Taxpayers win, Warriors lose; arbitrator rules team is on the hook for $40m arena debt

The Golden State Warriors rarely throw up an air ball, but they did Monday after an arbitrator ruled the team must continue paying its $40 million share of the Oracle Arena bond debt.

Warriors owners had argued they were no longer on the hook for annual payments on the 30-year bond, issued in 1996 for remodeling Oracle Arena, after the team moves to its new arena in San Francisco next year. The team’s share of annual debt payment is $7.5 million.

“The terms of the lease were clear in our eyes,” said Scott McKibben, executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. “The Warriors committed to pay this debt. This money was spent to make specific renovations to meet the Warriors’ needs. We simply wanted them to honor the agreement, regardless of where they will be playing their home games in the future.”

The World Champs’ aversion to paying the outstanding arena bond debt after they leave Oakland has long been a simmering point of contention. It was first reporting in the East Bay Citizen in February 2017 that Warriors management began reiterating this concern to the Coliseum JPA.

By October 2017, with no agreement in sight, both sides agreed to enter arbitration, leading to today’s ruling.

“We all love the Warriors and appreciate their success on the court,” Oakland City Council President and Coliseum JPA Vice-Chair Larry Reid. “However, the taxpayers of our community should not be on the hook for debt incurred and renovations completed at the Warriors request. I’m proud that we have stood firm and that the arbitrator has properly placed this obligation where it belongs.”

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