Exclusive Look: Chase Center Arena is a Beacon of the Bay

San Francisco’s multi-purpose venue Chase Center has been a bright spot for the Bay Area and beyond, serving as a safe entertainment haven during a challenging pandemic. In its brief history, Chase Center has already established itself as a place where people can experience unique, only in SF events and producers can think big.

Our region has a rich tradition of music, sports, and culture in large part because of the many quality venues that support events. During the pandemic, it has been incredibly challenging for people to navigate changing restrictions and a sincere desire to avoid COVID. Chase Center has seamlessly become an architectural icon for San Francisco; all the while providing a safe, quality experience for everyone attending an event.

To highlight the exciting vibe surrounding the venue, the Golden State Warriors’ current playoff push, as well as the long-awaited return of large-scale events, we took an exclusive deep dive into what experiences are like at both basketball games and concerts inside Chase Center.

 

Quick History

Since doors opened to the cutting-edge arena in September 2019, Chase Center’s first and foremost function was to be a state-of-the-art basketball facility for the Golden State Warriors. Every detail of Chase Center was carefully designed with basketball as its top priority. From fans and players, to coaches and staff, a pervasive theme of providing superlative game-time experiences is felt throughout the building. And when the arena is not being used for basketball games and practices, it hosts a wide array of entertainment events; spanning concerts, video game tournaments, wrestling matches, and private corporate events.

Technology partnerships with Silicon Valley’s Google Cloud, Adobe, HPE, Accenture, and Oracle ensure that operational teams make the appropriate decisions about how to use the space. The goal is continuous optimization, and by leveraging petabytes of data about each event, a deeper knowledge of the arena is achieved. A diverse representation of local flavor and culture is prominent inside and out, including elements like food and beverage options, art pieces made on display, and decorative nods to the Bay Area’s lush music history. Two examples of the latter include a long hallway of authentic Fillmore concert posters and a ‘Sounds of the City’ mural dedicated to iconic photographs taken by Bay Area legend Michael Zagaris.

Over-arching goals for the Golden State Warriors are to win NBA championships, have a significant impact in the community, and provide incredible experiences to fans everywhere. On the court, the basketball team has been a streaking success since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team in November 2010. Right away their vision for the franchise was set. Everything they did would be the best. They evaluated every area of the organization, from their people, to where the team played basketball, and their practice facility. The modern capabilities of Chase Center are clearly a major upgrade over the team’s former home in Oakland. Undeniably, Oracle Arena had a lot of amazing moments like the ‘We Believe’ season, but it was also the oldest arena in the NBA (built in 1966).

“We looked at sites around the Bay and settled on the San Francisco site because it’s in the heart of the Bay,” says Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Brandon Schneider. “We looked at things like traffic patterns and public transportation to see where is the most central location for all fans to get to. It’s convenient for the North Bay, East Bay, and South Bay.”

After playing an entire basketball season with no fans in attendance at Chase Center, the venue has had to be extremely diligent to find safe and creative ways to host entertainment events; particularly given the ever-changing conditions that we’re finally emerging from. Fortuitously, Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine, and his master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), specializing in epidemiology. His educational experience (including his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business) proved crucially advantageous to Chase Center’s early, safe, and successful COVID-19 response.

The installation of industrial air purifiers, upgrading the arena’s HVAC systems to surpass CDC COVID-19 guidelines, and procuring COVID rapid tests are some of the actions implemented by Chase Center to ensure the safety of team members, spectators, and visitors. Collaborations with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, local hospitals and health systems, and Clorox have all contributed to keeping the 19,000-person indoor environment safe from coronavirus. Impressively, the arena has not yet had a significant COVID outbreak despite now having hosted a large number of events.

 

The Basketball Arena

There is a lot to love about Chase Center. It has a modern and clean design, spacious entrances, positive feng shui, easy to access bathrooms and concessions, plus a gigantic scoreboard that immediately stands out. For fans, it has the best Wi-Fi of any venue and an army of people in a control room located in the rafters that operate the advanced stats appearing on scoreboards throughout the arena. Where else can you get real-time stats on ‘hustle plays’ that highlight which players are making the biggest impact on the basketball game.

DJ D-Sharp serves as the team’s official house DJ, leading the Warriors’ charge with his rendition of ‘California Love’ during the team’s pre-game hype song and helping keep the indoor energy up no matter the score. The interior has an insane amount of LED ribbon and pyrotechnic capabilities. Attendees can ask questions on the arena’s mobile app and a chatbot gives answers for how to buy tickets, where to park, and more importantly, where to find a Modelo beer.

“The majority of our fans will actually never get to go to a game at Chase Center,” Brandon continues. “Digital media and our digital footprint is a big part of our experience.” Active social media accounts keep all fans engaged by posting tons of photos and video coverage of each game and the team traveling city to city.

One super cool feature is that Chase Center changes the physical look of the court to match the team’s jerseys. New designs, colors, and layouts continue to change on the center court. Even for home games on back-to-backs, Warriors jerseys and the court remain synced.

Emmanuel Thomas, Vice President of Event Services, shared that Chase Center’s design elements consider the preferences of fans, Warriors players, and even opposing teams coming to town. “We’re the only basketball venue in America that has a hot and cold tub for the visiting team, which is unheard of in the NBA. We thought about their experience as well.”

The Music Venue

Music fans are in awe of the one-of-a-kind concerts taking place inside Chase Center. World-class engineering creates an infrastructure that delivers experiences impossible to find elsewhere. Concert attendees have no reason to be concerned by obstructions from the building’s massive scoreboard. Chase Center has a 60 foot by 90-foot hole, where the screen magically disappears up into the ceiling, creating a new grid for concerts. This is a feature unlike any in the world.

From an event production perspective, Chase Center is also the only venue in North America with both a tension grid and a freight elevator that can lift motors and chains from the ground floor directly to the catwalk. These two capabilities create efficiencies that allow teams to break records for setup and teardown times. Artist production teams appreciate the flexibility and scale that Chase Center has to offer. Below are a few quotes from event production staff after recent events.

“This was the quickest we ever got the floor after the show. Most times when we ask to bring a forklift out or start bringing trusses down to working height we’re told we have to wait longer.”

“It is fantastic that the scoreboard retracts entirely and allows for complete rigging underneath.”

“It was a huge undertaking to make an arena feel like a theatre, but we did it and the artist loved it.”

Chase Center enjoys partnering with concert organizers, instead of purely enforcing protocols and rules. “We are not a box you have to fit in. We are an open venue. Let us creatively work together to build this,” explains Warriors Vice President of Content & Programming, Sheena Way. “We want to show that diversity. We want to be the building that can do things that other buildings cannot. Bring people into the building that normally might not be there.”

This visionary perspective allows incoming creators to ask what is possible rather than what is permitted. “I learned from a lot of years on the touring side since you walk into the door you are handcuffed by so many rules. But this is entertainment. We are here to be creative and have fun,” she shares. “Rules are fine. On the touring side, when you got to a building where the operators thought a bit different, it turned out to be an incredible experience and was the venue everyone looked forward to.”

Chase Center also has lots of outdoor experiences available just outside the building’s walls for nearby visitors, including a big screen and concrete stair seating. Sheena gushes about how she appreciates seeing people enjoy Chase Center even on days when there are no events.

“I live in the neighborhood so I walk to and from the building. [It’s fun to see] how people are there not even to go to an event even when [Kaiser Permanente’s] Thrive City is not activated, people just want to walk around. They’ve heard about it. They’ve heard about the architecture, the art, the screen, and the gatehouse. I love that. With the (former Warriors President and COO) Rick Welts’ medallion ceremony recently, hopefully, we can do some more permanent installations and artwork as well. It is a destination on a programmable day absolutely and something for people to see on a dark day as well.”

Phil Hastings, Vice President of Event Experiences, explains the vision: “We are the beacon of the Bay Area. We want to be something people come to 365 days a year. Not just for a Metallica concert or a Warriors game. We have this entire campus, Thrive City, the Uber towers, over 20 retail locations… we have this entire plaza we activate… [We are] creating something that can bring more local artists to do things for the public. Not necessarily a ticketed event.”

San Francisco and the Bay Area are thankful to have a crown-jewel venue that delivers superb experiences. It’s still the early innings for the entire neighborhood to fill in around the arena to fulfill Chase Center’s ultimate vision. But it is easy to envision the venue hosting everything from awards shows to tech conventions, to free cultural events and local music festivals taking over the streets around the Chase. It is enough to inspire possibilities of what Chase Center will be to future generations.

Written by Carlos Olin Montalvo

Follow me @carlosolin

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