The D-League Santa Cruz Warriors held their first practice at Kaiser Permanente Arena in downtown Santa Cruz on Thursday. Their inaugural home game at the arena is sold out. They have a mascot – a sea turtle with a vaguely familiar ninja look. Blake Griffin’s less-talented brother, Taylor, is a starter at forward. And the Warriors lead their division despite not having played a home game yet. All of that has created a great sense of anticipation as the first game is played at KPA on Sunday.
The “tent arena” will hold just under 2,500 fans, smaller than any of the NCAA Division-I arenas in the Bay Area. Individual tickets are priced from $15 to $35, with more expensive courtside seats apparently already sold out for most games, if not the entire season.
While the debate over the fiscal soundness of the arena deal will continue in politically hyperactive Santa Cruz, the other big issues are how long the novelty of having a pro sports team in Santa Cruz will last, and what happens when that novelty fades. For now, there’s some real excitement about the Surf-Dubs. For that, congratulations to the team and Warriors ownership. They got it done quick and had real partners in the City of Santa Cruz and the Seaside Company. Without that partnership, there’s no way the arena gets built in 100 days. I’ll be out there in the New Year to catch a game or two.