Tuesday, standing on a dilapidated slab of pier — decorated by blue carpet, fancy tables and a picturesque backdrop — the Warriors promised to build the NBA’s version of the Sydney Opera House in five years.
For one, NBA Commissioner David Stern believes him.
Stern said he is confident co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will successfully pull off the ever-so-daunting task of a new arena on Piers 30/32. With San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on board, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom offering his aid, Stern called it “a coming together of the stars” that will lead to the erection of the Warriors’ new arena on the San Francisco waterfront in 2017.
Maybe Stern was caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the day. Maybe he was feeling especially Pollyannaish, overwhelmed by the gorgeous views and relaxing weather Tuesday on the Pier.
Or, maybe, if you believe Stern, this vision for a world-class, space-age arena Warriors ownership has planned is their best chance at actually fulfilling a promise. Here is the Stern transcript. (NOTE: Paintings of waterfront arena at end of transcript)
Have you seen specifics on this and do you know they can get this done?
I wouldn’t profess to be all knowing. But I have gauged situations like this in other cities— where the nets are now building in Brooklyn, where Orlando just completed a new facility in Orlando, where the Garden is undergoing a billion-dollar renovation. I’ve seen every city in the NBA from 1987 until now deliver a new building and I think that San Francisco is going to want to join that group.
Why San Francisco and not Oakland?
That’s their call. This is the Golden State Warriors. There are huge numbers of fans in the Bay Area. They consider themselves a Bay Area team and they did the venue selection. So I don’t want to get exactly into that. But clearly half of their fans are from the East and half from the West Bay. This seems to be a very good site with an enormous amount of public transportation that is accessible.
This was a group that took awhile to even put together the money to finalize this deal, even after the purchase. Are you convinced the money is there?
You have that absolutely backwards. No, no, no. You’re completely wrong. They allowed additional investors to come in, but they were prepared to go forward in any event.
So you’re saying they absolutely have the money to do it?
Absolutely they have the money to do it. I know they have the banking relationships and the business relationships. That’s going to be the easiest part of the deal.
Can the bay area support two teams?
Oh, I just don’t know. That’s an analysis that would be for experts and ultimately the (NBA) Board of Governors to conclude in any situation where there are two teams in any city.
Is there a territorial rights issue in the NBA?
In your mind is San Jose a viable option for any other team?
I don’t know the answer to that. That would be a subject of study and vote by the Board of Governors.
Do you believe the building of this arena would in anyway prevent another team from coming to the Bay Area?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question. We have great arenas and great cities. To the extent that you have an arena, it’s good for the community. To the extent that there’s another arena that’s potentially there, that’s a separate business decision that has to be evaluated.
When Joe bought the team, did he ask you whether he would be assured to be the only team in the Bay and did you give him an answer?
The only answer I give to everybody, including you, is that there is a provision in our constitution and bylaws which provides that any team can move and it requires a majority vote from the vote of governors. That’s it.
There weren’t a lot of specifics offered up there on that stage. A lot of promises, a lot of hope, a lot of vision. …
Give it time. I’ve seen some of the watercolor sketches. I know there will be plans that will be distributed, ultimately, and there is going to be a serious architectural rendering and a critical path. There is no doubt about it. But it has to start some place. There seems to be — to me at least — a kind of enthusiasm, a kind of business savvy that combines itself with Peter and Joe that they’re the group that can get it done.
Is the NBA healthier if they’re in San Francisco as opposed to Oakland?
No. The NBA is healthier if they’re in a new building that catapults them into a new era. I would not pick one community over the other. Where a building is cited is usually an ownership decision. But a new building in this day and age is an important step to the future, especially as it’s outlined. And it’s an important step for community as well.
Did they consult you, the NBA, on exactly where to put this?
This is their call completely. The ultimate questions is, for us, to ultimately become involved in permitting them to move to a new building. But I wouldn’t anticipate anything but applause from the other owners for this building site.
What would you say to Warriors fans in Oakland who have supported the team for so many years?
I would say they are going to have another venue in which to express their support which I hope is as easy for them to get to as the oracle arena is for San Franciscofans to get to.
Do you buy anything into the feel of the fan base and does it matter if that changes?
I think that every building delivers its own experience and I think there are needs to modernize buildings on a continuous basis, and that’s’ what the NBA is doing. Since I’ve been commissioner, we’ve had teams in effect turn over twice in their building alterations. This is the second Madison Square Garden rebuilding. Orlando had a new building, now it has another new building. Miami had a new building, now it has another new building. Charlotte had a new building, now it has another new building. This is continually evolving and it’s less about the feel of the community. It’s more about being sure the community is well-served being in the most recent state-of-the-art facility.
You put Joe on competition committee. What are your thoughts on him?
On that competition committee, we need people who bring not simply a basketball sensibility but a business sensibility as well. This is a new kind of journey for us on the competition committee. We want a broad array. Certainly, Joe Lacob is a dedicated basketball fan and very knowledgeable about our sport, but is also a super business man. That’s the kind of perspective we were seeking to add to that committee.
Joe jokes that you always called him a tire kicker.
That’s not a joke. That’s an accusation I used to hurl.
Would you say Larry Ellison right now is a tire-kicker?
Noooo. I think Larry Ellison’s a terrific potential owner and someone who I’ve spoken to many times over the years about his involvement in the NBA.
But he was in on the Hornets. He talked to (Memphis). He tried to buy this team. It seems like he’s making more overtures than Joe.
I would not call Larry Ellison a tire kicker. I think he’s a very, very savvy businessman and a huge NBA fan and a I love the combination.
Why did you want to come here today?
No.1, I’m the commissioner and this is an important announcement. And I wanted to show our support for this undertaking by Peter and by Joe and by Rick Welts — who I had the pleasure of working with as a colleague for, he would say, too many years.
Without specifics, it’s hard to say this thing is guaranteed to be done. Would it be an embarrassment at all to the league if this thing doesn’t come through?
I’m not going to start speculating about failure. I think I want to focus on the success that we’re all hoping for. The best you can do is the best you can do. As long as you do that, I think the rest will take care of itself.
How much have you looked at the San Francisco Giants project, which seems to be further along?
This is a great spot. I have no reason to look into any other spots. There’s a commitment here for the land. I know there are always a series of approvals. I’m aware that San Francisco has a very enlightened and engaged citizenry. But I think the benefits that will come from this project for all of the Bay Area will ultimately carry the day.
Will the NBA be involved in the process to ensure this goes off?
That’s the team’s obligation to carry that process through. But we will be, obviously, as supportive as we possibly can in helping them in their pursuit of the building of this great building.
Did the league back Lacob/Guber with a loan on the Warriors’ purchase?
No. Well, we have a league-wide credit facility which each of the teams can plug into. If I can recall, each team is allowed to carry debt of between $125 and $140 million. I haven’t looked at the records yet but most teams take advantage of that and I assume Golden State has done the same thing. That’s not a league backing. That’s a credit facility that’s made available to all teams. It’s between $2 and $3 billion and teams plug into that routinely.
Will they be eligible for more to try to develop this arena?
No. They would be dealing with their private banks on that. And I’m sure that will be among the subjects that will be discussed and revealed. I know there are important financial institutions that are very interested in supporting this building
Joe got booed pretty lustily during Chris Mullin’s retirement ceremony. Did that bother you to see one of your owners get booed like that?
You’re asking the wrong person because when I don’t get booed, it surprises me. So to me, booing is just a part of being an executive in sports. That’s why I go in and out very fast. I try to name the player as fast as possible so the boos will turn to applause.
Are you confident enough in this project to name the 2017 NBA All-Star game in San Francisco right now?
No sir. We have a rule that saves us. We don’t discuss All-Star until the shovels are in the ground and something begins to rise. That’s the rule.