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Friday Slide Show: Building A Stadium Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

9 March 2018

Don't get us started on stadiums. (Ah, too late.) We happened to be in the Mission Bay neighborhood this week so we took a look at the new facility the Warriors are building. We don't know who choreographs the dancing cranes but it was a marvelous show in itself.

And a lesson, we think. The Giants set the bar with their family-friendly stadium on the waterfront. And despite the inevitable litigation from concerned parties, the Warriors have followed suit. Both of them managed to finance state-of-the-art stadiums without burdening the taxpayers of San Francisco.

The Giants play over 80 games here and the Warriors will play 40 or so themselves. The local team that required a facility for just eight games tried to get the citizens of San Francisco to build them a stadium and failing that three times, tried to find some other sucker.

They found Santa Clara, which welcomed their awkwardly angular, poorly positioned stadium at first and have since found themselves fighting the team in court. As have other concerns near the new stadium which half the fans find uninhabitable for half the game since their seats face into the sun.

In 1946 when the San Francisco 49ers founded by Tony Morabito played their first game in the All-America Football Conference all they needed was Balboa Park, a city park. Eventually they moved to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, which was used by the University of San Francisco and Polytechnic High School for its football games, too.

Morabito died there in 1957 as the 49ers trailed the Chicago bears 17-7. When the team on the field learned of his passing, they rallied for a 21-7 win. Or maybe Morabito found a powerful friend where he had gone.

Kezar is still around, the old walls of the 60,000 seat edifice knocked down for a smaller, more open facility. The 49ers left it after 25 years for Candlestick Park, a travesty of its own. We recall an engineer for the local ABC affiliate telling us how difficult it was to broadcast from there, which was built with no provision for TV cables in its broadcast booths.

That was the least of it. The winds circling into the open-ended stadium built on land a developer was happy to unload on the city could not be tamed by grooming the hill behind the stadium. And encircling the stadium completely in concrete didn't solve the problem either. In its last years, the Giants offered a special badge called the Croix de Candlestick to any fan who endured an extra inning night game there.

Cities have wised up to the stadium scam since then. It was never as much of an investment as was a bribe to keep a team from moving or get one to move. Ask Santa Clara if they'd do it again.

But smart owners know the value of state-of-the-art facilities located in welcoming neighborhoods. It isn't just about drawing fans to sell-outs. It polishes a franchise's brand to be a member of the community in good standing.

So we took a look at what one of the better-run organizations in professional sports was doing on the San Francisco waterfront. Four concrete towers connected by circling steel platforms that rise in steps. Simple enough. And surprisingly compact.

It will be interesting to watch what transpires there, not just as the building goes up but in the years to come. Mission Bay is a center for medical care and research already. Dogpatch just south of it is a growing artistic and tech community. Downtown and the Giants' stadium is just up the street on the T streetcar line.

We had a good feeling when we were there. The sense of something being done right.

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