The San Francisco Warriors? Again?
Kind of has a familiar-yet-odd ring to it, don’t you think?
In fact, for nine seasons starting in 1962, the Warriors franchise actually did reside in San Francisco, before crossing the Bay Bridge to Oakland in 1972 to become the Golden State Warriors.
Much has happened for the Dubs since their move to the East Bay. In 1975, they won their first and only NBA championship. Several NBA legends have tightened their high tops for the Warriors in Oakland, including Hall of Famers Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond and Chris Mullin.
The organization has experienced lengthy stretches of losing seasons, but through it all, Bay Area aficionados have become one of the most passionate NBA fan bases in the country.
All this in the also-ran industrial town that is Oakland, California.
Now, after over 40 years of marriage to Oakland, the Warriors ballclub is looking back to its former lover, San Francisco. CSNBayArea.com confirms that Warriors management is looking at San Francisco as a possible new place of residence for the team.
With the Dubs’ current lease at Oracle Arena in Oakland set to expire in 2017, team ownership has made it clear that they are interested in exploring their options for where to build a new abode. San Francisco’s waterfront is certainly an attractive idea, right?
Not so fast.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Warriors have declined an offer to build an arena adjacent to AT&T Park, the stadium where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. Having the Warriors and Giants playing alongside one another would ultimately create a multi-sport megaplex that is becoming of a metropolis such as San Francisco.
With so many Warriors fans based in San Francisco, it seems like the perfect opportunity to rebuild the Warriors brand, and the most ideal location to re-market the organization.
With the economic downturn hitting Oakland hard, and the political grief that permeates the municipality, the idea of a professional sports franchise in Oakland has become a nightmare. No longer can the blue-collar community be able or expected to afford housing sports teams—especially losing ones.
The Warriors, for their part, simply want to become a bona-fide, high-profile franchise—no matter where they end up playing. Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber bought the team less than two years ago with one goal in mind: winning championships.
But with that winning mindset comes an improvement of brand management. And that’s where the tease of moving to San Francisco comes into play.
And yet, as tantalizing and enticing as that idea is, San Francisco is not the best option for the Warriors.
The City has always been a Giants and 49ers community, with rabid, raving fan bases following both baseball and football with life-and-death allegiance. Though many of those fans still adore professional basketball—and the Dubs—the Warriors would ultimately be dwarfed by other sports. Even with the Niners moving to the South Bay in the near future, basketball will still be a secondary option, a secondary love.
Meanwhile, it appears more than likely that the Athletics and potentially the Raiders will be moving on from their East Bay residence in the Oakland Coliseum. If that were to come to fruition, the Warriors would be the last team standing, gaining sole control of the sports attention in Oakland. At first, that might sound a bit unattractive, maybe even a bit daunting. But if anything, this might be the best opportunity for the Warriors—to be the main attraction in a small town.
The NBA is certainly capable of succeeding as the only professional league of the major four in North America (NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL) in certain metropolises. Sacramento, Portland, Utah, Memphis, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are other examples. Each of those cities has a fervid fan base that is supremely passionate about their basketball teams.
There is no doubt that Oakland could match that dedication and enthusiasm for the Warriors, as basketball is indeed a very popular sport among its residents.
So the question is, why not keep the Warriors in Oakland, when it is clear that there is the potential to build a competitive brand without the competition of other sports franchises?
With the imminent departure of the Athletics, and the increasing desire of the Raiders to (at the very least) move out of the Oakland Coliseum, the complex could eventually be overhauled to house a new arena for the Warriors. Why not forecast the possibility of building an entirely new venue for basketball only?
Though San Francisco is clearly a sexier option, one has to consider whether it’s worth all of the effort to pursue. The more attractive alternative always requires more work, more money and more attention. The costs of living in San Francisco alone make it a more difficult hurdle to afford.
After watching the failure of all the bureaucratic efforts to keep the Niners—a team already in San Francisco—how much easier would it be to move an entirely new team into a completely new stadium?
To deprive Oakland fans of an NBA team that they have so zealously followed and rooted for through the good times and (more often) the bad would be devastating, even if it’s across the San Francisco Bay.
Especially to the city across the bay.
Keeping the Warriors in Oakland would be a better public relations move, would be cheaper and it would more effectively build the Warriors brand. Only time will tell whether they will stay or move.
But a trip back in time to San Francisco may be the team’s future.
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