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 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.”

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.