Put the Warriors Arena atop CalTrain

By Bill Nichols

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OPINION Numerous problems with the proposed location of a new Warriors stadium and surrounding complex are obvious. What we need is a better solution, not just laments about the folly of it all. Is there a better solution for everyone?

We can take a page from Warriors co-owner Peter Guber's book, "Tell To Win." He explains how a business proposal lives or dies in terms of the story it embodies. The story trumps piles of statistics or litanies of problems. This is what tries men's souls and glazes eyes. But there is an alternative story to tell in this case, one that is win-win for everyone.

Let's create a great sports complex at the heart of our public transportation system. We don't need to clog the waterfront when we can build a great sports mecca elsewhere. Let's take a cue from New York City and how Madison Square Garden perches directly above Penn Station.

Right now CalTrain has an ideally located terminus in the core of the city, but it's unsightly. Why not put the new stadium directly above the CalTrain station? The same solution is being applied right now to the new Time Warner headquarters at Hudson Yards on the west side in New York: several skyscrapers will rise on platforms above an existing rail yard.

Consider the advantages: CalTrain passengers can walk upstairs to see a game! Muni and BART riders can take a short walk to the stadium. Soon they'll be able to ride the Central Subway to it as well. It's the perfect place for a major indoor arena that could host diverse events.

AT&T Park is just a block away and already lends enormous appeal to this entire area. The train yard extends from 4th to 7th St and the space above this great expanse could house a sizeable parking garage, less than a block from the 280 access ramp, as well as a hotel, restaurants, condos, offices and perhaps a shopping complex.

It's everything Peter Guber and his partners dream of, that the city needs, and that we can embrace, now that it's in the right place.

Let's welcome the Warriors by all means. But do we want a Titanic on the waterfront when we can have a jewel above the CalTrain station that will simultaneously overcome the gulf that now exists between the western part of SOMA and Mission Bay?

This location could establish a sports complex the rival of any in the country. An essential, but dreary space turns into a great sports oasis, like Cinderella at midnight but in reverse. Perhaps the city will even want to include a large, well-equipped community recreation center for all of us who like to play as well as watch.

Bill Nichols is a consultant for documentary filmmakers and has published a dozen books related to the cinema. He lives in San Francisco.

Comments

attendees will not arrive by train regardless.

Oh, and Madison Square Garden was the proximate cause of the biggest act of architectural vandalism in modern times - the demolition of the grand old Penn Station - not a good precedent.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

It is a decent idea that would make the nimbys happy, but lets look at the public transit scorecard:

1) Muni is more or less a wash. It goes by both sites but K,L,M, & J riders could walk to the waterfront site (from Embarcadero) but would have a much longer walk or a change of trains for the Caltrain option.

2) Bart is better off at the waterfront site. The Embarcadero station is closer to the waterfront site than the Coliseum station is to the Oracle Arena.

3) Caltrain riders would obviously have it easier at the Caltrain site but the distance to the waterfront site is walkable. Many people walk from the Ferry Building to AT&T Park. Or they could switch to Muni.

4) The waterfront site could have ferries from the East and North Bay as does AT&T. The Caltrain location would probably use the AT&T docks IF the stadium is not in use.

All in all, the waterfront location is more convenient for more people.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

By the time the arena would be build on the Caltrain site, the 3rd Street rail will be complete. That means an instant connection to muni and a quick connection to BART - both underground with no waiting in traffic. Not too shabby considering basketball games will be held primarily during the rainy season.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 6:37 am

You're thinking of the Central Subway, which will bring many more visitors to the waterfront.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 6:47 am

Because SF is sim city, where you can just pick up and drop off buildings as you wish?

The NIMBYs will fail in this effort thankfully, because all they have been able to come up with is "put it in someone elses backyard.

SF is endemic with the smallest of minds.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 6:42 am

It's perfect for a high-value, high-usage facility like a pro sports team. Let's just do it.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 7:23 am

It is not blighted. I ride by these docks every day, and the views from there is amazing. Giving it away to the bloody Warriers - as if I give a darn about basketball! - and allowing them to build a private enterprise humongous obstruction to the waterfront is astounding in audacity. Hopefully the corrupt Ed Lee will be kept in check on this one.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 07, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

you treasure for 1.5 minutes a day!

Any other vistas we should open up for you your highness? Shall we dynamite the Transamerica Pyramid? Perhaps the Golden Gate Bridge is impeding his highness' view of the Marin Headlands?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Sep. 07, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

Train. I think that is what he means. The real end of 280 is of course at 6th Street - some distance away.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 9:41 am

$20 says Bill lives somewhere near the proposed waterfront site.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 8:21 am

Bill Nichols' idea is worthy of study. Placing an arena or other infrastructure has been done in other locations. He mentions Madison Square Garden, but there's also the new Barclays Center located over Atlantic Yards. The Brooklyn Nets basketball team now plays there.

Some of the points made earlier about transit and location have their points, although note that most folks going to a sporting event are willing to walk quite far from transit - much farther than they do to get to work.

The REAL PROBLEM is the GEOMETRY of the site. It's long enough along Townsend and King, but definitely not wide enough. The block along 4th Street between Townsend and King is about 300 feet long. Let's compare that to the other two arenas in the Bay Area: Oracle Arena and the recently retitled SAP Center at San Jose. (I still call it San Jose Arena).

Oracle Arena - circular - ~475' diameter
SAP Center at San Jose - squarish - ~480' x 480'

If you were to build an arena of similar size at the 4th & King Railyard, you would have to cantilever the arena OVER Townsend and King Streets nearly brushing the sides of the nearby apartment towers and warehouse buildings. Of course you could do what Brooklyn did, eminent domain a neighborhood and demolish the warehouses and residents to the north (or south) of the railyard, but that's unlikely and unwise.

So it's a pretty infeasible idea. That all said, I like Nichols' creative thinking. If we keep thinking this way, we may yet find a good site for a new Warriors arena whether in SF or the East Bay.

Posted by Urban Life Signs on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 9:29 am

Bill Nichols' idea is worthy of study. Placing an arena or other infrastructure has been done in other locations. He mentions Madison Square Garden, but there's also the new Barclays Center located over Atlantic Yards. The Brooklyn Nets basketball team now plays there.

Some of the points made earlier about transit and location have their points, although note that most folks going to a sporting event are willing to walk quite far from transit - much farther than they do to get to work.

The REAL PROBLEM is the GEOMETRY of the site. It's long enough along Townsend and King, but definitely not wide enough. The block along 4th Street between Townsend and King is about 300 feet long. Let's compare that to the other two arenas in the Bay Area: Oracle Arena and the recently retitled SAP Center at San Jose. (I still call it San Jose Arena).

Oracle Arena - circular - ~475' diameter
SAP Center at San Jose - squarish - ~480' x 480'

If you were to build an arena of similar size at the 4th & King Railyard, you would have to cantilever the arena OVER Townsend and King Streets nearly brushing the sides of the nearby apartment towers and warehouse buildings. Of course you could do what Brooklyn did, eminent domain a neighborhood and demolish the warehouses and residents to the north (or south) of the railyard, but that's unlikely and unwise.

So it's a pretty infeasible idea. That all said, I like Nichols' creative thinking. If we keep thinking this way, we may yet find a good site for a new Warriors arena whether in SF or the East Bay.

Posted by Urban Life Signs on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 9:30 am

currently derelict so you do not have to build right next to where people live. And you are not constrained by existing block dimensions.

There's also the emotional factor, as there is with the ballpark, of being on the waterfront.

We have a plan that will work, and I see little reason to pursue other less optimal solutions.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 9:40 am

There will be a warriors arena in SF over my dead body.

Posted by Lstokus on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 10:00 am

We'll throw in far less crime as a free bonus feature.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 10:19 am

Urban Life is right, this is a moot discussion because the Caltrain yard is too small. Measure a couple more arenas - Staples Center in LA, SleepTrain in Sacramento, the very urban Verizon Center in DC - all are between 400 and 500 feet in diameter. The Caltrain yard is just 275 feet wide.

Guess it's back to the waterfront.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 11:36 am

Madison Square Garden stymied the growth and modernization of Penn Station, and effectively turned it into the outmoded rat's nest of overcrowded tunnels it is today. But no, you're right, seems like a good model to follow.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

Look, I cherish all the opinions of a civically active city; no other city I know of has such a proactive influence on its civic planning. That said, I really like the renderings of the Arena on the waterfront; the Embarcadero effectively extends in an arc out around the arena and the glass skylights look nice. I'm just not hearing strong arguments from the folks arguing against it other than traffic congestion, which we already have in abundance so that I don't know what worse looks like, view blocking, which might as well go into the SF urban dictionary in its ubiquitous use, and sort of a "keep the waterfront weird" ethos, which is a head scratcher for me, as modern architecture always gets framed up as the advent of some kind of architectural apocalypse. That area of the current waterfront isn't even nice historical, it's old and kinda ugly, IMO. it's a plus for me that this arena is targeting for a lot more multi-use than say, AT&T, which is vacant a decent chunk of the time.

Re traffic side note: the city is on a progressive track to make it hell for people who want to drive within its borders, and frankly, that's ok by me. Every parking lot is disappearing,and a waterfront arena isn't going to make it noticeably worse than on, say, home baseball game nights. Use transit, like SF dwellers do (mostly) and life gets pretty sweet. My $0.02.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

Excellent idea - but it would have to wait for Caltrain electrification - supposedly 2019.

Posted by Irvin Dawid on Sep. 06, 2013 @ 10:40 am

I agree with the waterfront site, yes the rail yard sit will be better but then again all those new apartment, condos and whatever is there would have a giant arena in their face. That will end that plan.

Waterfront is the best but then again you will lose your view from the street, why not build a bike path to go around the arena.

Posted by Garrett on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 11:08 am

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