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Volume 20 No. 42
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San Fran arena would be tech whiz

The Golden State Warriors plan to develop the world’s smartest arena in San Francisco, and social media firms will play a key role in shaping the facility’s program needs, according to the team’s consultant.

The NBA team announced last week its intention to build a privately financed $500 million bayfront arena in San Francisco to replace Oracle Arena, its home in Oakland since 1971. The Warriors plan to open the facility in 2017.

The Golden State Warriors want to build a cutting-edge bayfront arena that would open in 2017.
The team’s vision to design a cutting-edge sports facility in the technology capital of North America includes tapping into some of the brightest minds in the Bay Area for input on how social media can drive the future of arena communications.

It’s all part of the recognition by team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, tech experts themselves, of the potential for building a sophisticated arena from the ground up in the heart of Silicon Valley, said Michael Hallmark, a principal with Future Cities and the Warriors’ arena consultant.

Hallmark has designed a dozen NBA and NHL facilities over the past 20 years, including Staples Center in Los Angeles, and he believes the combination of a tech-savvy market and a waterfront site could produce an arena that stands atop all big league venues.

“There are better opportunities to create a state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco because all the technology companies are here and the same is true for social networks; these people are world influencers,” Hallmark said.

“It’s getting harder for advertisers to put up a billboard and expect people to flock to their product,” he said. “Social networks, through their followers, drive trends. They set those standards, and we will find them to influence the design of a building that works for all generations.”

To seek input from tech firms as well as those working in sports and entertainment, the Warriors will conduct a series of workshops to create an arena program before hiring an architect, said Rick Welts, the team’s president and chief operating officer.

“Five and a half years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone,” Welts said. “We understand the challenge of looking more than five years into the future and predicting what it means.”

The Warriors are also meeting with concert promoters, concessionaires and other NBA teams to talk tickets and suites, and will hand that information to the arena architects as they embark on facility design, Welts said.

Sports architects typically are involved from the start of an arena project to plan every level of the building, but it is not unusual to develop those needs before bringing designers on board. That was the case several years ago for the $70 million facelift of US Airways Center in Phoenix.

Welts, president of the Suns at the time, hired Future Cities for initial concept design before several architects took the plan to completion, including architect of record DLR Group and some smaller boutique firms designing lounges and clubs.

The same process started three months ago when the Warriors hired Future Cities to form ideas for a new arena and evaluate several sites to build the facility. After the waterfront site was selected, Future Cities designed a higher-level concept and produced a few arena renderings.

Moving ahead, Hallmark anticipates serving in an advisory role to help the Warriors assemble a full team of architects and engineers to develop the arena, an outdoor plaza and a small nightclub.

The vision for the plaza is to develop a flexible space heavy with tech sponsors and large LED screens. At other arenas, most of those areas have been added on after the fact. In Dallas, for example, Future Cities’ Sean Duncan designed AT&T Plaza next to American Airlines Center.