How the Warriors' New Home Cements San Francisco as an Entertainment Destination

BY PATI NAVALTA POBLETE | September 12, 2019 | Lifestyle

New arena brings Warriors back to San Francisco—and changes the face of entertainment in the Bay Area.

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Chase Center, the Warriors' new home

There is music to the way the Warriors play basketball. The harmony of movements as five individuals play as one on defense. The quick but steady rhythm as they drive toward the basket. The increased cadence of Draymond Green passing to Stephen Curry, who then dishes to Klay Thompson for a cymbal-punctuating swoosh of a three-pointer. Without missing a beat, their fans begin the chorus: "Waaarriorrs..."

This interplay of basketball, fan participation and musicality is one that the Warriors organization has honed and mastered. And in many ways, it is what created Chase Center—the new home of the Golden State Warriors and the first state-of-the-art concert venue in San Francisco. That, and seven years of planning; $1.4 billion; and a collective vision to create an entertainment, food, retail and overall gathering mecca both inside and around the arena that will change the face of Mission Bay— and the city as a whole.

Unlike at Oracle Arena, where they played a total of 47 seasons, the Warriors won’t just be in the business of basketball anymore. Nor will they be occupying someone else’s building. Every aspect of Chase Center has been envisioned, approved, financed and implemented by the Warriors. The public art, the choice of local food vendors, the design of Thrive City surrounding the facility. There’s Golden State Warriors blue and gold in the DNA of all of it—and they’re banking on a big win.

“It’s an adjustment organizationally,” says Warriors President Rick Welts. “To go from a basketball team that rents a building and doesn’t run it, to owner/operator of a sports and entertainment facility—if there’s a piece of paper on the plaza, it’s our fault, that’s the game-changer.”

Chase Center isn’t just a game-changer for the Warriors, it’s one for San Francisco as well. The home of musical icons such as Sly & the Family Stone, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana and so many more, has never had a large-scale concert venue before—and the fact that the owners of a basketball team are responsible for bringing it is perhaps just as surprising. But the Warriors have a proven track record when it comes to creating the ultimate fan experience. In that sense, creating a premier entertainment venue is simply a natural expansion of what they’ve already been doing for years: entertaining fans.

“I’d like to think we’ve learned something from the past nine years as an ownership and management group in respect to how we entertain our fans on court with our product, our basketball team,” says Warriors co-chairman and CEO Joe Lacob. “Basketball is a sport. It’s a contest. It’s a league. We’re playing to win. But we’re also an entertainment for our fans. We think we can do much of the same with a broader swath toward entertaining.”

The Fan Experience

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Chase Center was designed to create a more intimate fan experience, with fewer seats and a lower ceiling.

How can the Warriors improve upon what was already considered one of the NBA's best fan atmosphere at Oakland's Oracle Arena? It’s a question that appears to have been at the core of planning for Chase Center. Fans will get a chance to witness the upgrades themselves when the Warriors play the Lakers Oct. 5, but it won’t take long to see this is a whole new world. The stark difference is that the fan experience doesn’t begin or end at the facility, nor is it dictated by a game, concert or event. In short: Think beyond your assigned seat.

The Warriors teamed up with Kaiser Permanente to name the area surrounding Chase Center Thrive City—a name befitting the expansive site near the waterfront that includes 3.2 acres of open space, 100,000 square feet of retail space with 20-plus locations (a majority of which are locally based restaurants, bars and stores) and, of course, Chase Center itself. A total of 11 acres make up the arena and Thrive City. In the plaza leading up to Chase Center’s main entrance, there’s space for picnics and lounging under the shade of umbrellas. This will come in handy when viewing the 68-foot by 38-foot outdoor video screen, which can also be seen from the curved steps of The Gatehouse (an architecturally impressive structure that will house NBC Sports Bay Area). Occupying the two buildings that frame Chase Center will be Uber.

“The idea is you’re going to be able to come down to Chase Center, anytime of the day, any day of the year, and, whether or not there’s an event going on, Chase Center is a place you can enjoy just because of all the activity that’s going on there,” says Welts. “A lot of that activity is going to be in this main plaza.”

On the other side of the building facing the bay will be a city-owned 5.5- acre park, inspired by the inking of the Chase Center deal. “The Giants really started 20 years ago, to give them credit,” says Lacob. “And, now, we’re opening not just an arena, but a whole venue. It’s an entertainment district that includes everything inside the arena—our practice facilities and our offices—and also the plaza, restaurant locations and a park across the street. Ultimately, we hope there will be a hotel, and, of course, offices that occupy about 70,000 people on-site. So it will be a very exciting place when you’re around the arena.”

That’s outside.

Inside, the Warriors put just as much thought into the moment guests enter the arena to the minute they exit. Everything, according to Welts, Lacob and co-chairman Peter Guber, is focused on creating an unforgettable visit. One of the first things people do when they enter an event venue is look for the ticket windows—but don’t bother. You won’t find them here.

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Thrive City

“A lot of people buy tickets through a window with someone on a mic,” says Welts. “Ours is like a concierge desk, like at a hotel. It creates a more welcoming atmosphere. It’s a great arrival experience.

There will be a second theater entrance to improve the incoming flow during large events. This entrance also leads to a smaller theater with a more performingarts- hall vibe that seats 5,000 guests.

The main arena will seat 18,000 guests, down from the 19,595 at Oracle. That, too, is by design. “We made a conscious effort to go down with the number of patrons to create an optimal environment in the arena for basketball and for concerts,” says Welts. The result is a more intimate feel that brings each fan closer to the game or show. Another noticeable change is the new scoreboard, which is six times larger than Oracle’s.

“The first thing you’ll see is the scoreboard,” says Brandon Schneider, chief revenue officer for the Warriors. “We wanted to it to be large, but we also thought about the programming of it—it’s four different pieces. We wanted it to look put together, more rounded, almost like a sphere.”

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Club spaces open to ticket holders

The new scoreboard has the largest square footage of LED in the NBA and can feature numerous images or windows. In addition, four independent live images can play simultaneously, and live video can wrap around the top or bottom, or around half the perimeter of the scoreboard. Schneider says this was all inspired by other arenas the Warriors toured throughout the country. “We liked Sacramento, Cleveland, Houston and Indiana, the size and shapes,” says Schneider.

Another change to create a more intimate feeling: Those sitting in upper rows will no longer feel like they’ve been put on timeout. Each seat, says Schneider, is considered premium seating. “Whether you’re on the floor or the last row, we want to make sure you have an unbelievable experience,” he says. “Those at the upper level will all have a great view of the floor, game, concert, event, and will have different amenities.”

At Oracle, fans hankering for a hot dog would have to leave their seats, then rush back to avoid missing anything. At Chase Center, fans will be able to sit outside of their seats in a club space called Modelo Cantina, which is accessible to everyone with a ticket to the event.

Schneider started with the Warriors 17 years ago working in ticket sales, when seats weren’t exactly in high demand. It was during those NBA Finals-free years that the organization had to focus on fan retention by creating the best atmosphere they could. This fan loyalty reached a fever pitch when the 2007 “We Believe” team came along, but, to their credit, the Warriors remained committed to focusing on fans despite their success. It doesn’t matter that they’ve gone to the Finals five consecutive seasons. This is an organization that knows that fans are an integral part of their “Strength in Numbers” motto.

“Fan experience is ingrained in how we do things,” says Schneider. “Others may be successful on court and don’t invest in serving their constituents. We’ve taken a different approach.”

The Luxury

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Courtside suites allow two views of the game.

Each visitor will witness the changes to the overall atmosphere at Chase Center, but the luxury suite experience is a whole other level—three to be exact.

Traditional club suites take up one ring instead of two (a change from Oracle), bringing the upper bowl closer to the floor. Courtside lounges include 16 tickets and a secluded suite where the game can be viewed on a private video wall. Outside the suite are 12 seats just rows from the floor once the party is ready to go back out and be part of the action. Lastly, theater boxes include four seats in enclosed spaces. Outside the boxes are restaurants and hospitality that run the full width of the section with reserved dining tables for theater ticket holders. Club suites range from $1 million to $2.5 million and are sold out. At the time of publication, just a few courtside lounges and theater boxes remained available.

Asked to describe a typical night at Chase Center as a luxury suite attendee, Schneider paints a posh picture.

“First you would download your tickets on your smartphone,” he says. “You would park in the underground garage; then, without stepping outside the arena, you would walk to the premium entrance and take the elevator or stairs to whatever level.

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Theater boxes include four enclosed seats.

“If it was courtside lounge, you wouldn’t have to go up. You can go to the wine vault area; grab a glass; walk into your suite, where your butler will greet you and offer several treats. As guests arrive, your butler will bring you a warm assortment of hors d’oeuvres, salads, entrees, desserts at halftime.”

The concept of the nontraditional courtside suites were inspired by Madison Square Garden’s bunker suites that were created during its billiondollar renovation. At the time, they were forced to fit the suites wherever they could find space within the existing structure, but, with Chase, it was conceptualized from scratch. There are 32 total courtside suites, with 16 on each side of the arena.

“You don’t have a traditional view from the suite itself while the action’s going on,” says Welts. “You have a video wall in your suite, but then you come out and have the best seats in the house. You come out of one of these entrances here, and you have rows six, seven, eight and nine, arguably the best seats in the house. For concerts, they ARE the best seats in the house because the five rows in front of that don’t exist for concerts.”

The Concerts

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A-list performers will come to Chase Center

Those prime seats will likely sell out, as Chase Arena has already attracted an impressive lineup of performers for 2019. The new arena is bolstered by a bold vision for its position as a concert venue. From the start, Chase Center was envisioned in terms of the iconic as an entertainment destination.

“We want this arena to be a place where all artists feel they have to play to complete their career,” says Welts. Indeed, Elton John is slated to perform this month during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, billed as his final tour ever. “Our mission is different from others. We’re competing with Madison Square Garden, Staples, The O2 as a premier world-class facility.”

The early lineup of incoming artists is a confident affirmation of this lofty goal. The first show, Sept. 6, will be rung in appropriately by longtime San Francisco-legends Metallica, who will be accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony, before a diverse list of superstars from Janet Jackson to Ariana Grande fill out the upcoming performance slate.

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For many artists, Chase Center was an immediate draw simply for its position in the city. “The focal point was the fact that there had never been an arena of 12,000 seats or more in San Francisco,” says Eric Bresler, the executive director of Chase Center. “So, naturally, there was an opportunity to capitalize on entertainment because they may have not had the chance to play in San Francisco.”

When they arrive, he adds, acts will receive unparalleled treatment: the building houses an “artist compound,” chock-full of elite facilities, from sauna and weight room to a staffed kitchen solely dedicated for incoming tours.

For fans, the shows are meant to be a state-of-the-art experience— from Thrive City activations tailored to specific shows to the convenience of public transportation. “We’re that destination in the city where it’s a night out, it’s a day out,” Bresler says.

Inside, various structural novelties provide for technically and acoustically pristine shows. Unlike most arenas, for instance, Chase Center’s massive scoreboard is retractable and can be tucked away. After dedicating its inaugural year to big-budget acts, the arena’s second year will premiere a smaller theater experience; the arena will transform, complete with sound-insulating walls and acoustic panels, into a smaller venue for more intimate acts.

Bresler sees the arena, along with its surrounding district, as a space active nearly every night with shows and events—each one meant to be its own iconic night.

The Legacy

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The property on which Chase Center now stands was originally planned for the Salesforce Tower.

From the time Lacob and Guber formed a partnership, Chase Center was destined to happen. Lacob’s background is rooted in sports, finance and technology. Guber, currently chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, is deeply entrenched in the entertainment industry. Perhaps no other partnership could have pulled off what they have, despite several legal challenges along the way. Under theirs and Welts’ direction, it’s clear this isn’t just about bringing the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco. This is about creating a legacy.

The organization has taken an unorthodox approach, finding the beauty in integrating public art from local artists, the importance of choosing local food vendors, and the promise of creating an experience within and around the arena. Thrive City, in essence, is a microcosm of what many local residents hope will be the beginning of a thriving Mission Bay neighborhood.

“Having something new is always exciting,” says Lacob. “But something new that we’ve spent so much time designing, so much time thinking about, so much time exploring the world and looking at arenas to pull the best ideas for the design—I would hope that’s all come to fruition, and fans will be very excited.”

“We felt like Field of Dreams,” adds Guber. “Build it and they will come. That’s what we did.”

For Welts, the building that has taken up seven years of his life has made him nostalgic, recalling the first concert he attended (the original Beach Boys at the Seattle Center Coliseum). Ask anyone what their first concert was, he argues, and they will remember. Not just because of the music, but because of the overall experience—the food, their friends, the ambience.

That is what Chase Center is about: the details, large and small, that stick to the memory and tug at the heart. This is a big departure from Oracle—and most other event venues—where the goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible.

“That was their pitch, Joe’s and Peter’s, from the beginning,” says Welts. “Their fingerprints are in every corner; they were involved every week on design and construction; and their ideas are sprinkled throughout. It’s the most unique thing to be involved in sports and create a premier concert venue.

“This is something that San Francisco has dreamt about, and we figured out how to get it done.”

Last word with Rick Welts

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Oracle Arena? “History”

Oakland? “Hip”

Sept. 6, 2019? “Bittersweet”

“I’d really love to see ____ perform here at Chase Center.” “Beyoncé, because the mayor told me to say that.”

Best thing about your job? “People I work with”

Worst thing about your job? (Silence)

Golden State Warriors? “Proud”

The making of Chase Center? “Challenging”

“San Francisco, home of the Warriors.” “Nice ring to it”

Getting There

Bicycle
There are 300 permanent bike valet parking spaces available at the arena. The arena is adjacent to multiple bicycle paths, with additional bicycle share stations nearby.

Muni
Free Muni rides through San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Chase Center’s Transit Bundling program. Any Chase Center patron who shows his or her event ticket at Muni turnstiles and boarding platforms will be able to ride Muni without charge. Muni Metro T Line stop located in front of Chase Center and a Muni Bus 55 stop within one block. Both lines provide connections to BART and transfers to the Muni system. Muni Metro T Line provides access to ferry service at the Ferry Building and regional bus service at Salesforce Transit Center and the Temporary Transbay Terminal. Caltrain stations within walking distance.

Bus Shuttles
SFMTA will run Chase Center bus shuttles to and from the 16th Street BART station and along the Van Ness corridor for events. Increased Muni Metro train service for events that run along the Embarcadero and the Central Subway route once complete. Mission Bay TMA provides free shuttle bus service connections for employees to BART (Powell Street Station), Caltrain (Fourth & King Depot) and Mission Bay stops. There are stops located within a block of Chase Center. Mission Bay TMA also provides private ferry service from Berkeley Marina with a stop at Pier 1.5, terminating at Pier 52 in Mission Bay (two blocks from Chase Center). This ferry service is provided at a charge.

Parking
Three levels of parking located below Chase Center with 923 on-site parking stalls (with 29 car-charging spaces). Additional parking spaces located within a half-mile; however, public transportation is highly recommended. (All lots outside of Chase Center are not operated or controlled by the Warriors.)

Ridesharing
Drop-offs and pickups of ride-sharing are facilitated outside of the arena on Terry Francois Boulevard.

In the works
The UCSF/Chase Center Muni Metro platform is currently being expanded to accommodate large crowds and more trains.

By the numbers

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Each of the food concession stands in the new arena has a unique facade.

3.2
Acres of publicly accessible plazas and open space

8
Number of full kitchens

11
Number of acres that comprise Chase Center and Thrive City

20+
Restaurants and retailers planned for Thrive City

23
Number of bars

36
Number of food concession stands

68'x38'
Size of plaza video board

136
Number of premium spaces (traditional suites, courtside lounges and theater boxes)

Brandon Yu contributed to this report.



Photography by: COURTESY OF CHASE CENTER (RENDERING PHOTOS); GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (WELTS PHOTOS)