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  • Ryan Norris

Oracle Arena – Golden State Warriors

Photos by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Oracle Arena 7000 Coliseum Way Oakland, CA 94621

Year Opened: 1966

Capacity: 19,596


The Last Hurrah for The Oracle

Over the last few years, Oracle Arena has been welcomed into more living rooms than nearly any other arena in the NBA. Between the constant national broadcasts and the Warriors deep playoff runs, the world has had a peek into the arena in Oakland and all the stars put on shows on a nightly basis. The team has won six championships in 1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

The Warriors began their existence in 1946 in Philadelphia as part of the Basketball Association of America and then went on to be one of the founding clubs of the now, National Basketball Association. With Wilt Chamberlain in tow, the team moved west to San Francisco in 1962 where they played in at The Cow Palace, just south of the city in Daly City, CA. After 1964, the team moved downtown to the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now Bill Graham Civic Auditorium after the famed concert promoter). During this time, they also played games at USF’s Memorial Gym. Starting in 1966, the team bounced around between the Cow Palace, Civic Auditorium, Oakland Coliseum Arena and even San Diego Sports Arena. The team finally settled in Oakland at the now Oracle Arena in 1971 and changed their name from the San Francisco Warriors to the Golden State Warriors.

Originally named Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oracle Arena was renovated during the 1996-97 season. During this time, they played at San Jose Arena (now SAP Center). Before being home to the Warriors, the arena was host to the ABA’s Oakland Oaks and was the home of the NHL’s Oakland/California Golden Seals from 1967-76.

Even during the lean years, and there were decades, the arena has had a mystique that the home team has enjoyed. Though they have had sold out crowds for several years, new ownership who has re-energized the team with talent on the court and in the front office has decided to move the team from Oakland to San Francisco. Many people believe that was always their plan when they purchased it though they feigned overtures to the city of Oakland.

They originally announced a stadium opening date of 2017 at Piers 30/32 back in 2012. They have since abandoned that site in favor of another site, still along the water, in San Francisco’s growing Mission Bay neighborhood. Most of the new buildings going up over there are high rise luxury apartments and buildings housing tech companies. They broke ground on Chase Center in January 2017 in a ridiculous over-the-top ceremony that involved dancing cranes and construction workers and open in time for the 2019/2020 season. There’s no doubt this showmanship will be reflective in the move from Oakland to San Francisco, from substance to fluff. You can follow their progress here.

Food & Beverage 4

Both the price and quality of the food has been steadily increasing for the last few years. There are now more options than there ever have been at Oracle. Some of the more unique options include a banh mi sandwich cart (pork, chicken and tofu options) and a Dungeness crab sandwich ($16!).

Even the basic items such as pizza, hot dogs and nachos have gotten a lot better recently in terms of quality. I know they changed their concessions vendor a few years back so that may be reflective of that. Still, simple things such as a soft pretzel are $5.50, and a variety of salads range from $10 to $13. 20-ounce craft beers go for $13 and 24-ounce cans of domestic beer go for $12.50.

Atmosphere 5

It’s hard to describe, but the combination of Steph Curry’s play and the fans can turn a basketball game into something else entirely, like a church revival meeting a dance party. The “oohs and ahs” become a character. It’s partly the fans but it’s also partly the compact gym.

Even though the arena is over 45 years old the exterior facade and the interior aesthetics don’t show their age as you might think. The “x” pattern around the building is a modern look and the renovated concourses are quite nice, albeit narrow.

It’s a tad cramped in the seating area which can be uncomfortable but also allows fans to feel right on top of the action. Oracle has great sightlines for game action and fans from any part of the arena can watch with ease. The one bummer about sitting in the second level is the angle that the ceiling comes down to a point above center court. This creates a blockage that fans can’t see through to the fans on the other side of the court.

Neighborhood 1

Quite frankly there is nothing within walking distance to the arena. This is the only destination on game nights. People either arrive by car and park in the parking lot or arrive by public transportation and get off at the Coliseum BART station.

Many people are concerned with the neighborhood near the arena but I don’t see it as a threat, if for no reason than that there is no reason to be wandering around over there anyhow. There are no restaurants or bars, only industrial warehouses, and low-income housing. The closest thing to food destinations is on Hegenberger where you can find fast food, a Denny’s and a few hotels due to its proximity to the Oakland International Airport (OAK).

The closest thing to a neighborhood of businesses is the overpass that connects BART to the Coliseum complex. As you walk from the train to the arena you will find a ton of people out there buying/selling tickets, as well as knock-off apparel, beer/water, and of course, bacon-wrapped hot dogs (a Mission District staple).

The good news is that you’re a short trip from other Oakland neighborhoods that can provide pre or post-game meals and suds. Oakland continues to pop up on publications’ “best of” lists of great places to visit. Good neighborhoods to visit are Lake Merritt, Dimond, Uptown and Rockridge. All of them have great bars, restaurants, and shopping.

And of course, San Francisco is a 15 minute BART ride away.

Fans 5

Warriors fans have been through so many down years and still turn out in droves that it would be difficult to give them any other score than a five.

Part of what sets Warriors fans apart from other fans in the Bay Area is that they represent the entire region and fans need not pick sides. While residents need to choose between the 49ers and Raiders in football, and the Giants and A’s in baseball, people come together behind their lovable losers, now winners.

One of the other things that I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is the international influence of the crowd. People are traveling from all over the globe to see the Warriors. The mixing of locals and internationals create quite a party-like atmosphere.

The fans are plenty knowledgeable, loyal and loud. They understand the nuances of the game with the fans of the best teams in the NBA. Their current success has catapulted a great game day experience into another stratosphere. Truthfully, the fans would be given a “5” score at any point over the last 20 years. I must say, I’ve never heard another arena that gets as loud.

Access 5

By car: Just exit I-880 on 66th or Hegenberger and follow the signs to the parking lot and fork over your 40 bucks.

By BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): From San Francisco, buy a $4.20 one-way ticket ($1.95 from downtown Oakland), board either a Dublin/Pleasanton or Fremont train and exit at Coliseum/Airport. Take the walking overpass over San Leandro Avenue to the arena. The arena is also accessible from Richmond and Pittsburgh via BART, from Oakland and the East Bay via AC Transit and Sacramento via the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train.

Oracle is truly the most convenient major stadium in the Bay Area to get to. However, there are issues getting around the concourses inside. Foot traffic creates a lot of congestion and lines to get food and into the team stores spill out into the walkways. Even as they try to move venues, the Warriors have invested in improving this at Oracle by building add-ons to the arena that are bars so that some people gravitate away from the concession carts and into the bars away from the walkways.

Return on Investment 3

A trip to a Warriors game used to present an excellent value. Even still, it’s an experience that any basketball fan should seek out once or twice because of the insane atmosphere. However, it presents big challenges to go often or for a big family. There are over 35,000 people on the season ticket holder wait list for a venue with less than 20,000 seats and 14,000 current season ticket holders. This will create a get-in price on the secondary market for no less than $50 for the worst seats on off-nights. Be prepared to spend $50-$150 for tickets in the upper level and $100-$500 for the lower level. Courtside seats are several thousand.

Food has increased steadily over the last few years and parking is now $40. Even the BART parking lot that used to be free, is now $10. The saving grace is how special the arena is and how different it is from other NBA arenas in terms of fans and atmosphere. It sure would be tough to take a family of four to a game but it might be worth it occasionally.

Extras 4

The Warriors do a lot of in-game entertainment to keep the crowd going. This consists of the Warriors Dance Team, hype team, and emcee. I personally don’t enjoy the emcee but many fans do.

The retired numbers are #13 Wilt Chamberlain, #14 Tom Meschery, #16 Al Attles, #17 Chris Mullin, #24 Rick Barry, and #42 Nate Thurmond. They’re displayed next to their four championship banners at one end of the arena.

About 3 or 4 times a game, fans have chances to win prizes or cash by playing games or making trick shots. Based on the team’s performance, fans can win gift certificates for haircuts, smoothies, tacos, etc. to redeem at local establishments. These are fun ways to keep everyone in the arena engaged.

If you’re someone who enjoys celebrity sightings, this is a nightly occurrence in Oakland now. The final extra is for the fans. There aren’t enough words to distinguish this fan base from others in the NBA.

Final Thoughts

It behooves you to get to Oracle in the next few years prior to the team moving to San Francisco. I’m sure the move to San Francisco will bring with it a top-notch experience unlike any other in the NBA, but it will also be unlike what is currently happening over at the Coliseum complex.

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