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The Cow Palace

Updated: Mar 9

There have been many sporting arenas and venues throughout the Bay Area over the past century and a half. One of the most cherished yet forgotten venues is the Cow Palace in Daly City. It has hosted basketball and hockey games as well as a number of live stock events and rock concerts. It has a colorful history, one which is perfect for the Bay Area.

The idea of the Cow Palace was born during the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition when the leaders of the event realized that the livestock exposition was their most popular attraction. They decided to build a permanent home for that exposition and thus the Cow Palace Arena and Event Center was born. Though the idea was born in 1915, funding for the project didn’t begin until 1925.

A number of Bay Area based businesses contributed to the cause and they chose the sight of the Exposition to build the Cow Palace. Unfortunately, the Great Depression took its toll on the construction and it was delayed until 1935. The WPA Program built the arena and it was completed in 1941. A roof of concrete and steel covered nearly six acres. The first event it held was the Western Classic Holstein Show in April of 1941.

When World War II erupted, the Federal Government rented the facility for one dollar per year for five years and no events were held there during that time. It was used for processing troops leaving for the Pacific Theater. Following the war, it hosted a vast number of sporting events from hockey and basketball to boxing/wrestling matches and roller derbies. It also hosted the Republican National Convention in 1956 and 1964.

Though it held numerous sporting events, no team called the Cow Palace home until the San Francisco Seals of the WHL and the San Francisco Saints of the ABL, both beginning in 1961. The San Francisco Warriors moved there from Philadelphia in 1962, bringing the NBA to the Bay Area. The Warriors made the NBA Finals in 1964 where they and Wilt Chamberlain lost to the Boston Celtics, who were in the middle of their historic streak of eight straight NBA championships.

After a brief hiatus where they played primarily in the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, the Warriors returned to the Cow Palace where they would reside until 1971. It was during this time when they would return to the NBA Finals in 1967 where they would lose to Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers. Following the 1971 season they moved to Oracle Arena in Oakland. They briefly returned for the 1975 NBA Finals where they would beat the Washington Bullets to win the NBA championship.

It hosted the Pacific Coast Championships, an annual tournament on the men’s professional tennis tour, from 1974 to 1989. The Cow Palace hosted the San Jose Earthquakes indoor soccer team of the NASL from 1975 to 1984. The Earthquakes hosted the 1975 NASL indoor championship game where they beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The San Francisco Shamrocks of the minor league PHL played there from 1977 to 1978 and the San Francisco Fog, another indoor soccer team, played there from 1980 to 1981.

At this point the Cow Palace was accustomed to hosting minor league teams and it looked like it may never host another major league team again. That all changed in 1991 when the NHL awarded San Jose its own hockey team. The Sharks played at the Cow Palace from 1991 to 1993. While those years were forgettable, the Sharks were building for the future and made their playoff debut in the year after they left the Cow Palace.

Since the Sharks left, the Cow Palace has hosted the San Francisco Spiders (1995-1996) and the Bulls (2012-2014), minor and mid-level hockey teams. It even hosted the San Jose Wolves of the AIFA, an indoor football team.

The Cow Palace has hosted a number of different sports and is expanding its focus to the e-sports industry. In 2020 it began to host the San Francisco Shock of the OWL.

It still hosts the Grand National Rodeo, one of many agricultural and livestock events it hosts every year. Though it mainly hosts livestock events, rock concerts and minor league sports, the memories that were made within the confines of the historic building will not soon be forgotten.

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