Arena intends to be about more than games — it can be a spot to play or reflect
Hours before the Golden State Warriors took the floor against the Los Angeles Lakers for their first preseason game at the Chase Center on Oct. 5, the mood outside the arena had the air of a friendly civic gathering rather than a raucous pregame pep rally.
Warriors President and COO Rick Welts was mayoral-like as he walked the grounds of the team’s new $1.6 billion home on the water in Mission Bay, greeting arena employees and graciously accepting requests from fans and curious residents who wanted to have their picture taken with the pro basketball hall of famer who helped bring the Warriors back to San Francisco.
In keeping with that spirit, Warriors owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob wanted not only a basketball arena but a world-class concert hall and a public gathering space that embodied San Francisco’s aspirations, along with the Warriors’ past, present and future, Welts told Sports Business Journal.
The 18,064-seat arena is surrounded by Thrive City, an arts and entertainment district sponsored by health care provider Kaiser Permanente, that includes 3.2 acres of plazas and other open space for the public. The Warriors are also developing a 5.5-acre public waterfront park across from Chase Center.
As visitors approach the arena’s grounds from Terry A. Francois Boulevard, they are greeted by “Seeing Spheres,” a public art installation created by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The piece consists of five 15-foot polished steel balls arranged in a circle with mirrors facing each other. Art is a big part of the new building; the city of San Francisco required that 1% of Chase Center’s construction budget go toward public art.
In the arena’s main outside plaza, a structure encapsulates a TV studio used by the Warriors’ regional sports network partner. A series of stairs give fans a place to sit and take in the pregame scene or just contemplate and relax. Welts calls them the Warriors’ version of Rome’s Spanish Steps.
The plaza also includes the 10,000-square-foot Warriors team shop at Thrive City, which is operated by Fanatics, a walk of fame honoring Warriors greats and murals by local artists celebrating the team’s players and the club’s connections to Oakland and San Francisco.
Closer to the arena’s main entrance, a 68-by-38-foot video board hangs over the main entrance. In addition to highlighting sponsors and upcoming events, the Warriors plan to use the video board to broadcast select away games.
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When visitors enter the Chase Center, the scene is more akin to a theater or a modern art museum than a typical sports arena, where fans can usually expect to be bombarded by images of the home team’s players, video screens with advertisements and sponsored activation zones.
Instead, Warriors fans find an Alexander Calder-designed mobile suspended from the ceiling. The piece is one of many on loan to the Warriors from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that are placed throughout the arena’s halls, clubs and suites.
The only semblance of corporate advertisements or sponsorships on the first floor of the arena is a Mercedes-Benz automobile, a Budweiser sponsored premium seating area, and of course Chase’s branding.
“The charge from the Warriors, their intent from day one, was really to be best in class for the fan, to create a new standard, not just for their fans, but to elevate the arena experience,” said Jonathan Emmett, design principal with Gensler Sports, who led Chase Center’s interior design.
Manica Architecture was the lead design architect for the arena. Will Hon, a director at Manica and project lead for the venue, said the Warriors ownership group had a desire for a “very dynamic, modern and forward-looking building.”
“We mostly drew inspiration from high-tech sailboats that are often in the Bay, and from the digital backstory that is San Francisco,” Hon said.
Subtle features pay homage to San Francisco’s tech-based past and future.
“There are slots in the arena’s exterior skin that sort of harkens back to the punch cards, the very beginning of the digital era in Silicon Valley,” Hon said. “You can see the way the white sort of swoops around the building, sort of dynamic and always in motion, and that’s how the sailboats are when they’re carving through the bay.”
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The Warriors ownership also wanted to create a diversity of experiences that were not only focused on premium fans, Emmett said.
Chase Center offers a club for every seat in the arena. Floor seat holders have access to the JP Morgan Club; fans with courtside seats have access to the Chase Club; guests sitting in sideline seats on the west side of the arena have access to the Budweiser Club; fans sitting in sideline seats on the east side of the arena can access the United Airlines Club; and customers sitting in seats on the north side of the arena in the lower bowl have access to the Pepsi Club.
The Modelo-branded Cantina, a restaurant and bar situated at the top of the Chase Center, is accessible by fans sitting in any section.
Premium areas include opulent offerings that are uniquely San Francisco. One of the highlights of Chase Center’s premium seating options are 60 theater boxes, sponsored by Tanduay Rum, that offer fans a view of the Warriors from perched balconies along the sidelines. Behind the boxes are soft bench seats where fans can retreat to talk in a more intimate environment and access a shared all-inclusive premium hospitality area. The boxes, which are sold out, ranged from $350,000 to $525,000 per year.
The venue’s 32 courtside bunker suites, priced at $1.3 million to $2.25 million per season, provide guests with butler service and Northern California-inspired cuisine and bottles of wine. In tech-savvy San Francisco, each bunker suite has a video wall that takes a feed of game action from cameras placed near the guests’ courtside seats. The suites include 12 to 16 tickets to all regular-season and playoff Warriors games, concerts, other events and parking.
The arena’s 44 midlevel suites sold for about $1 million a year.
San Francisco’s Bon Appétit Management Company and Levy Restaurants developed the Chase Center’s food program. While Bon Appétit recruited local organic food purveyors, restaurants and vendors, and curated the offerings, Levy handled the back end of the arena’s food and beverage operations.
“All of our food vendors represent communities from all around the Bay Area, and have offerings at all kinds of price points,” said Mark Jeffers, Bon Appétit’s culinary director at the Chase Center. “But if you just want a hot dog and beer, you’re going to get one of the best in the country.”
Chase Center’s notable food vendors include: Bakesale Betty of Oakland, which is famous for its fried chicken sandwich; San Francisco’s Tacolicious; Hot Dog Bills; and Big Nate’s BBQ, which was owned by late Warriors great and basketball hall of famer Nate Thurmond.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for us knowing Bon Appétit’s presence in the San Francisco market and their relationship with the local farmers, and how they manage the dining for a significant number of Fortune 100 companies in the area,” said Scott Sweeney, West region vice president at Levy. “What we brought was the infrastructure, the expertise in sports and entertainment, analytics and supply chain capabilities.”