Warriors to San Francisco?
I came to The Chronicle in 1963, a year after the Warriors arrived, and they were desperate for a place to play. They played some games at the cavernous Cow Palace, some at the Civic Auditorium, which was never designed to be a sports arena, some at USF, which had a limited capacity. One time, they even played at the musty old Oakland Auditorium on Lake Merritt. I know because I covered that game.
It wasn’t until an arena was built next door to the football stadium in Oakland in 1969 that the Warriors had a decent place to play. That arena has been replaced and updated a couple of times since.
My wife and I married in 1967 and lived two years in a tiny apartment before moving to Oakland in 1969 for the same reason young people are moving there now: We couldn’t afford to buy a home in San Francisco that wasn’t in the fog belt. We found a home in the upper Rockridge area and have lived there ever since, with the exception of the period when we had to rebuild after being burned out in the 1991 fire.
Even though I was living in Oakland, in 1975 I supported a plan to build an arena in San Francisco on the site that is now the Moscone center. I felt San Francisco badly needed an arena that could be used not just for basketball games but also for entertainment. But then mayor George Moscone, instead of putting that on the ballot, had a three-man committee make the decision. It was voted down. There was no backlash from San Franciscans, which would make it seem that not many cared.
This, I remind you, was the year the Warriors won their only NBA championship.
In my experience, San Francisco has not been a great sports town. There was early excitement about the Giants when they moved out from New York but by the mid-‘70s, their attendance had dropped so much that they were very nearly sold and moved to Canada. They were almost moved again after the 1992 season.
As promotions director for the 49ers, Dick Berg invented the nickname “The Faithful”, trying to introduce an element that had been totally lacking. When the 49ers were in the 1984 Super Bowl at Stanford, it was learned that there were almost no San Franciscans among the season ticket holders; virtually the only San Francisco addresses were of businesses, owned and run by Peninsula residents. The ones moaning the 49ers move to Santa Clara are the ones who took the bus out from downtown and sat in the cheap seats. They wouldn’t have been able to buy even the cheapest seats in the new stadium.
So, don’t waste time trying to confuse me that San Francisco is a sports mecca. The Giants put together a cornucopia of attractions to get people into AT&T Park and three World Series titles in five years doesn’t hurt.
But the Warriors? Putting an arena in San Francisco would be a real disservice to area basketball fans. The current location is perfect, reachable by either BART or car for most of the Bay Area. I have a San Francisco reader who says it’s easier for him to get to Warriors games on BART than to drive to AT&T Park.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob wants a San Francisco arena because he wants to be in what passes as society in San Francisco. But the arena will be on the next ballot in San Francisco and it’s easy to predict that it will fail.
So, let’s stop pretending that San Francisco is a red-hot sports town. It’s more like cool to the touch.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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