Sports and Entertainment
New Arena Caps Two Decades of Rebirth for Historic S.F. Neighborhood
Plan Brings Sports, Parks, Offices, Restaurants and Retail to Mission Bay
When thousands of basketball fans fill Chase Center in 2019, they'll witness more than the opening of a new arena and the return of the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco. They'll mark the rebirth of Mission Bay, a historic part of the city that sat empty and nearly forgotten for much of that half-century.
"It's going to be a real moment of discovery for the whole city, a new neighborhood that everyone can enjoy," says Rick Welts, President of GSW Arena LLC. GSW announced Thursday that its new arena, built entirely with private funds on land purchased by the company, will be named Chase Center in partnership with JPMorgan Chase.
"We're building not only the arena," Welts says, "but two office towers and 120,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and a plaza the size of Rockefeller Center or Union Square that serves as the main entrance." There will also be a 5.5 acre bayfront park next to the arena. "It's an amazing array of amenities that will bring entertainment, quality of life and jobs to the surrounding area."
From Industrial to Innovation
Mission Bay has been home to Native American settlements, fishing communities, meatpacking and canning plants, warehouses for goods shipped to and from Asia, and a vibrant shipbuilding industry. Parts of it sit on landfill created by the dumping of debris from buildings ruined in the city's 1906 earthquake and fire.
But as San Francisco transitioned toward a more modern economy in the middle of the 20th Century, the areas south of its downtown financial district grew quiet.
The technology and Internet boom of the late 1990s brought new life to the SOMA area south of Market Street, anchored by the opening in 2000 of a new downtown ballpark for the San Francisco Giants. It would then be another three years before development crossed the China Basin waterway at the south edge of the ballpark into Mission Bay.
The catalyst was the University of California's San Francisco medical and research campus, which was fast outgrowing its cramped hilltop in the middle of town. Mission Bay provided a new opportunity for growth, with an easy connection to the biotech and research firms based just south of San Francisco and on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. A newly extended light-rail line connected the area to downtown.
UCSF opened its first Mission Bay building in 2003 and launched an ambitious plan to build a giant complex of hospitals and research facilities there. Biotech and technology companies said they would locate nearby, and residential construction followed, with plans for thousands of condominium and rental apartments.
New Neighbors in an Old Neighborhood
A decade later, the first new business in many years opened along the Third Street corridor at the heart of Mission Bay.
"When we first came in, there was nothing else in the area," says Michael Lok, who has been the manager of Chase's Mission Bay bank branch since it opened in June of 2013. "We had maybe 15 or 20 customers a day."
After a quiet first few months, business picked up. Residents started to fill newly completed apartments. Medical staff and researchers moved into the new UCSF facilities. Employees reported to new corporate offices.
"We're often their first stop," Lok says. "Sometimes they come in with a suitcase." And the branch employees find themselves providing far more than just financial services.
"We become their concierge," he says, providing new residents and employees with information about where to shop and eat and find needed services in a freshly rebuilt neighborhood where businesses – including a number of small, independent ones – are just now opening.
The neighborhood is coming to life, Lok says, in part because of the influx of technology workers who regularly visit each other's offices and stage day and evening networking events. But the neighborhood still feels like a work in progress.
Welts says the new Chase Center, with the surrounding office and retail and open space and year-round programming of sports, music, family entertainment and corporate events, is the culmination of that work: "The individual pieces have been planned, but until you get a critical mass of them you don't really have a great neighborhood. This is going to be the place-making event for Mission Bay."
Track the progress as Mission Bay's newest destination comes to life at www.chasecenter.com and by following @Chase_Center on Twitter. Once Chase Center opens, Chase credit and debit cardholders will have early access to tickets and preferred seating at many of the events, along with discounts on merchandise and concessions.
Neil Chase is an editor for Chase News & Stories. He worked as a journalist at The San Francisco Examiner, CBS MarketWatch and The New York Times and was an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.