Fresh off a hard-hat tour of the soon-to-be-completed Chase Center, the San Francisco home of the Golden State Warriors starting next season, I was left with two words for Warriors fans:
Or, given the fact that he’s delivered three NBA championships, and is paying for this 21st-century gleaming temple of modernity, I should probably amend it to three words:
Joe. Freaking. Lacob.
The Warriors’ owner is the embodiment of the best of the still-breathing American Dream: Man of modest means growing up. Hunger to succeed on a grand scale. Amasses great personal wealth. Uses wealth and smart connections to buy an American sports franchise. Turns sad-sack franchise into global brand. Buys own land to build his own arena, and has it one year from completion, free of scandal, incident or bad steel beams.
Knock on wood for that last part. Or on steel.
My overwhelming impression after the hard hat tour Paulie Mac, Bonnie-Jill, Taneka and I took on Thursday — courtesy of the Warriors’ corporate communications guru Lisa Goodwin and Peter Bryan, the VP of construction and development — was that Lacob is in serious consideration to land alongside Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. as the greatest owner in Bay Area sports history.
Now, I’m not here to stroke Joe Lacob in a Jock Blog. I’m just stating facts. He may already be neck-and-neck.
Of course, Eddie landed five Lombardi Trophies, and Lacob is at three, and counting. But Lacob has now done what Eddie never could do — build his own palace.
DeBartolo tried, and nearly got there. In 1997, the 49ers pushed a ballot initiative through the San Francisco voters to rebuild Candlestick Park and turn Hunter’s Point into a mall/destination, but shortly thereafter Eddie got into hot water with the federal government and . . . . well, let’s just say the 49ers now play in Santa Clara.
Lacob’s chateau at 3rd and South Street — 0.7 miles down the lane from AT&T Park — required no voter approval, nor any public money. It’s a private endeavor, in keeping with Lacob’s whole Great-American-Entrepreneur status.
In the city of San Francisco, where pretty much nothing gets done, and if it does get done, it gets done poorly, this is no small feat.
Of course, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the move to Chase will mean leaving Oracle Arena and the sweet soul of the Oakland vibe behind. Undeniably, this is true. For some, this is an unforgivable breach of trust. In the words of the great Joe Rogan . . . “I understand.”
To put it harshly, however, the old phrase — ‘to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs’ — comes to mind. What is lost in the old Oakland vibe — shout out to Purvis Short, Larry Smith and Bernard King — is gained in the buzz of what should be a thriving arena environment. By now, you probably know the deal; that Chase Center will have all the bars and restaurants and hang-outs that good ol’ Oracle never had.
Whereas old ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley have historic charm, the old Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena doesn’t exactly merit National Register of Historic Places status. It’s a legendary spot, sure; mostly because of the team Lacob built to play there the last half-decade. The dirty secret: when Rick Barry and the 1975 Warriors won the NBA Championship, they played their home NBA Finals games at the Cow Palace.
The Coliseum Arena was booked for the Ice Capades. I kid you not.
The biggest takeaway from the tour — other than the secret player entrances, the epic local food spots that will serve (Bakesale Betty!) fans, the intimate court setting — is that the Chase Center represents the 21st century. We gotta keep moving, sports fans. The future is calling. Lacob is answering the phone.