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Prepping for Oracle exit, Warriors break ground in San Francisco

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a golden era that seemingly could last well into the next decade with a young core of superstars. But there's always a creeping nostalgia at the team's home games at Oracle Arena, which will see its run as host to the greatest show on hardwood end two seasons from now.

Tuesday morning the Warriors were set to break ground on the gleaming new Chase Center in San Francisco -- a privately financed $1 billion-plus project on more than 11 acres of land -- that's set to open for the 2019-20 season.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob acknowledged the sadness some fans feel in leaving Oakland, where the team has played home games since 1966, but pointed to the team's recent run of success as a mitigating force.

"When you're winning, people are generally happy," Lacob told ESPN.com Monday night after the Warriors' 126-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. "And we've been winning at kind of an unprecedented rate now for three years, so it's a little hard to complain too much."

Lacob said he thinks people will eventually see the Warriors' new digs "as every bit as good, as loud, as great of an experience. We know we're coming from a great experience at Oracle, so that's our challenge."

The other challenge to the stadium project was raising money to privately finance it. When Lacob and his business partners purchased the Warriors in 2010, they knew it would be time consuming and costly to ask for public financing of a new stadium, so they quickly pivoted towards an all-privately financed project.

A privately financed stadium is very uncommon in the world of professional sports, but California, and especially Bay Area politics, make it very difficult to secure public financing (as the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have recently demonstrated.)

"It was a lot of hard work," Lacob said. "I challenged the organization. I said, 'We're going to have to pay for this privately and it has to be fantastic, because we're not going to do anything that's not fantastic. And we're going to have to figure out a way to pay for it.'

"I don't want to criticize other owners or other teams, in our league or anywhere else. But there is a history of these leagues getting these things publicly financed. Look at Atlanta. Sacramento. Orlando, I think was like 100 percent ... I know that wasn't going to happen here, just because it's the Bay Area. But I also didn't want to waste years [trying to get the state to pay]. So I decided, 'We're just going to do it and we're going to figure out a way to pay for it.'

"That means increasing revenues. Ticket prices have gone up. Fortunately we have a good product so people will pay for it. We have to go out and do sponsorship deals. We have to figure out a way to pay for it. It's not cheap, it's not easy."

Lacob, co-owner Peter Guber, coach Steve Kerr and forward Kevin Durant all were expected to attend the groundbreaking ceremony. Lacob said he expected the project to take 28 months to complete, and be ready for the opening of the 2019 season.

"It is a location in San Francisco where people from Oakland may not be happy -- there's some civic pride -- but there's one NBA team in the Bay Area," Lacob said. "We really service Marin, the Peninsula, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco. That location, if you look at it from a transportation standpoint, is the single best location."