on city-controlled land nearby, and none of the alternate sites would make this any easier. If it were all about finding a place to build an arena, after all, the piers are there for the taking — it’s the accompanying apartment building that is danger of running afoul of a June ballot. In the end, the Warriors don’t have a site problem, they have a money problem — and unless they figure out a way to make a San Francisco arena pay, this project is going nowhere.

Warriors, Giants reportedly discussing arena near AT&T Park

With the Golden State Warriors‘ planned $1 billion San Francisco waterfront arena continuing to go nowhere fast, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross report that the Warriors and San Francisco Giants are at least open to the idea of a Plan B:

Although the Giants’ Parking Lot A across McCovey Cove from the ballpark lacks the breathtaking dazzle of Piers 30-32, building a 17,000-seat arena there would still boost the Warriors’ overall value. It would also be a sufficiently central location for hosting the 150 events a year, in addition to basketball games, that would be needed to make the arena financially viable.

Taking the arena off Piers 30-32 – and out of what is fast becoming one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods – could also cut down on objections from nearby residents, plus ease concerns about traffic along the Embarcadero.

Those “objections from nearby residents” are important, because the Piers 30-32 plan — which includes an apartment tower on city land to help pay for the arena construction — is likely going to be subjected to a June ballot measure, and San Francisco voters have shown that they hate approving condo towers. So building an arena south of the Giants’ stadium has been kicking around for a while as an alternate solution, one that, as Matier and Ross say, “would get the job done in our lifetime and would still put them on the waterfront.”

That’s nice, but it also wouldn’t include the apartment tower that the Warriors insist is the only way to pay for this thing, leaving the team to pay for a $1 billion arena with just arena revenues, which seems a little dubious. The Parking Lot A site would require less shoring up than Piers 30-32, saving the Warriors owners potentially close to $200 million, and one unnamed “source who has worked on the project” told Matier and Ross, “It works just fine.” Still, without knowing more, it’s tough to say whether this is actually a workable plan or just a way to scare critics of the current plan into thinking that they’ll lose out entirely on the current site if they push for a ballot measure, maybe? Wait, that doesn’t make any sense — the critics want the arena plan moved off the current site. Maybe the new site does work just fine, then, though I’d still like to see some actual numbers, or at least actual people talking actually on the actual record, before passing judgment.

Warriors put off SF arena plans until they’re damn well good and ready, okay?

Are the owners of the Golden State Warriors trying to back away from their San Francisco arena plans or what? Last summer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that it would be almost impossible for an arena to get approved in time to be completed by 2017, and Warriors execs insisted there was still a chance. Ten days ago, Warriors owner Joe Lacob admitted that a 2017 date was “going to be a challenge.” Then yesterday, we got this:

The Golden State Warriors are putting their goal of opening a waterfront arena in San Francisco by 2017 on hold for a year – and maybe longer.

“It’s about getting it right, not about getting it done fast,” said Warriors President Rick Welts.

That’s almost the exact same wording that Lacob used last month (“It’s not just about getting it done. It’s about getting it done right.”), which, I’ve gotta say, is starting to sound like an attempt at spin. Arena opponents are expected to turn in petitions by today to hold a public vote in June that would require any arena plan to be approved by a public vote — which given the history of public votes in San Francisco, isn’t too likely to win approval. (An arena wouldn’t likely be approved, I mean, not that a vote to hold a vote wouldn’t win. In short: San Franciscans like voting down development projects.)

This could just be an attempt by the Warriors owners to regroup and figure out a new strategy, but we’ve seen plenty of other sports venue projects wither away like this. At the very least, this seems to mark a shift in the Warriors arena from “troubled” to “on hold”; and if you’ve ever been on hold, you know that there’s no way of telling how that will end.

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?