Warriors have surprises in store for final season at Oracle Arena

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OAKLAND — To celebrate their final season in Oakland, the Warriors have scheduled a slew of tributes to their memorable players, their championship moments and, above all, their astonishingly loyal fan base over their 47 seasons at Oracle Arena.

Sounds like an amazing place. Why say goodbye at all?

“You’re probably tired of hearing my line, but we’re leaving a building, not a city,” said Rick Welts, the Warriors’ team president, good-naturedly broaching the topic before the inevitable question arrives.

“This team is going to be in the Bay Area forever, and we’re not leaving Oakland. The East Bay will continue to be an important part of the franchise.”

The Warriors will play the 2019-20 season at Chase Center, part of the team’s privately funded development in San Francisco that has already surpassed its projected $1 billion building cost.

Gone will be the defeating echoes of Oracle Arena, the oldest venue in the NBA. The joint opened in 1966 and has been mostly rockin’ ever since, with sellout crowds and imposing dins even in the worst of times.

In advance of its swan song, the Warriors gave the Bay Area News Group a sneak peek at some of the ways in which they’ll say farewell. Perhaps sensitive to the suggestion that the team is abandoning some of the most loyal fans in sports, three Warriors team executives volunteered during our visit that the vast majority of season-ticket holders are following them to Chase Center.

Halfway through the renewal process, roughly 80 percent of season-ticket holders have committed to Chase Center. And the fans that got first crack at renewing are also those with the most seniority. This isn’t exactly the bandwagon crowd.

“The good news, as far as I’m concerned, is that four out of five are coming with us,” Welts said. “That just shows it’s not the walls of the building that make it special, it’s what’s inside.”

The Warriors’ marketing campaign will focus on all the things that have made Oracle Arena such a unique environment over the years. There will be salutes to the players and coaches, the fans and to the team’s connections to the surrounding communities.

One thing you won’t see are specific references to the past or future city. As this typical bit of campaign prose makes clear, the message is that the mailing address is irrelevant: “It’s not Roar-acle or Chase Center. It’s not the Golden Gate or the Bay Bridge. It’s not the North Bay or the South Bay. The 510 or the 415. Because the Warriors are The Bay’s Team. We’re One Bay. So, Rep The Bay.”

The quicker reminder is that they’ve always been the Golden State Warriors.

“There’s a reason that we’ve never been the ‘Oakland’ Warriors and there’s a reason that we’re not going to be the ‘San Francisco’ Warriors,” said Jen Millet, the team’s vice president of marketing. “We’ve really grounded ourselves in being the Bay Area’s team.”

Images around the arena will blend the past and the present, with photos that appear to have players from different eras on the court at the same time. There’s one with a picture of Rick Barry shooting an underhanded free throw as Shaun Livingston stands in the background.

There’s another in which Manute Bol towers over a timeout huddle that also includes Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Another has Coach Steve Kerr giving on-court instructions to Tom Tolbert.

“We’re going to have a TV spot that does roughly the same thing,” Millet said. “Literally, it’s Baron Davis passing to Kevin Durant, where we’ve spliced the film. It makes for kind a seamless experience: All of these teams working together.”

There will be “Throwback Thursday” celebrations at five home games. There will be bobbleheads of Baron Davis’ ferocious dunk over Andrei Kirilenko during the “We Believe” season.

And there will be a promotion called “Your Big Night” in which a fan can have a Warriors player, past or present, attend one of the big nights in their life. (Those specifics remain under wraps for now.)

In a way, these are parting gifts for one of the most amazing arenas in sports. The Warriors home sellout streak sits at 291 games heading into the season.

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