SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The Golden State Warriors broke ground Tuesday on their $1 billion, privately funded San Francisco arena, further cementing the team's decision to leave Oakland where they've played for more than 40 years.
The 11-acre project at 16th and Third streets in the city's Mission Bay neighborhood includes an 18,000-seat arena and 600,000 square feet of office space, as well as a new 5.5-acre park.
The arena, dubbed Chase Center, was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2015 and had been stalled by design issues and litigation ever since, but earlier Tuesday the California Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively clearing the way for the project to proceed.
The groundbreaking ceremony featured remarks from team president Rick Welts, owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, as well as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, head coach Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant, the team's superstar forward.
A common theme of the day was how difficult the city's planning and political processes were for the project, which is expected to open in time for the 2019-2020 NBA season.
"To think that this great venue is going to be done in 28 months," Lacob said. "That's half the time it took to get it approved."
Looking down at the pile of earth into which the ceremonial shovels would soon be plunged, Guber wondered "if this was the dirt that was thrown at us during the last four-and-a-half years."
Guber also called the new arena "a house of dreams" that will not just host basketball games but also will provide the Bay Area with a new venue for concerts, political conventions and all manner of other events.
Kerr highlighted the fact that the arena is being totally financed by private sources and no tax dollars are being spent in its construction or planning.
"(That is) a tremendous financial risk, almost unheard of these days in professional sports," Kerr said. "The best way to mitigate that risk is to put a really good team on the floor."
"This is an incredible franchise that has only begun to scratch the surface," Kerr said.
The site is near the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center and the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
While Welts thanked UCSF during his remarks, the university and many of its employees and patients have been skeptical about the project's traffic and environmental impacts.
One of the arena's main opponents, the Mission Bay Alliance, is comprised of UCSF donors, doctors and stakeholders who contend the project will create traffic congestion, impede access to the hospital and increase noise and air pollution.
It was that group's lawsuit seeking to halt the project that the California Supreme Court effectively killed.
The Mission Bay Alliance issued a statement Tuesday about the court's ruling, saying the "decision not to review serious violations of California's Environmental Quality Act has set the stage for money and greed to supersede patient access to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, rational traffic planning, ongoing medical research and thoughtful environmental leadership established by our legislature."
The group also vowed to continue its fight "on other fronts."
Public opinion about the move to San Francisco appears split on social media, with many fans decrying the team's decision to leave Oakland's Oracle Arena, where it's enjoyed so much success in recent years.
Many postings on the team's Facebook page worry that the move across the Bay will result in ticket price hikes, traffic and parking nightmares and the loss of the current arena's special, boisterous atmosphere.
When asked if he thought he'd still be on hand when Chase Center opens, Durant, in the middle of a one-year contract, said, "It'll be fun playing in there."
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