“It’s a spectacular physical setting and is going to be a game-changer for the city,” said Rick Welts, president and chief operating officer of the Bay Area’s NBA franchise, the Golden State Warriors. Welts is referring to Chase Center, of course, the basketball team’s brand-new arena in San Francisco’s Mission Bay district. The venue, which was fully financed by the Warriors, is seven years in the making.
With eight kitchens, 23 bars, 136 suites and courtside lounges, 1,111 TVs, 18,064 seats and nearly 200 events per year, it is a game-changer. Chase Center and the new development that surrounds it, Thrive City, will forever alter the fabric of San Francisco.
“The 11-acre site offers a lot of amenities,” Welts said. “Thrive City includes two office buildings and a gatehouse, which is a beautiful architectural structure that will house all our pre-game activities. There is a sweeping set of stairs, which we consider to be our Spanish Steps and a giant video board. It’s SF’s only outdoor video board and the area surrounding it holds 2,000 people for watching any event — a movie night, Warriors game or the women’s national soccer team winning the World Cup.”
There are 3.2 acres of public space, a plaza and a park that directly overlooks the pristine bay, plus shops and restaurants. Tyler Florence and Michael Mina are two of the local star chefs who plan to open eateries in Thrive City.
Unique works of art, like a new piece by Danish-Icelandic sculptor Olafur Eliasson, are featured throughout. Seeing spheres, 2019 is Eliasson’s largest public work yet and consists of five 15.5-foot-tall polished hydroformed steel spheres that stand in a circle.
“Eliasson’s global reputation for innovation and creativity is now on full display in San Francisco,” Welts said. “Seeing spheres will be an instant must-see for Bay Area residents and a magnet for visitors from around the world. We think it will have the same reputation as The Bean in Chicago.”
Inside the arena, food and drink options are plentiful. Ticket holders can look forward to crispy fried chicken sandwiches from Oakland’s beloved Bakesale Betty, clam chowder and lobster rolls from Half Moon Bay’s Sam’s Chowder House and beer-braised chicken tacos from Bay Area favorite Tacolicious. Local breweries Drake’s, Faction and Harmonic are pulling beers, while Pernod Ricard spirits, Tanduay Rum and Moët Hennessy have branded bars.
In the courtside suites (the most luxurious seating options in the arena), you can select from a wine list curated by Nicole Lacob, wife of Warriors owner Joe Lacob. Nicole’s first job was at a winery; she worked for LVMH and handled accounts for Krug, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot; and she’s a longtime wine collector. “For the new arena, I worked on the suites, and I’m working on the wine program,” Lacob said. “We have four women working on it, and we call ourselves the four wine sirens. We’re planning all of these fun surprises. It has been incredibly exciting and fulfilling work.”
Welts, Lacob and the Warriors hope “to redefine the arena experience” from the ground up. Owning the entire development allows the team to oversee all aspects of the arena goer’s experience.
“In Oakland, the building was owned by city and county,” Welts explained of the team’s former home for much of the past 50 years. “When guests showed up, the person who helped them park their car, scan their ticket, pour their beer, none of those people worked for us. Here we are operating everything in the building, and that’s a big responsibility.”
By providing quality service and unique features, such as numerous commissioned works of art, Welts envisions Chase Center becoming one of the foremost arenas in the United States: “We believe that we can earn a reputation that we can be amongst the elite arenas in the world. When artists choose where they want to play, we want them to choose Chase.” To that point, the arena’s fall event calendar includes performances by Janet Jackson, Elton John, the Jonas Brothers, Phil Collins, Cher and Ariana Grande. Chase Center is being primed to become the Madison Square Garden of the West.
Chase Center is also ground zero for everything related to the six-time NBA champion Warriors, from the practice facility to the management staff offices. “It’s very unusual for a team to put its team, practice facility and the entire staff in the same building,” Welts explained. “It’s important for us to preserve that part of our culture where everyone shows up every day.” The team’s old office and practice facility in Oakland now house the Warriors charitable foundation and serve as a place where local kids learn basketball fundamentals.
But will East Bay fans be willing to come to San Francisco to watch Steph Curry and Klay Thompson play? According to Welts, 70 percent of former season ticket holders have already purchased seats for Chase Center. “We are very pleasantly surprised that many fans are coming with us,” Welts said, “but we also want new people to experience Warriors basketball.”