It is interesting to see how evenly split our local pro basketball fans are between the Valley’s Kings and the Bay Area’s Warriors. This was readily apparent last week when the wife and I attended a game between these two neighbors in the splendid new Golden 1 Arena in downtown Sacramento.
One would expect the home team to have packed the house, but a casual observation showed a huge number of fans clad in Golden State blue and gold. Perhaps a third of the crowd was clearly rooting for the Warriors.
Each home arena is almost the same distance from Stanislaus County. The large fan base for the Warriors is probably because they have been in the local market since 1962, while the Kings are relative newcomers, arriving from Kansas City 23 years later in 1985. The fact the Warriors are clearly the best team in basketball at the moment also likely bears on the current fan interest and support.
The Warriors languished near the bottom of the league for years until an ownership group that included the late Bob Piccinnini of Modesto took over and brought in a whole new attitude. The owner of the local Save Mart grocery chain, Bob was an avid sportsman who owned all or parts of numerous sports teams.
The contrast in venues is startling. We had been to several concerts at the Sacramento Arena, but basketball provides a bright and sparkling experience with great seating and sight lines to the game. By contrast, 50-year-old Oracle Arena near downtown Oakland is, well, a dump. You take careful steps as the floorboards creak and groan and. The seats are ancient and there are too many poor sight lines to count. It’s a very different experience from Sacramento.
(I was reminded of attending a Boston Bruins game 25 years ago in the last year of the famed Boston Garden, where the floors literally had holes and the rats were often seen scurrying about.)
The other contrast is the demeanor of the fans. Oracle fans are intense – frequently on their feet, loud and supportive. The Sacramento crowd was comparatively quiet, even when the local team had an early double-digit lead. When one of their mascots ran around with a sign exhorting the locals, “On Your Feet,” most just stayed in their seats.
Another contrast is parking. In Oakland, Oracle has a captive audience. You pay through the nose to park in the arena lot – a minimum $40 plus another $8 to make the reservation. Parking in the same lot costs you only $15 – with no reservation fee – for Oakland “A’s” games, which surely makes the Warrior tab a serious rip-off. Sacramento has a number of close parking venues, which are a bargain at $15. And it’s only a 5-minute walk to some good restaurants then the arena.
The Warriors are building a new palace on the San Francisco waterfront, next door to AT&T baseball park. Sadly, Oakland is now losing the Raiders and the Warriors within the next two years. And there’s a very real prospect of also losing their baseball team if equally ancient Oakland Coliseum is not replaced.
Warrior fans are dreading the lengthened trek to downtown SF – some 15 miles away – to see their champions in person. Parking will be difficult and pricey. Seat licenses promise to raise already high ticket prices to levels many fans will not be able to afford. And that doesn’t count Bay Bridge tolls and traffic.
All in all, everyone loves a winner, so I suppose we fans who are loyal to the Dubs will still make the long drive, pay the price and enjoy success.
Oh, by the way, the Warriors did win the night that we attended.
Dick Hagerty, an Oakdale real estate developer active in non-profits. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.