The Golden State Warriors are moving from a city known for its violence and recently underachieving sports teams, to a city of historically successful sports franchises and the heart of the tech world.
The Golden State Warriors made the official announcement in late May that ownership had struck a deal with the city of San Francisco to build a privately funded arena on the waterfront of piers 30-32 at the base of the Bay Bridge. The move will have a tremendous impact on a struggling franchise.
With the futility of the Golden State Warriors over the last 20+ seasons, a change of scenery was not only necessary, but will be instrumental in relinquishing their reputation as a broken and undesirable franchise. To fully understand how much the Bay Area loves their sports and specifically basketball, the Warriors ranked 10th in the league in attendance this past season with only one other non-playoff team finishing ahead of them. This means that out of the 16 playoff teams this season, only half of them had better attendance than the Warriors. That’s pretty impressive for a team that has been absolutely awful for over two decades.
Lets face it, star caliber free agents generally tend to go to a place where they can win. However, there are other contributing factors that help star players decide on a destination besides winning and money. These factors include location, teammates, coaches and the style of play, to name a few. For instance, Carmelo Anthony forced his way to New York not because he had a better chance to win (the Knicks traded all their good players to get him), but because it’s where he grew up and it was always his dream to play for the Knicks.
Many argue that it’s not Oakland that has limited the Warrior’s ability to land star free agents, but the team’s lack of competitiveness that prevents them from being big time players in the free agent market. I would argue that it’s a combination of the two. Oakland’s reputation for violence deters players, however, no one wants to play for a loser either.
The Warriors move will undoubtedly help a franchise that’s seemed to be in limbo for more than 20 years (with the exception of the “We Believe run” in 2007 against the Mavericks). With only one playoff appearance and two winning seasons over the past 22 years, it’s about time things were shaken up. While many people abhorred the trade that sent Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, Kwame Brown, and a second round pick to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut and Steven Jackson (immediately traded away), it was a move that needed to be made. Changes were in order. Much like a change of scenery is in order for the franchise to start fresh. That’s what owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are looking for: a fresh start! Curry and Ellis were never going to coexist in the same backcourt because of their similar strengths and defensive deficiencies. While they didn’t get top value (or even fair value) in return for Ellis, it needed to be done in order for the franchise to move forward. For the Golden State Warriors, it’s all about starting fresh and removing the label as a franchise run by incompetent millionaires. What better way to start over than by making trades and building a brand new state of the art facility in a much better, more accessible location. Fans will now have the ability to take BART (local train) and the ferry from any part of the Bay directly to the stadium’s front door which would never be possible at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Accessibility is a key component in filling up the seats.
The overall impact of the move remains to be seen. However, a brand new state of the art facility (according to many, it will be the nicest arena in all of basketball if not all of sports) will definitely add attraction to impending free agents. A new, picturesque location along the waterfront (less than a mile from AT&T park where the Giants play) and a brand new facility can help turn fortunes around for an organization that has dealt with underachieving teams and heartache for what seems like eternity.
Ticket prices will undoubtedly skyrocket with the move as will concessions and parking. However, ticket sales shouldn’t be affected as the move signifies that a different type of fan will start attending. Out with some of the rowdy Oracle Arena regulars and in with the khakis and polos crowd. With the move, the Warriors will become a franchise (much like the San Francisco Giants or New York Yankees) with a majority of season ticket holders as corporate clients. Bringing in the Silicon Valley crowd will make up for the loss of many East Bay fans who won’t be able to afford the new and heftier prices.
With the move from Oakland to San Francisco, the franchise is placing themselves in the hub of the tech world. Tech companies and venture capitalists will account for most of their corporate ticket sales. Most people who work in Silicon Valley either live in the South Bay or in San Francisco, not in Oakland. From a technological advancement standpoint, the move is the best thing that can happen to the Warriors. The San Francisco Giants are the pioneers in the sports technology world with their stadium having full and free wifi available to their fans since AT&T Park opened in 2000. They have more than 12,000 fans interactively using their wifi service, which is by far the most in all of sports.
The Warriors have obviously taken notice of the wins by the Giants, both on the field and off. The move will allow the Warriors to work closer with tech companies from Silicon Valley as well as engage fans in a more innovative way. Technology in sports is growing rapidly and each day becomes more of an integral component in building a successful modern sports organization. Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have taken notice and are doing everything they can to bring social media into the fold. When the new arena opens in 2017, it will be fully equipped with free wifi. The Warriors have already created their own iPhone app, and are working with companies to give their fans the ability to order food from their seats using their iPhone.
A basic human aspiration is to feel connected, and there’s no better way to connect people with a common interest than at a sporting event. There’s no denying that having a tech-forward arena and organization goes a long way into the enhancement of the fan experience.
There’s no doubt that the move will allow for technological advancements within the organization and give fans a more engaging and innovative experience, but the impact of the move truly depends on how the Warriors play over the next five years leading up to the change of address.
As long as the Warriors are competitive over the next five seasons, there is no question the change of address will have a positive impact, both from an on-court and off-court perspective. However, if they continue to play the same type of basketball that we’ve seen out of them in recent decades aside from the 2006-07 season, the move may not have the desired effect on the court. With the move to San Francisco, there’s no question there’s going to be a large impact economically and technologically, but the improvement on the court has yet to be seen. So, as the Warriors prepare to cross the Bay Bridge, the question for the future is will a fancy new home on the waterfront lead to a new identity or are the Warriors just Oakland vigilantes hiding out in San Francisco?