LOS ANGELES -- The Warriors have moved off of their long-stated plans to build an arena at Piers 30/32 in San Francisco and have bought land a little further south.
The new spot is not aesthetically ideal—not right on the water, not framed by the Bay Bridge for TV visuals, not where Joe Lacob and Peter Guber held their splashy press conference starring David Stern and Ahmad Rashad two years ago.
But the "ideal" spot was Piers 30/32 and several of us have been documenting for years now that the logistics and political hurdles at Piers 30/32 were just too much.
Once the Warriors backed away from their stated goal to have the arena completed for the 2017-'18 season, it was inevitable that Lacob and Guber would be looking for alternate sites and that something in the Mission Bay area would be far more logical.
I caught up with Lacob on Monday night in Los Angeles, where the Warriors were playing the Clippers in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
Here is the transcript of the interview:
-Q: So you for sure are at the Mission Bay site? This is the final deal for the new Warriors arena?
-LACOB: The boats have been burned, that's the way we like to put it.
We're definitely doing this and we're very excited about it.
Look, I read the piece you did this afternoon--you need to get a little more data. You really do.
This is a much, much, much, much more doable site at the end of the day.
-Q: Which is what I said.
-LACOB: No, I think you did. But...
I think we could've gotten the other one (at Piers 30/32) done, I really believe that. We did a lot of polling, and we could've won.
But there was opposition--lawsuits and everything--that could've held us up for a while.
This has a much easier and simpler regulatory path. Much. There's no state land jurisdiction, there's no port jurisdiction, there's no BCDC jurisdiction, there's no army corps of engineers jurisdiction.
So we just have to deal with the city agencies and that's a lot simpler, quite frankly.
And the truth is, when we started to compare, surrounded on four sides by roads, it's land-based, it is going to have a five-and-a-half acre park, so it's going to have a beautiful park on the waterfront.
We have the rail system connecting to BART and the underground subway, which is under construction in San Francisco... There's an extension on 280 freeway that will take it right to 16th Street which I think will make this essentially a block away from the arena.
And we have height limits that go to 160 feet, so we don't have a problem there.
You just start adding all of these things up and as a businessman, as someone who's responsible to my share-holders, to my other co-owners, to our fans and to everybody, it just became a much more practical thing to do.
-Q: Do you have to redesign, go back into the architecture?
-LACOB: Yes, but a lot of that has been done, the arena itself will be pretty much the same, we've done all that work. So the external how it looks, that will be redesigned probably to some extent. We haven't really got there yet.
We can move at a pretty rapid pace.
There's one other thing I do want to say to our Oakland fans--you know, I think people knew we were going one way or the other, I said that from the beginning--we do think we have great fans in Oakland and we recognize that.
That's why we poured money into the arena and will continue to do so until we move.
And the truth is, unlike baseball and unlike football, we're the only NBA team; I've said this before, there are two football teams, one naturally West Bay, one naturally East Bay. There's two baseball teams, one natural East Bay, one natural West Bay.
There's one NBA team, central location, and it's got great access for everybody, including East Bay fans.
So I really, really--we really, really believe that at the end of the day this is going to be a great location for us.
And here's the other thing, it's not that we don't believe in Oakland--I actually do. I really do.
But there are three teams sitting at the Coliseum site right now, all with old facilities; we looked at it and said, 'Can all three teams succeed there?' Very likely not.
We didn't want to be the last one standing. So what I think that we did is actually a good thing. I mean, I know fans won't understand that, but it's a good thing because it gives a better chance for the A's and the Raiders, for one of them or maybe two of them to succeed in the East Bay.
That's a much more likely occurrence.
-Q: You guys did have a big press conference, the commissioner was there, and you said you would be there at Piers 30/32. Do you feel like you're running away from that? Is there a loss of face?
-LACOB: Look, I think we would've liked to have been able to succeed there and I think we probably could have. But at the end of the day we have to look at this and say, what is practical?
Some things happened from the time we had that press conference in May of 2012, that's almost two years ago... We had to look at all those things and we did wind up facing more opposition than we would've hoped.
I think at the end of the day more people were for it than against it, but it was going to be a fight.
I know people like you predicted, oh, we'd never get there...
-Q: No, I said you wouldn't get it done by 2017 at Piers 30/32, that's all I ever said.
-LACOB: I know, I'm saying people predicted that, and I think it's fair for them to have said that and it's fair for them to gloat a little bit right now if they want to.
But we made the decision that we felt was best for our fans and for San Francisco, the Bay Area and for ourselves.
-Q: When do you think the first shovel will go into the ground?
-LACOB: I'm going to leave that to our advisors to work out the final details on that. We think this is a much more simplified process and we're projecting (an opening in) 2018 right now. We'll see. Could be better. You never know.
-Q: Does this involve any of the retail that you planned along with Piers 30/32?
-LACOB: We have spoken with the city and we do believe we're going to be able to do some office and some retail. So that should be very doable, probably the same amount we had at the other site, or roughly about... we don't know the exact number yet.
And a much greater likelihood of getting it done than we would've on the seawall lot.
-Q: Do you have to have any discussions with the Giants, because it's close to AT&T?
-LACOB: Well, I read that.
-Q: I wrote it. I'm wondering.
-LACOB: The answer is absolutely not. This is private land that has absolutely nothing to do with the Giants. Lot A, if we had wound up going there, certainly would've been involved--a lot of discussions with the Giants because they have an intent to build there. That would've been a difficult proposition...
This has nothing to do with the Giants. I just talked with Larry Baer for 45 minutes this afternoon, he is very happy, we're very happy and I foresee that we have a great working relationship.
-Q: I'll ask you straight up--what's the state of your interest in the A's? Have you offered to buy them from John Fisher and Lew Wolff?
-LACOB: I have never officially formally offered to buy a team that isn't available. They have said it's not available for sale. So no.
-Q: So have you asked them if they would sell?
-Q: But you're interested in buying them and maybe building at Howard Terminal?
-LACOB: I think that there's a site in Oakland--this is my personal opinion only--I think whether it be Howard Terminal or maybe the Coliseum site, who knows... I think there's a site in Oakland where a new stadium could be built and I think everyone could be happy.
I think the market is great--in 1990 they drew 3 million fans or whatever it was. So look, I think it's very doable. But they're the owners, they get to decide that, not us. I don't own the team and I don't pretend to own the team.
Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/timkawakami.