Golden State Warriors

Warriors fans in Oakland have it better than Kings fans in Sacramento

There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Warriors ownership group. The dubious hiring of Mark Jackson, a man with no previous coaching experience. The failure to supply the team with talent. The partial ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For fans who see nothing wrong with Oracle Arena or the city of Oakland, the proposed waterfront arena in San Francisco. All are certainly valid.

But there is one reason to love them: They are committed to the Bay Area.

Of course, they have no reason not to be. San Francisco is a veritable gold mine. As sports economist Andrew Zimbalist told the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco is so lucrative that the ownership group stands to increase the value of the franchise by “tens of millions of dollars.” For a group that spent a record $450 million on a mediocre franchise, this is significant.

But no matter the profitability, it is still nearly impossible to build a sports facility in the city. This is why the Giants almost moved to St. Petersburg, why the 49ers are relocating to Santa Clara. Between the cost of housing and the income lost trying to find cheaper housing, residents simply cannot (perhaps, will not) fund construction of a new stadium. And so, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber don’t plan to ask, for now anyway.

That they are committed to building a privately funded stadium is refreshing, especially given the tumult being rendered some 80 miles to the northeast.

Sacramento is desperate to keep the Kings, but the Maloof brothers seem equally desperate to leave. Not only did the city of Sacramento agree to contribute $255 million toward construction cost, but the city also guaranteed an additional $70 million in funds through AEG, a sports and entertainment company that helped finance the Staples Center and American Airlines Arena.  The Maloofs were liable for only $73 million (less than the amount needed to relocate to Anaheim). But this, according to the Maloofs, was too great a risk.

The situation has gone from bad to worse in Sacramento. It is almost a foregone conclusion that either the Maloofs will be forced to sell the team, or they will move the team to another market (Seattle looms large).

Sure, a San Francisco arena still has plenty of bridges to cross, the environmental impact report chief among them. But the construction of AT&T Park has already provided a path.

If that path proves anything, it is that privately funded stadiums in San Francisco are possible. Peter Magowan and Larry Baer produced private funding by securing 29,500 season ticket holders, including 15,000 charter seat members (this tripled the previous record for a MLB team). The record charter seat sales plus naming rights, sponsorship rights, concession rights, and pouring rights brought in $100 million toward construction, nearly half the requisite amount.

There is more to be made. And Lacob and Guber know it. And the fans stand to benefit from it. So whatever the reasons for their commitment, fans should temper their aversion for Lacob and Guber, if only slightly. It could be worse, after all, especially if the Joe that owns the team is of the Maloof variety.

For a good breakdown of the Kings’ situation, watch this documentary: Small Market, Big Heart
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