Is anyone else around Santa Cruz as surprised (and as pleased) as I am that a professional sports team is coming to town?
The arrival of the Santa Cruz Warriors minor-league basketball franchise is due at its Front Street location Dec. 23 -- an unbelievable seven-month turnaround from the time it was first proposed until the first tip-off. Of course, construction of the temporary pavilion home for the team hasn't started yet -- it's due Sept. 5, assuming the Santa Cruz City Council gives its final stamp of approval a day earlier.
Warriors' official Jim Weyerman is the man in charge of getting the team and the pavilion ready for the Dec. 23 opening, and he's spending his days meeting and greeting a variety of Santa Cruz folks as part of his outreach.
At a recent Rotary Club meeting, Weyerman enthusiastically stated his belief that the facility would be ready to go. "There is no Plan B," he said, pointing out that having an alternative is just probably a good way to make the alternative happen instead.
Negotiations between the Warriors and the city of Santa Cruz are ongoing -- as are negotiations with the Seaside Co., owners of the land. But Weyerman said he's optimistic that all parties are interested in moving the project forward.
That optimism is a sign that times are changing in Santa Cruz. This town that has unreasonably opposed varioous new facilities seems to be evolving -- particularly among younger people who are looking for more activities and even new job opportunities around town. They think having a pro sports team here is cool -- and it is.
In fact, it's more than cool. Weyerman pointed out at his Rotary talk that the new facility -- even though temporary -- will help with one of the oldest problems facing Santa Cruz: connecting the beach area with downtown. This new facility will be as important or even more important than the recently opened Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center a short way away.
Weyerman and others also visualize the potential of a permanent facility. As it stands, the pavilion will seat maybe 3,200 people and could host other events as well. Think UC Santa Cruz basketball, the Derby Girls and even concerts. A permanent facility -- already being studied by UC Santa Cruz.-- could seat as many as 5,000.
Not everyone is happy with the proposal. Some question the cost to the city, which is assuming much of the cost of construction. However, there could be a big economic payoff, and having the Warriors' parent organization, the Golden State Warriors as a partner makes a lot of sense as well.
Already, people are quickly reserving season tickets. Weyerman says that the Warriors are ecstatic with the number of people who have already reserved tickets.
"Santa Cruz can be the best minor league team in America," Weyerman told Rotary.
Why not? It's time we give it a try.