Warriors to play in empty arena following SF ban on large crowds

The National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors will play their March 12 home game at Chase Center against the Brooklyn Nets without any fans due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The move follows a ban imposed by the City of San Francisco, location for the new arena, on all public gatherings in excess of a thousand people for at least the next two weeks. 

The ban, mirroring a quickly growing list of similar restrictions in many other jurisdictions around the globe, was made following conversations between city officials and the Warriors, who are among those most directly affected the large gathering moratorium.

“We know that this order is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health,” said San Francisco mayor London Breed. “We’re following the recommendations of public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. This order mirrors actions being taken by other local governments and is informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.”

The Warriors will refund ticket holders for the March 12 game. In addition, the team said that four other events planned for the new arena between March 13 and March 21, comprising three concerts and a the NBA G League game, will be postponed, relocated, or canceled.

The NBA G League game originally scheduled for March 14 between the Santa Cruz Warriors and Austin Spurs, will revert from the Chase Center to the minor-league team’s primary venue, the Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz, and be played without fans.

“We will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely to determine next steps for future games and events,” the Warriors said. “We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests, and partners during this unprecedented time.”

The Warriors’ move could soon be followed by other such NBA reschedulings or decisions to play in empty arenas. Not only are several other US jurisdictions imposing similar bans on large-scale gatherings, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Congressional committee that he recommends the NBA not allow fans at any of its games due to the virus outbreak. 

“Is the NBA underrreacting or is the Ivy League overreacting?,” asked Rep. Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin Republican, referring in part to the college conference’s decision to not hold postseason basketball tournaments.

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci responded. “If that means not having people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”

Each game played without fans will result in a multi-million dollar revenue loss to the Warriors, who at the beginning of the season opened the $1.6bn, privately financed Chase Center, and in turn helped establish a new paradigm for modern US arenas.

The Warriors’ plans to play in an empty arena were mooted hours later when the NBA made the sweeping decision to suspend the entire league when due to a player testing positive for coronavirus.

Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, also said they will comply with the San Francisco city order, and not stage their previously planned March 24 exhibition game at Oracle Park against the Oakland A’s.

“The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us. We have been in close coordination with Major League Baseball and our local health and government agencies to monitor and plan for any potential impacts of COVID-19,” the Giants said. “We have no other large public gatherings scheduled at Oracle Park during [the two-week period of the city ban]. We are in the process of working with Major League Baseball and the A’s to finalize alternative arrangements.”