SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors are ready to announce what many have long suspected: The franchise wants to move back to San Francisco.
The NBA team, Commissioner David Stern and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee scheduled a news conference at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday to announce the decision to leave Oakland. The earliest the team could move would be 2017, when it can escape its lease at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors will unveil plans to build an arena at Piers 30-32. The waterfront site near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — one of the most beautiful views in one of the world’s most beautiful cities — is just blocks from the Giants’ ballpark and the downtown financial district.
The announcement comes as no surprise to Bay Area fans.
Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have been working to return the team to the City by the Bay since buying the Warriors for a league-record $450 million in 2010. The Warriors played in San Francisco from 1962 to 1971 after moving from Philadelphia.
Lee sent a letter to the owners this month saying the city would work with Warriors executives to bring the team to San Francisco in time for the 2017-18 season. The note, signed by all 11 city supervisors and numerous business and labor leaders, floated the possibility of building a waterfront arena. It was sent a few days after Lee met with new Guber in Los Angeles.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan responded last week by sending the team her own letter. Quan says Oakland is committed to keeping the Warriors in the East Bay.
That now seems like a lost cause.
Of course, building anything in San Francisco is never easy.
Overcoming the environmental concerns on the shoreline, the addition of a high-rise structure on the pier — not to mention the adjacent condominiums and businesses that could fight to keep their Bay Bridge views — and political wrangling in the politically charged city are among many obstacles for the project. The team was expected to release details of the financing plan at the news conference.
While the Warriors upgraded parts of Oracle Arena and remodeled its downtown Oakland offices and practice facility before last season, the owners have made no secret of their intentions.
All of Golden State’s important news conferences in the last two years — when Lacob and Guber bought the team, coach Mark Jackson’s hiring and executive board member Jerry West’s signing, to name a few — have been held in San Francisco.
The Warriors are counting on the 16-mile drive between the team’s Oakland arena and the waterfront site in San Francisco to make all the difference.
Team executives believe more corporate sponsorship and national notoriety will come in San Francisco and give the franchise the ability to land marquee free agents. Most teams that play at Golden State already stay and practice in San Francisco.
One thing that hasn’t been a problem are the fans.
Despite only one playoff appearance since 1994, the basketball-booming Bay Area has supported the Warriors surprisingly well. The team ranked 10th in attendance this past season, averaging 18,857.
The move is still sure to upset some in Oakland, the center of the area’s basketball roots. Many NBA players past and present — Bill Russell, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, among scores of others — were raised in Oakland. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders and baseball’s Oakland Athletics, which share a stadium next to Oracle Arena, are also looking for new facilities.