Chase Center non-preview

Arenas are utilitarian. There aren’t huge tomes written about the history of arenas as there are for ballparks or football stadia. Arenas are designed to efficiently house a crowd of 15-20,000 for roughly 2.5 hours, the length of a basketball or hockey game or the headliner portion of a concert. Then you’re just as efficiently whisked out of the shiny building and sent on your way. That’s why Chase Center, like most modern arenas, provides no public tours. The Warriors admit this quite plainly in their Visitor Info page:

Tours

Does Chase Center offer building tours?

Because of the number of events that Chase Center hosts each year, there are no public fan tours offered at this time.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Staples Center and SAP Center do this. It’s hard to know what areas are okay for touring when whole sections are closed off for maintenance or prep. Arenas are the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife or a utility man in baseball. Only on rare occasions do arenas get the kind of poetic treatment often given to ballparks, and that’s usually when they live long enough to earn it. Most of the time, arenas are remembered for two things: the number of banners hanging in the rafters, and the memorable concerts that played there in the past. The Oakland Arena checks both boxes, thanks to the Warriors’ championships in four NBA seasons, and the venue’s place as a Bill Graham’s large indoor venue of choice in the 70’s and 80’s.

Main entrance to Chase Center. Photo: Gregory Varnum (via Wikipedia)

Is that much different from American Airlines Arena, which opened in 1999?

Photo: John O’Neill (via Wikipedia)

Or what about Staples, which also opened in 1999?

Photo: Prayitno (via Wikipedia)

Golden 1 Center in Sacramento has a series of garage doors that open up to a plaza, so that’s an innovation of sorts. Nevertheless, there’s a recipe here:

  1. large glass-walled cathedral-style entrance
  2. prominent signage
  3. metal exterior surfaces
  4. slightly different roof and wall angles to hide the fact that the edifice is a large toilet bowl oval

Don’t get me wrong. I love arenas nearly as much as I love ballparks. Before the Oakland Coliseum Arena was closed and gutted, I once received a media pass and came to a Dubs game early to full explore the building before opening tip. I hiked to the top of the upper bowl and gazed out at the Nimitz Freeway through the west windows, experiencing some slight vertigo along the way. I understand, however, that I’m a rare bird. Given the lack of books about arenas, it stands to reason that not many would wax romantic about the subject. The Coliseum Arena’s gracefully undulating arc of the upper bowl was replaced by the blocky new bowl that killed the views while adding 5,000 seats. It helped the team compete, and not many people missed the views the way A’s fans still bemoan the loss of Leona Quarry because of Mt. Davis. Basketball and hockey are fixed stage sports with set dimensions. Baseball is more pastoral and lends itself to a wandering eye because of its pacing and rhythms, as well as the sport’s lack of standardized outfield dimensions.

In Inglewood, Steve Ballmer unveiled renderings of a new home for the Clippers, just blocks south of both The Forum and the new football stadium at Hollywood Park. I applaud the attempt to minimize height and make the whole thing more human-scaled, though I suspect that, like the football stadium next door, it will resemble a translucent hill. Now take in the presence of a new basketball-specific arena for the Clippers, the old Forum converted to a premier concert venue up the road, and an enormous football dome between them. Add to that the two MLB parks, two MLS stadia, the LA Memorial Coliseum, Rose Bowl, and other smaller venues in the region, and it’s easy to see how LA won the 2028 Summer Olympics. A new light rail extension is being built nearby, including a downtown Inglewood station a mile or so north of the three venues. From there a people mover-style tram will run from the new station to all three of the venues. That is, if funding can be found for it. If not, there will probably be shuttle buses. Or people can always walk.

From: City of Inglewood

Chase Center is getting an expanded light rail station, similar to how VTA did the same for the Great America light rail station before Levi’s Stadium opened. Rides on the Muni are included with each event ticket, which is sort of a necessity when little parking was built for the arena. The events scheduled for the first few weeks act as a dry run for everything from transit to the arena’s air conditioning and concessions. Warriors and A’s fans familiar with the dread dual-event scenario already ran into that once this month thanks to the proximity of Oracle Park.

Is Chase Center better than the Oakland Arena? In many ways, yes. It has 1,500 fewer seats and a better distribution of suites. The roof is lower to approximate the noise level of the old home. That’s a tall task, largely because like Levi’s Stadium, much of the crowd will be in the clubs or in bunker suites throughout every concert or game, places where their noise will be muffled. Plus the optics of empty-but-paid-for seats, like those in Santa Clara, loom large. Will the Dubs hire seat fillers like an awards show?

It’s tragicomic how Oakland Arena evolved from a ho-hum arena and nice piece of modern architecture to a ho-hum renovation that housed one of the fiercest home crowds in sports. Next year, it will be home to six home games for the Oakland Panthers, the new Indoor Football League franchise co-owned by Roy Choi and Marshawn Lynch. Like most arenas, it will become obsolete and steadily decay, while the Warriors compete for more banners across the bay. I sincerely hope that the Panthers and the IFL can stick it out for the long haul. Arena football doesn’t have a reputation as one of the more stable sports out there.

Meanwhile, Seattle, which lost its basketball team a decade ago, failed to get a replacement NBA team due in part to a lack of a new arena. Instead, the old Seattle Center Coliseum/KeyArena is being renovated a second time in order to host an expansion NHL team in 2021. Funny how life works.

News for the week: Tommy Boy Edition (1/16/16)

While Mark Davis drowns his sorrows with some beer and wings, pondering his next move, we should consider what else has been happening this week. After all, unless either the Chargers decide to stay in San Diego, Davis is more-or-less stuck in Oakland. He could conceivably apply to move to a vacated San Diego or San Antonio, but that require going through this rigmarole again with a much smaller payoff. So we’ll let whole football thing settle down for a few weeks. If you want to understand what Oakland is getting ready to offer the Raiders, read my post from November.

Matier and Ross reported earlier this week that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is pushing Howard Terminal hard for a new ballpark, which is no secret. Included was this nugget:

The city would probably also have to come up with at least $90 million in infrastructure improvements, including funding for a car and foot bridge connecting Howard Terminal to Market Street east of the railroad tracks.

That $90 million figure is no accident. Schaaf is offering the Raiders the same amount for infrastructure at the Coliseum. She’s trying not to play favorites with either team. Of course, there is the danger of spiraling costs, and Oakland is putting itself in the position to carry the debt burden all by itself, since it’s nearing a deal to buy out Alameda County. As costs rise, the question will linger over how much Schaaf is willing to support before the projects become untenable. At least her staff has acknowledged the need for an overpass at Market Street, which was a major issue for me. Frankly, I think they need two overpasses because of Market Street’s location well away from Jack London Square. If you want to get reacquainted with Howard Terminal, read my various posts about the site.

Other news:

  • The City of St. Petersburg’s City Council approved by a 5-3 vote to allow the Rays to explore other stadium sites outside the city limits. That includes all of Pinellas County (St. Pete is the county seat), and neighboring Tampa and Hillsborough County. It’s too early to tell whether this will ultimately lead to the end of the Rays’ tenure in St. Pete, but proponents are at the outset painting this as the team’s best chance to stay in the 4.3 million-strong Tampa Bay Area, which has proved poor for attendance and excellent for TV ratings. As always, the biggest issue is figuring out how to pay for it. Head over to Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium for complete coverage.
  • The Warriors are pushing back the opening of their arena to 2019 to accommodate the legal challenge by the anti-arena Mission Bay Alliance. MBA also sued UCSF’s Chancellor and now has two lawsuits against the arena project in different jurisdictions. It’s a legal Hail Mary that will largely depend on whether the arena will be afforded an expedited legal review. (SFGate, LA Daily News)
  • The new arena near the The Strip in Las Vegas has a $6 million per year naming rights deal with wireless carrier T-Mobile. (Las Vegas Review Journal)
  • Hartford’s downtown ballpark is delayed and has $10 million, for which no one has figured out how to pay. Thanks to the delays, the AA (Eastern League) Yard Goats will be forced to play on the road for the first six weeks of the season. (Hartford Courant)
  • Walmart announced a slew of store closures, including a store in south San Jose and the Oakland store on Hegenberger near the Coliseum. The store will close Sunday, which led @fanpledge to wonder if it could work as an A’s ballpark site.

Most importantly, the In-N-Out in the northeast corner can stay intact. I’ll cover this site in greater depth later.

Giants encroach upon Coliseum property with celebratory billboards

I heard about sightings of Giants ads at the Coliseum last week. I thought it was crazy, then I heard about the context. I asked for Twitter followers to take some photos if they saw such ads, and they didn’t disappoint. Behold:

Thanks to @OaktownMojo capturing those.

If you’re wondering who created those ads, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Giants wouldn’t dare create an ad only celebrating their own title and put it into ad inventory for the Coliseum grounds, but put in the a salute to the Warriors and they have a clever way to get a dig in at the neighbor A’s as well. And there’s little the A’s can do about it.

Ads on the Coliseum property not within or attached to the venues are controlled by Outfront Media (check out that caption), the big billboard company that used to be called CBS Outdoor/Viacom. Everything from those tall kiosks to rotating signage above the parking lot entries to the electronic billboards facing the Nimitz are fed data by Outfront. The JPA contracted the signage to CBS Outdoor more than a decade ago, bringing in nearly $1 million a year.

Reactions to the ad ranged from incredulous to foaming-at-the-mouth hostile, as you can imagine. It’s one thing to have a billboard on the Bay Bridge touting rings over splash hits, which the A’s did a while back. Putting the Giants at the Coliseum, regardless of the intent, is a bridge too far. If the Giants want to make it about the Warriors, make it about the Warriors, and reserve your other ad for somewhere other than 7000 Coliseum Way. Like this:

All’s fair in love and baseball, however. I mean, there are territorial rights, but those only cover where a stadium’s built, not where ads go, or team stores, or where local radio or TV affiliates are located, or anything else related to location for that matter. It’s like the current Giants to capitalize on whatever they can to increase their hegemony, and attempt to get involved in seemingly every other sports operation in the Bay Area.

It’s unclear how these ads are vetted. They may require some clearance by the teams, probably not. Maybe the JPA sees all of them, maybe only some. Whatever the amount of review, this is a mistake by whoever cleared these, especially if they’re gonna have the ads within sight of a bunch of Giants-hating A’s fans tailgating during a homestand.

After all, this is Oakland, the city that was worried so much about SF stealing the Warriors’ victory parade, despairing over Steph Curry appearing at a Giants game to the point that Klay Thompson had to show up at an A’s game two days after. Most outsiders will never understand the Bay’s unique form of provincialism. As a person born in SF, brought up in the South Bay, with the A’s the only Bay Area team I follow, frankly I’m amused by it. Then again, there’s nothing the Giants can do about this:

Seems like a good Photoshop opportunity, no?

Warriors to hold victory parade in Oakland on Friday

Shortly after the Warriors finished off Cavs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight, Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears sent out this tweet:

There you have it. A parade in Oakland, a nice route to traverse through downtown, uptown, and Lake Merritt. It should be savored, for not only is this the first Warriors’ title in 40 years, this will be the first parade in Oakland in 34 years. The somber tone that came with Loma Prieta’s interruption of the 1989 World Series led to no parade to celebrate. The 1975 Warriors’ championship was not only played at the Cow Palace due to scheduling conflicts with an ice show at the Coliseum Arena, the championship parade was held in downtown San Francisco. That makes the last Oakland championship parade the one that followed the last Oakland Raiders Super Bowl win, in 1981.

Then, like now, the champions intend to leave Oakland. Though the preferred destination for the Dubs is only across the bay and not Los Angeles, there is a palpable tentativeness to the situation that has created tension among some of the region’s fans. The same goes for the Raiders and A’s. Thankfully, that can all subside as the celebration continues throughout the summer.

Normally a momentous occasion like this gives a host city a boost of political will that can be used to push a stadium campaign. Not in the Warriors’ case. The Dubs are taking all the goodwill and using it for their own political fight against arena opponents in San Francisco. It’s not unlike the 49ers, who used a string of playoff appearances to solidify the ticket base enough to fund Levi’s Stadium. Then again, the new stadium honeymoon period sometimes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, ask the Niners.

It’s fitting that the parade route will end at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, an old building that lays dormant while developers figure out how to rehabilitate the landmark and make it profitable. HJKCC was an occasional alternate home venue during the Warriors’ first few years in San Francisco, before the Warriors started playing games at the Coliseum Arena. The Dubs permanently moved there in 1971. Now they’re planning to move back to SF. It all seems so cyclical, doesn’t it?

Oakland Sports Forum, Wednesday October 29, 6-8 PM

Oakland has had a slew of mayoral candidate forums and debates, all leading up to the election on November 4. Surprisingly, there has been little coverage of the sports franchises and their impacts, save for the occasional easy-to-dodge question here and there. Thankfully, Zennie Abraham has seen fit to host his own forum. Named the Oakland Sports Forum, the event will be held this Wednesday, October 29, from 6 to 8 PM at Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland.

Abraham, who does a lot of video in addition to blogging, will be livestreaming the forum on YouTube as well. If there’s a Game 7, you may have to multitask.

A set of four questions will be posed to mayoral candidates who show up. So far 12 of the 15 have confirmed. Here are the questions:

  1. Wild card question from audience submitted beforehand, asked by that person. (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  2. The Golden State Warriors are working to build an arena in San Francisco. Some say the deal is done and its too late to stop it. But others say that the Warriors belong here in Oakland, still owe Oakland and Alameda County rent that would pay off the bond that was issued to pay for arena renovation in 1998, and should not be allowed to skip town. What is your take? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  3. The Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s need new stadiums. As I speak, Coliseum City is in the early planning stages, but could progress better – financing has not been completely secured. Is Coliseum City the right approach, and if it’s not, then what would you push for as Mayor? The ballpark waterfront proposal? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  4. The Oakland / Alameda County Joint Powers Authority was formed to provide a government issuing body for the Raider Bonds. Lately, the JPA has been the focus of strained City and County relationships, and I’m presenting that in an open-ended fashion. What, if anything, should be done with the JPA, and as Mayor what will you do to make that happen? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)

It’s a good set of questions which should keep the candidates from being too vague in their responses. The responses will be scored – how very sports – and a winner will be announced at the end of the proceedings.

It’s been eight years sense the “Choose or Lose” forum prior to the 2006 election. This shapes up to be a more substantive event than the last one. Maybe there will even be an adult conversation.

Welcome to the Toto Neorest Center

The Warriors and Snøhetta continue to provide sketches and renderings of the planned Mission Bay arena. Socketsite showed them first. The overwhelming impression most everyone gets from these renderings is that it looks like a toilet. A fancy toilet, to be sure, but a toilet nonetheless. The “back” with its two wide supports definitely doesn’t help.

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For reference, here is the product I referenced in the post title.

neorest_600

Toto Neorest

It used to be that most arenas were simple ovals or circles with some sort of façade. No more! In order to accommodate the growing need for auxiliary spaces inside each arena (offices, practice facilities, special hospitality areas, restaurants), just about every new arena has had a side section or wing grown onto it. The “appendage” trend started with Staples Center.

Staples Center with administrative building “appendage”

Architects have to solve the problem of integrating such structures into the arena footprint. Inevitably it all looks like some variant of an oval with something on the back. From the top Staples Center kind of looks like a record player. The new arena in Edmonton (architected by 360 Architecture) looks like a skillet. And then there’s the Warriors’ arena, whose resemblance to a toilet is rather uncanny.

new-edmonton-arena

Rogers Place in Edmonton is warming up for an order of sunny side-up eggs.

A big reason why a fairly up-to-date arena like Oracle is being dumped for a new home is this. And there’s a consistent effort to make such buildings less monolithic, a hallmark of many 60’s-80’s arenas. Different materials, surfaces, glass, and angles are designed to soften the appearance while making it an object of demand (if not desire). Most arenas are utilitarian in nature and don’t bring up the kinds of feelings of nostalgia or place as ballparks do so successfully. Really beautiful, transcendent works are few and far between. Even though Staples is only 15 years old, every time I pass by it I feel that it has aged 25 years.

Perhaps the role of an arena is to be of an era, to represent a time. I only hope that Snøhetta somehow gets rid of the unintentional comedy element in this design. There’s still time to do so.

Reusing an abandoned arena

This post is not strictly related to the Coliseum City EIR, though the ideas within are somewhat germane.

It’s been a few months since the Warriors gave up their effort to build at Piers 30-32 in San Francisco, electing instead to buy land at Mission Rock to the south. So far, the team has received practically zero resistance from the parties that either opposed the waterfront arena or who would typically oppose such projects. From a regulatory standpoint, the arena should go as easily than Pac Bell Park went, perhaps easier since it’s technically not on the waterfront. While it’s too early to call the arena a slam dunk, it’s a good idea for Oakland and Alameda County to start thinking about what will happen to Oracle Arena after the W’s leave.

First, the JPA and the W’s will surely go to court over the $61 million in debt owed on the arena after 2017. Once that’s settled, a series of choices will need to be made. One possibility is to demolish the arena and reclaim the land, about 8 acres worth. Should the arena stay put, more choices will have to be made about what its purpose is and how to best utilize it.

Alternative 2A: Two new stadia + existing arena

Alternative 2A: Two new stadia + existing arena

The market for a third 17,000+ capacity arena lacking an anchor tenant in the Bay Area is not good. The SF arena will be the new must-see, must-book venue in the Bay Area, with arenas in both Oakland and San Jose suffering to some degree. If the arena debt falls back on Oakland/Alameda County, operating costs can run as much as $17 million a year through 2027. With the arena in a prime site within the Coliseum City development, the temptation will be huge for O/AC to cut their losses and recoup whatever they can through redevelopment. Countering that will be pressure from the community and preservationists to keep the arena intact, as it retains significant historical value.

Functionally, the arena is still an excellent venue. Steady improvements have been made since the 1997 renovation, including new club areas and seating options, new scoreboards, and revamped technology inside the building. The biggest problem remains poor circulation, as the main concourse is narrow and cramped. While well appointed, the sideline club areas also have a tendency to feel congested. It also has way too many seats for anything other than a NBA or NHL franchise and should be downsized.

My first suggestion then, is to remove the upper seating bowl. The lower bowl has 10,000 seats on its own, plus another 1,000-2,000 available on the floor depending on configuration. That’s the perfect size for the sort of second-tier arena that every major market should have. For decades, that venue has been the Cow Palace, but the old joint is so antiquated and generally undesirable as an arena that acts avoid it like the plague. Besides the Grand National Rodeo and the usual touring circus, very little happens at the Cow Palace. Therefore it would appear that there is an opening in the market for a 10k arena. It’s the right size for the WNBA and minor league hockey. Most touring concert acts aren’t looking for 15k seats or more, 7-12k may be plenty sufficient. That venue doesn’t really exist in the Bay Area. SAP Center and the forthcoming SF arena will be able to reach that with curtaining or other tricks. The reconfigured Oakland arena should be able to hit that without any visual tricks.

Oakland Coliseum Arena shortly after construction was completed

Oakland Coliseum Arena shortly after construction was completed

You’re probably saying at this point, Okay but what about the upper deck? Glad you asked. The picture above illustrates how beautiful the arena used to be, with its sense of symmetry and different types of geometry. It also shows the amount of available vertical space. That largely went away with the renovation, but would be available again after the upper deck is lopped off. I’ll put out a couple different ways to utilize the space.

Arena lower bowl plus suite levels

Arena lower bowl plus suite levels (Image from Ballena Technologies)

One way is to put a new ceiling on the arena at the rim of the upper suite level. That would require putting in an extensive truss system to support the ceiling/roof and whatever is on top. Once that’s done, the upper level can be finished, leaving a 10,000-seat arena below and an exhibit space above. That exhibit hall could have a much as 100,000 square feet of clear span, column free space. That’s nearly twice as much as the downtown Oakland Convention Center, and more than Moscone West’s main hall. The drooping ceiling would create a weird visual effect for many (most similar buildings have an arched or flat ceiling). Beyond that, the new exhibit hall would fill a need not met by anything currently in the East Bay. The best part is that the arena could be run completely separately below or in conjunction with the exhibit hall, providing additional hospitality and exhibit space, the arena itself largely unchanged. Some new infrastructure would have to be built, such as a large freight elevator and ramps to the revamped upper level.

Old sketch of arena elevations, note drop ceiling

Old sketch of arena elevations, note drop ceiling

Another option is more conventional. In this case the seating bowl would be torn down but the upper concourse would be expanded to the perimeter of the building. There would be no second ceiling above the arena bowl. Available square footage would be cut down to 60,000 or less. Uses would be fairly limited, such as commercial (office) or even retail. If there ever was a natural spot for a movie theater multiplex, this is it. 15-20 screens could easily fit in the space, even an IMAX theater. Again, there’s a need that’s unfulfilled in Oakland right now, and Coliseum City would be well positioned to capture that market with its expected higher-income residents, office workers, and visitors. Cost would be fairly minimal for the JPA, as the theater operator would presumably bear the cost of constructing the auditoriums.

The name “Oracle Arena” is expected to expire after 2016, when the naming rights deal ends and the Warriors have construction underway. When that happens the name will probably change back to the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the venue’s original name. That’s fitting, whether the arena continues as is or is transformed in some manner. The building may not have seen much winning in its 40+ years, but it’s full of great memories and events. If there’s a way to keep it operating that works for the public, it should be explored to its fullest.