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Warriors ready new basketball stadium, fueled by tech dollars

By Dan Levine
Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team president and COO Welts poses inside the new Chase Center in San Francisco

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors are weeks from opening a sleek $1.5 billion sports and entertainment complex in San Francisco thanks largely to a years-long tech boom that made it financially feasible, the team's president said on Monday.

The Warriors, led by ace shooter Stephen Curry , have appeared in the past five straight NBA finals and won three of them. For over 40 years, their home was an aging arena across San Francisco Bay in far less glitzy Oakland.

San Francisco has been transformed in recent years by thousands of tech workers streaming into the city. That boom has also pushed housing costs to unprecedented levels, creating angst among many longtime Bay Area residents that they will not be able to afford to stay.

For some, the Warriors' move has come to symbolize those changing economics.

Team president Rick Welts said the new Chase Center facility would not have been possible without hundreds of thousands of square feet in office space as part of the development. Ride-share giant Uber is the major tenant.

The Warriors did not receive any public financing for the project, which the team calls unprecedented in modern sports.

Welts led reporters on a tour of the bright, airy facility on Monday, where the yellow hardwood basketball court was just installed. Construction workers put finishing touches on luxury amenities including courtside lounges with their own private wine cellar.

Welts said 70 percent of Oakland season ticket holders have renewed their seats. He did not yet know how many security guards and concession staff from Oakland will ultimately be able to keep their jobs.

The Warriors obtained the land for Chase Center from Salesforce, whose chief executive Marc Benioff had originally planned to use the site for a new corporate campus but found it too small.

Last year, Benioff backed a successful San Francisco ballot measure to increase funds for homeless services by raising taxes on business. The proposal bitterly split the city's corporate community.

Welts said the Warriors declined to take a position on the initiative, adding that the team's major charitable focus was on improving education and life outcomes for kids. The team plans to repurpose its former facilities in Oakland to that end.

"We're going to teach more kids to play basketball there than I'm guessing any other team in the NBA," he said.


(Editing by Peter Rutherford)