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February 25, 2024
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Score One for Chase Center


By Brian Libby

This year, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors are playing their first season in San Francisco after departing their longtime home, Oracle Arena in Oakland, for the new Chase Center.

Photo: Jason O
Photo: Jason O'Rear
Part of a $1.4 bil development, the 18,000-seat Chase Center was built without any public funds, and on a waterfront-adjacent site in San Francisco’s burgeoning Mission Bay district beside the central city where real estate values have increased substantially over the past decade. The project also doubled in budget versus an earlier arena plan formulated in 2012. To compensate for those costs, “We caught a perfect convergence of factors that allowed us to get it done,” explains Rick Welts, the Warriors’ president.

With San Francisco amidst a commercial real estate boom, the 11-acre Chase Center is a broad act of place-making meant to both attract people from all over the city (and the world) and to stitch itself into the fabric of its neighborhood, just southeast of the central city in a former industrial area. The development includes a six-story and an 11-story office building, together totaling 580k sf and bookending Chase Center. Both buildings will be occupied by ride-sharing giant Uber, which has an equal equity stake in the buildings with the Warriors.

There are also 29 retail locations onsite, both inside and outside the arena, totaling more than 100k sf, some of which occupy the ground floors of the office buildings and others comprising their own pavilions along the streetfront. With UC San Francisco located nearby, the hope is that many of its 15,000 students, and a growing residential community in Mission Bay, can keep the Chase Center development busy even when there’s no game. “Given the amazing location on the Bayfront, they really wanted to open up to every side of the street and to have the building and the spaces around them integrate into the neighborhood,” says Jonathan Emmett of Gensler.

The arena, designed by David Manica Architecture and Gensler, with landscape architecture by SWA Group, is meant to be as conducive to concerts as basketball. It’s horseshoe-shaped, minimizing seats that would be behind the stage. Instead of a curtain to reduce the arena’s overall size for smaller events, there is actually a moving wall that separates the space. Perhaps most dramatically of all, the massive video scoreboard, largest by both square footage and amount of LED lights in the NBA, is able to hoist into the ceiling, where a pair of sliding horizontal doors affixed with rigging infrastructure act as doors and allow optimal lighting for concerts and theatrical shows. “When push came to shove, the aspirations got really big,” says William Hon, who led the design for David Manica Architecture.

The retail incorporates a large plaza outside Chase Center in order to make it as active outside as it is inside, thanks in part to a massive video board affixed to the arena façade. Says Welts: “It developed with a holistic idea from the beginning.”

Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance journalist and critic focusing on architecture and design. Among the publications he has contributed to are: The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; Architectural Digest; and Dwell.

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