Warriors seek name-change input

ByRamona Shelburne ESPN logo
Friday, April 25, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors say they will be seeking input from fans on whether they should change their name after announcing earlier this week they'd purchased a 12-acre property in the Mission Bay district of San Francisco that they plan to use for a new arena.

The franchise will keep the Warriors moniker they've used since they were founded in Philadelphia in 1946 but could readopt the name for which they were known when they played in San Francisco from 1962-71 -- the San Francisco Warriors.

"We're very curious what our fans think of that," Warriors president and CEO Rick Welts told ESPN.com. "I couldn't imagine making that decision in the very near future, but we definitely want to see what our fans prefer."

While the name change and move out of Oracle Arena in Oakland to a state-of-the-art venue before the 2018-19 season might seem a bit jarring to the blue-collar identity of the franchise, Welts said that it's important to the franchise to preserve as much about what makes Oracle Arena one of the best home courts in the NBA.

"We're spending a lot of time with the facility itself to do everything possible to replicate what we think is a really special atmosphere for our games at Oracle," Welts said.

"The first assignment we gave the architects was to make sure that every seat in the new building is as close or closer than the comparable seat at Oracle. We're doing that by actually making the building smaller. We're going from 19,000 seats to 18,000 seats."

Welts said that the Warriors have also guaranteed that every employee at Oracle will have a chance to transfer their job to the new building, which is eight miles away, across the San Francisco Bay. They've guaranteed seats to their season-ticket holders in the new arena.

"Oracle Arena is the oldest arena in the NBA, and it's served great for 50 years," Welts said. "But there comes a point in time where if we're going to be the franchise that we aspire to be, we're going to need a new playing facility. And in our view, San Francisco is the right place to be if you have the same aspirations we have, to be truly one of the great franchises in sports."

Welts said he didn't think the franchise's fans in the East Bay would abandon them, since the new site is so close to Oakland, and accessible by the Bay Area's Rapid Transit (BART) system.

Welts added pushing to keep the team in Oakland was further complicated by governmental concerns.

"I think we're very cognizant also that Oakland and Alameda counties have some very serious issues to prioritize," Welts said. "And we're very understanding that the Golden State Warriors, in terms of an investment of public money, isn't one of the places that those in charge of the future of Oakland feel like is the most needy in terms of the issues and problems that the people are trying to address here."

When the Warriors purchased the 12-acre private property from Salesforce.com on Saturday, it essentially confirmed they'd scrapped plans to move to a waterfront site on Piers 30-32 near the San Francisco Giants' ballpark.

Welts said the regulatory hoops they'd have to jump through to get that project approved became too burdensome and "there came a point in time where certainty just became the most important thing."

While the new arena won't sit on the piers with striking views of the Bay Bridge, Welts said the new property will also have unobstructed views of the San Francisco Bay. The only thing standing between the new arena, which will also include a practice facility and team offices, will be a five-acre park.

The project, which is entirely privately financed, is expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, although it's impossible to project a new estimate until new architectural plans are drawn. Welts said the regulatory process at the Mission Bay site is far simpler than what the team experienced at the waterfront site to the north.

"There's a master development Mission Bay plan that was adopted 15 years ago that governs all the development here, so it operates under its own set of rules," Welts said. "And because of that, we don't have the regulatory process that we had at the other site.

"There's no federal jurisdiction, which we had with the Army Corps of Engineers, there's no regional jurisdiction, which we had with the BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission). This is private lands, so we don't have port commission oversight. So it just simplifies the regulatory process, we just have to follow the Mission Bay development plan which has been in place for a long time, and what we're constructing will fit in the constructs of that development plan."