- Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts says he believes cities should help pay for sports arenas.
- The Warriors self-financed the $US1.4 billion Chase Center, their new arena in San Francisco because San Francisco does not allocate public money for sports buildings.
- The debate over whether sports arenas should receive public funding has been a heated one for years, but Welts called arenas “amazing culture institutions” that he believes improve the quality of life in cities.
After the Golden State Warriors self-financed the $US1.4 billion Chase Center, their new home in San Francisco starting next season, team president Rick Welts says he believes sports arenas should receive public funding.
“Personal opinion: I actually think these are amazing cultural institutions that allow the city to have a better quality of life and a certainly more varied cultural offering by having this,” Welts told Business Insider.
“I think there’s every justification for cities investing or states or counties or whatever entity investing in these facilities because I think they actually enhance the quality of life.”
San Francisco does not allow sports teams to use public money to fund arenas, according to Welts. He said the Warriors were aware of this before their move.
The debate over public funding for sports arenas and stadiums has been a heated one for years. Supporters often argue that pro sports teams and arenas can be good for cities, creating jobs, encouraging spending from locals and tourists alike, and creating an intangible sense of community.
Opponents argue that the economic benefits are over-stated – the jobs created are part-time, seasonal, and low-paying. Previous studies found that arenas didn’t really add much to local economies.
Could that change with more teams building arenas in city centres? The Milwaukee Bucks built their new, $US500 million arena Fiserv Forum – which received $US250 million in public funds – in downtown Milwaukee, with their president Peter Feigin saying it became a “catalyst” in reviving the area.
Chase Center is situated in the neighbourhood of Mission Bay, an industrial, growing area. Welts said he believes arenas belong in urban centres and can increase the quality of life in those places.
“These are meant to be urban things,” Welts said of arenas. “That’s where they add most to the quality of life to the city. I think the most successful ones are located in really dense urban areas. We love that … I think they’re part of the fabric of a city.”
Like Fiserv Forum, Chase Center features an outdoor complex with retail stores and restaurants and a public park the Warriors hope will attract visitors year-round, not just for games.
Opponents of using public money to fund arenas also point to the rising value of sports franchises. Forbes found the average NBA franchise to be worth $US1.9 billion, up 13% from last year, and three times as valuable as they were five years ago.
There should never be another cent of public money given to sports team owners for arenas or stadiums.
In any city. In any league. https://t.co/1ZlQLWROny
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 6, 2019
Despite this, Welts said it would be unwise for other teams to self-finance their arenas, arguing the Warriors had a confluence of events that made it possible.
“We really have such a unique intersection of circumstances on this project that you could never, as a business planner, with a straight face, replicate,” Welts said.
Welts said between the Warriors competing for championships and the booming tech economy and wealth in the Bay Area, the Warriors were able to afford a $US1.4 billion project, knowing the cost was worth it, and they could make the money back.
“We have like a perfect storm. We have this roaring economy, we have the companies that are changing the world are part of our backyard, we have a championship-calibre team, and we have a great city, great global city that never in its history has had one of these [arenas].
“So, I wouldn’t recommend anybody else trying to recreate that formula because I think it’d be impossible.”
Several other teams are eyeing new stadiums or stadium renovations. The Phoenix Suns are renovating their stadium – after team owner Robert Sarver threatened to move the team – with a reported $US150 million in public funds.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who currently share Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers, are looking to move into a new arena with 2024 as a target date. It’s unclear how it will be funded.
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