And it’s one hell of a story, with
multiple twists and turns involving
toxic waste, a Hollywood producer and
an Olympic gold medalist. There were
multiple twists and turns. At one point,
San Jose’s new hockey team was going
to be called the “Americans” and wear
red, white and blue uniforms. Yes, really.
Everybody knows that the Sharks
would not be in San Jose without SAP
Center. Many don’t know that getting
the building constructed was hardly a
breakaway goal. It was more of a grindit
out task with unexpected crosschecks.
Where to start? Let’s try 1984. A
decade earlier, San Jose had passed
Oakland in population and would soon
be bigger than San Francisco. More and
more South Bay residents wondered
why they needed to drive 40 or 50
miles north to see major sports and top
In response, local trade union executive
John Neece floated the notion of an arena
at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
as a possible future home of the NBA’s
Golden State Warriors. Neece was also
a member of the Fair Board and had an
obvious ulterior motive. The plan had no
firm financing component. But the idea
gained traction and grass roots support.
Example: Over drinks at a downtown tavern, three young sports fans – Sean O’Kane,
Tom Colla and Guy Laughridge – decided to pool $500 and print up six dozen silkscreened
26 2 0 1 8 -1 9 S A N J O S E S H A R K S Y E A R B O O K
tee shirts with the slogan: “Fund Arena Now.” Or for short: FAN. Just like
that, the first arena booster group was formed. A senior citizen named Chris Panopulos
volunteered to be president. A local bank auditor, Bud Genovese, became treasurer.
They met regularly to lobby the city council.
McEnery then took the lead, after convincing Neece and the council that downtown
was the correct site. He proposed to allocate $100 million in redevelopment money for
the arena. Skeptics thought the funds should be spent elsewhere and began gathering
signatures for a ballot proposition. McEnery decided to write his own and placed it on
the June 1988 ballot.
And then the fight for citywide support began. Things grew ugly. The rhetoric of
anti-arena folks went something along the lines of: “Build It And Our City Will Rot In
Hell And Possibly Bankruptcy.” McEnery and three of his top staffers—Pat Dando, David
Pandori and Dean Munro—did numerous outreach appearances across the city and
were peppered with angry questions. So were members of the FAN booster group.
“We set up a booth at the county fair,” Genovese recalls. “Folks came up and said
they were against the arena because cars would park where they lived on Shasta
Avenue, a mile away. I would argue that no one in California would park a mile away and
walk 20 minutes to the arena.”
25 YEARS OF SAP CENTER
“WE SET UP A BOOTH AT THE COUNTY FAIR. FOLKS CAME UP
AND SAID THEY WERE AGAINST THE ARENA BECAUSE CARS
WOULD PARK WHERE THEY LIVED ON SHASTA AVENUE, A MILE
AWAY. I WOULD ARGUE THAT NO ONE IN CALIFORNIA WOULD
PARK A MILE AWAY AND WALK 20 MINUTES TO THE ARENA.
— BUD GENOVESE