Joe Lacob's grand plan gets dry docked

Joe Lacob's grand plan gets dry docked
April 21, 2014, 2:45 pm
Share This Post
It is a triumph for the politicians and neighborhood groups who rose in opposition to 30-32 ... they killed 30-32 even before arrival.
Ray Ratto

Programming note: Coverage of Warriors-Clippers Game 2 starts Monday night at 6:30 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Warriors Pregame Live. Bookmark this page for comprehensive coverage of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

Joe Lacob, who never met a cleaver he couldn’t throw in the air and try to juggle, has finally decided to drop the biggest one in his arsenal.

Lacob, Peter Guber and their fellow Golden State Warriors owners have decided to abandon the Pier 30-32 site for a new arena, buying instead a 12-acre chunk of land a few blocks south of AT&T Park, beyond the reach of much of the political wrangling that killed the old site even before it was tidied up for presentation.

Thus ends Lacob’s grand plan for dropping the Sydney Opera House just south of the Bay Bridge. Thus dies Mayor Ed Lee’s “legacy project” even before one brick is piled atop another. And thus ends Oakland’s desperate hope to convince the Warriors to stay on the east side of the bay.

Now all they have to do is assemble the money and actually build the damned thing. Then they can act like it was a better site all along, and make people forget that they ever looked anywhere else.

This development, originally reported as likely by SF Weekly and then confirmed by The Chronicle, can be regarded as a mild defeat for Lacob and Guber, and it surely is for Lee, and for Oakland as well.

[NEWS: Report: Plans for Warriors' waterfront arena scrapped]

It is a triumph for the politicians and neighborhood groups who rose in opposition to 30-32. The money would have been daunting; the red tape would have been problematic; the bad feelings would have been a hurdle. Put together, they killed 30-32 even before arrival.

But if the bigger goal was to secure new digs for the Curry Theatre Troupe, Lacob and Guber have finally taken the first step they thought they’d taken two years ago. It is not the bridge-side site they wanted most, but it is also not the site that would have made them unwilling partners with the Giants, whose little slice of heaven is several blocks north of the new Warriors site.

In short, Lacob and Guber took a humble in exchange for less hassle down the road. The arena is expected to be done in time for the 2018-19 season, two years after their original plan, and though there are fewer regulatory hurdles and no voter approval, only a fool would assume this is a seamless transition.

It is, after all, San Francisco.

But the Warriors deserved this pushback, in that they tried to bully their way onto the old site without actually working the neighborhoods themselves and developing a relationship with their putative neighbors. They left the politics to the politicians, a mistake they presumably will want desperately to avoid a second time.

Lee will claim this is a victory because that’s what politicians do with defeat, but he talked what he could not walk and should be reminded of that every time he tries to make this look like a win.

And Oakland? Re-orphaned by the basketball team it nurtured for nearly half a century. The city’s financial woes could be cited for part of this, but the real death blow came the day Lacob and Guber, Et. Al., bought the team. Lacob was, and is, a West Bay guy, and he never viewed his idealized Warriors as Oakland’s property.

Lacob will still have to rebuild his fan base, not only geographically but financially, because the costs of the new arena will surely be passed down to the customers, and because debt always runs downhill. But he was going to have to do that at 30-32 as well, and this way, the neighbors won’t be nearly the irritants they would have been under the original plan.

In that way, this is one more example of Life With Lacob’s Warriors – grandiose plans and huge expectations, minus 15 percent. If Lacob can learn to live with the 85 percent, he’ll be fine.

But that is a galactic “if.”

More Team Talk