SAN FRANCISCO – With machines blocking the hallways, tape on the walls and organized chaos behind the scenes this week, it’s apparent that all previous events at Chase Center, the tours and concerts and the wrestling, were mere rehearsals for the wedding at 5 p.m. Saturday.
It’s a preseason game, but that’s when the Warriors, less than four months after breaking up with one city, will jog out of their locker room to marry another. Chase Center officially goes from vision to reality and becomes the official home of the Warriors.
The occasion will be, for many, a celebration for the completion of a project years in the making. San Francisco should be civically proud of its first full-size indoor showplace.
But let’s remember, this is a change of address for purposes of business. The owners of the franchise fantasized of a new home, spent years shopping, finally acquired it and now are committed to paying for it.
Though there was melancholy in watching the Warriors leave Oakland – shortly after reaching their collective peak, to intensify the burn – this is neither The Town’s loss nor The City’s win. The Warriors, after all, never once committed during their 48 years in the East Bay.
They never truly belonged to Oakland, and not one day passed without a reminder in the form of the “Golden State” moniker. They changed logos. They went through dozens of jersey combinations, none of which featured “Oakland” across the chest. The Warriors always were spiritually unsettled. They accepted Oakland as a convenient “home” largely because in the 1970s there was no better arena in Northern California.
That’s why this move should not raise the envy of anyone in Oakland. How many tears should be shed over losing something you never had?
The Warriors were born 73 years ago in Philadelphia, where they spent their first 16 seasons. They then moved to California, where for nine seasons they were the San Francisco Warriors, taking team photos on cable cars and playing most of their games at the Cow Palace in Daly City, a few steps south of San Francisco.
There is little evidence of animosity from San Franciscans when the Warriors moved to Oakland in 1971. They were leaving the Cow Palace, a musty 30-year-old warehouse that wheezed with the breeze and on a good night could almost fit 13,000 folks.
The Oakland Coliseum Arena was less than five years old. It had an exterior made mostly of glass, cut in the shape of diamonds. It had modern amenities, easy freeway access and expansive parking. It also held 2,500 more seats than the Cow Palace.
The move was ... a change of address for the purposes of business.
The Warriors didn’t come to Oakland because it was seduced by its blue-collar ethos. They came for a better sports arena. They stayed through renovation and name changes – Oracle Arena being the latest – because it was the superior sports arena in the central Bay Area.
And that will be true until Saturday, when Stephen Curry and Draymond Green lead the Warriors in their preseason opener against the Lakers, who presumably will unveil their latest superstar duo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The real star will be Chase Center, which by then should be dusted, polished and fully operational, cables tucked out of view, ladders put away and not a hard hat in the house.
Warriors CEO Joe Lacob likes to say the arena is built for basketball. It’s fabulous, almost ornate. Its exterior has, like Oracle, plenty of glass, giving it an airy feel. Its concourses are wide, its sightlines clean. It has 21st-century amenities, with enough private rooms to find a different one for each game until 2044.
Its vehicle access is diabolical and its parking severely limited, but, hey, some elements should capture the charm of San Francisco.
Now, some East Bay folks are vowing not to cross the bridge, saying they’ll root for the Warriors from the comfort of living rooms and nearby bars. Much of this is based on the cost of attending, which for many is prohibitive. Part of it is the teeth-clenching treachery of the trip. And part of it is that they feel abandoned.
They shouldn’t. Bitterness over the team’s departure from Oakland shouldn’t be a factor. Unlike the Raiders, who were born and bred in Oakland, the Warriors always rented space. They just did so for so long, sprinkling enough good deeds, that some considered it a marriage.
It was good while it lasted, but the Warriors never said, “I do.” They saved that for Saturday.