Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob came to the floor of Oakland's Oracle Arena earlier this month with the intention of retiring legendary shooting guard and Warriors General Manager Chris Mullen's number. Instead, Lacob was greeted with a chorus of boos ringing off every corner of the nearly 50-year old basketball complex.
"Tonight is about two things: embracing history and respect," said Lacob before pausing, rendered speechless at the seemingly endless waves of anger emanating from the stands.
It took an appearance by Mullen himself, walking to center court and putting an arm over Lacob's shoulder, to turn at least a portion of those boos into cheers. "I got it," said Mullen with the confidence of someone pretending not to grimace while gulping down a giant spoonful of cough medicine. "The Warriors have the greatest fans in the NBA...Sometimes change is inevitable, and it's going to work out just fine."
But even Mullen, one of the most beloved figures in the team's history, couldn't turn the whole crowd to his side.
For all the jubilation in San Francisco about the Warriors moving across the Bay, Oakland isn't about to let the team skip town without a fight.
While Warriors ownership needs to raise upwards of $400 million if it wants to play in a functioning arena on the San Francisco waterfront by the start of the 2017 season, another large expenditure also lies on the horizon: the over $70 million the team still owes the city of Oakland to pay for renovations to the Coliseum Arena completed two decades ago.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Mustache Investigation Squad, written into the Warriors' lease as the arena's primary tenant is a condition that the team pay millions of dollars every year until 2026 to cover the construction bonds, even if the team starts playing elsewhere.
The Warriors have been giving the city $7.6 million per year and, as Alameda County Auditor-Controller Patrick O'Connell noted to the Chronicle, "the language is pretty clear" that they'll continue having to do so well into the future.
The team, however, seems to be taking the position that they'll only be liable for payments though the end of the 2016-17 season, after which their current contract runs out and a shiny, privately-funded stadium on Pier 30-32 will likely be complete.
Similarly, the move also seems to put Oakland's plans to create a "Coliseum City" based around the troika of the Warriors, A's and Raiders in jeopardy.
Visions of the "Coliseum City" have danced in front of the eyes of Oakland politicians for over a decade. "Coliseum City is not just a plan to keep the A’s, Raiders and Warriors in Oakland," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a statement, "but an opportunity to create an international gateway to our city that is a destination in itself with hotels connected to the airport connector, major retail, other entertainment venues, office buildings and even a residential community."
In the wake of the Warriors' big announcement, Quan insisted that the project (and its projected 32,000 new jobs) is bigger than any one team and can easily withstand the withdrawal of the NBA franchise.
At a press conference last week, the mayor said she was had blocked off $1.8 million from next year's budget to complete an environmental impact report on the plan.
"The Oakland deal, as far as I'm concerned, is farther along than the San Francisco deal," said Quan. "The San Francisco deal is just an idea and handshake with my good friend [San Francisco Mayor] Ed [Lee]."
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