31 March 2005

NBC11 report on San Jose/Oakland

On the late NBC11 newscast, it was reported that the Del Monte Cannery site in San Jose is no longer available, due to San Jose pulling out of negotiations with KB Home on a land swap. Early next week, San Jose's planning commission is due to make a recommendation on KB Home's planned residential community at the cannery, based on a completed environmental impact report. The decision was deferred in early March because the commission felt the need to review new financial documents submitted by KB Home.

That would leave the Diridon South station as the only truly viable ballpark site in San Jose (and the best in my opinion). Much of the other alternative, the FMC site, is already being acquired by the San Jose Airport so it's almost out of the picture.

During the same news report, the Coliseum site was mentioned, but only the old parking lot option, which may not be in play. Oakland City Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente was interviewed, and while he repeated his stance that Oakland and Alameda County don't have $400 million to spend, he did mention that there may be a couple of other sites in Oakland that could be under consideration. A smile curled up from his lips as he finished his statement. The reporter, Christie Smith, said that the Uptown site was not available (I tend to agree with this).

That would leave the Coliseum South site as option #1, and the Estuary as option #2, since Howard Terminal is being used in its entirety by Matson (more on that in a future post).

HOK chosen for DC ballpark

Stadium architectural giant HOK Sport out of Kansas City was selected by the DC Commission to design the Nationals' new ballpark. HOK's winning bid came in at $18.4 million, $4 million less than the next lowest competitor who was not named. That $4 million is quite important, as the revised cost estimate released today by DC CFO Natwar Gandhi just $3.6 million less than the cap set for the part of the project associated with land acquisition and preparation.

HOK has designed 10 out of the last 14 new ballparks. While it made its name with Camden Yards in Baltimore (1992) and SBC Park in San Francisco (2000), HOK also designed the somewhat ill-conceived US Cellular Field in Chicago (1991) and Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati (2003). Their experience is not limited to baseball, however. They've designed arenas like Atlanta's Philips Arena and football stadiums such as Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Over the last few years, HOK has been the recipient of some backlash as it appeared that all of its baseball projects had too many similarities. Among those criticisms:

  1. Overall themes too "retro" with brick facades, quirky dimensions
  2. Upper decks cantilevered too far back to eliminate need for support columns
  3. "Mallification" of concourses, often with gimmicky design elements

I happen to think that these criticisms are largely unfair. Architects design for clients. That's not that difficult for the architect when he's dealing with a single, unified voice, such as a corporation or homeowner. With a stadium, there's no single client. Usually the client has numerous public voices (mayor, city council, community group) and private (team, season ticket base) to deal with. This often forces the architect to compromise or move more towards building a consensus on design issues. What may have started as a clean, unified theme can turn into a disjointed hodgepodge quickly. When you consider how all of the ballparks came into being in the 90's, it's not surprising that they may seem overly retro. That's what most everyone wanted. Of all four major sports, only baseball has a the ability evoke such nostalgic notions. Only in baseball can the venue be so integrated with its environment. Add to that the fact the retro trend started in response to backlash against the numerous multipurpose facilities built in previous decades, and there can be a tendency towards overexposure.

HOK Sport has demonstrated its forward-thinking with many non-baseball projects, many of which were cool, modern glass-and-steel designs. Among these are FedEx Field, Gillette Stadium, and Toyota Center. The parent company, HOK, is considered one of the top architectural firms in the world, and has done airports, high-rises, hospitals, and government buildings. HOK Sport Senior Principal Earl Santee, who is also working on the new St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium, calls the DC ballpark a challenge to make something that's "part monument, part ballpark." With the opportunity to take the retro shackles off, DC should expect good things from HOK.

Lewis Wolff profile

There's also a Chronicle article about Lewis Wolff's background and real estate experience.

The vote yesterday was unanimous, in favor of the Wolff/Fisher group.

John Fisher profile

Good article in the Chronicle about John Fisher, the new majority owner. An excerpt:

The deal went through, and the Fishers became part of a large group of businessmen who owned the Giants.

Harmon Burns, a mutual fund executive, later bought out most of the Fisher family's stake.

John Fisher kept a small stake in the team so he could continue to monitor its financials, his dad recalls. Fisher, 43, recently sold the stake so he could buy the A's.

This time, it seems to be just John Fisher investing in the team.

Fisher may have stuck around long enough to gather knowledge about how Peter Magowan and Co. structured the private financing deal that paved the way for SBC Park. If so, that knowledge would be immeasurable. Whether those lessons could be similarly applied in Oakland is anyone's guess at this point.

MLB, O's reach deal

The seemingly endless negotiations between MLB and O's owner Peter Angelos have finally been completed. From the looks of things, here's the deal:

  1. The two teams will form a "joint venture" or rather a regional cable sports network that will broadcast both teams' games.
  2. This network will be owned and operated by the O's, with backing from MLB.
  3. The O's will pay the Nats "fair market value" for yearly broadcast rights, which may be worth $25 million per year.
  4. Angelos and his group will be guaranteed a minimum price of $365 million should they decide to sell the O's.
A Baltimore Sun article also had this note regarding the Expos move to DC:

Angelos bitterly opposed that move, but said he might be persuaded to go along if his franchise was compensated for expected losses in revenue -- about $30 million.

I'm not clear on what this $30 million figure is. Is it a lump sum or an annual loss? This may have something to do with the speculated annual guaranteed revenue the O's were supposed to get as part of the settlement, somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 million a year. If it's in there, it's the most controversial piece of the whole deal because it strikes at the heart of the revenue sharing agreement. There are already major loopholes that have been opened in the agreement over the last several years, namely the ability to write off stadium construction costs as "operating expenses." This only shrinks the revenue sharing pie further.

There are serious ramifications for MLB. Notice how the Red Sox announced all of the changes that are planned for Fenway Park? It's not just John Henry feeling wistful about the old ballyard, it's that they can write off those improvements agaisnt future revenue sharing contributions. The Yanks are offering to fund half of a new Bronx stadium that will cost around $800 million. Once it's built, they'll spend the next 40 years writing off the costs. The new Busch Stadium is also going to be half-funded by the Cardinals. The new bleachers at Wrigley Field? A write-off for the Cubs. The ongoing improvements to Dodger Stadium? Same story.

Since all of those teams named above pay into the system, the ability to withhold a portion of that yearly payment while also receiving huge benefits along the way (tax write-offs, good local PR, increased franchise value) is huge.

On the other side of the ledger, have-not teams like the Twins, A's, Devil Rays, and Marlins would split an ever smaller revenue sharing funds pool. The idea behind this is that it should motivate the have-nots to more aggressively pursue new ballparks, since they'll get the same write-off benefits the haves get. Eventually I think MLB will move further in this direction, choosing to share a limited amount every year until every team either has a new ballpark or becomes a contraction candidate.

30 March 2005

Press Conference on Friday

Lewis Wolff will be formally introduced as the new managing partner of the A's on Friday. Ballpark plan unveiling then? Maybe, maybe not.

I won't be there due to my day job, but I hope the media brings up some good questions, not just the same-old, same-old stuff (moving, territorial rights, Billy Beane's extension). Some examples of good questions:

  1. Steve Schott made a $100 million pledge towards a new Oakland ballpark while you were in the VP of venue development position. Now that you are the majority partner, has that stance from ownership changed at all? If so, how much?
  2. Do you have a generally agreeable figure for the amount of public investment required for a new ballpark? If so, can you shed some light on what that figure is?
  3. You have mentioned that the Coliseum is probably the easiest site to develop, but other Oakland sites are being explored. Is the Estuary/Oak-to-9th site one of these? If there are others, what are they?
  4. Gensler and HOK have been mentioned as firms that may be involved in the project. Can you clarify which architect(s) you are working with?
  5. What will the design process be like? How much will the public be involved? (HOK tends to be very focus group-based)
  6. Are you leaning towards a specific theme or type of construction when designing the ballpark?
  7. Is the ownership group pursuing alternatives to the current media situation, such as operating a radio station, switching cable channels from FSN to Comcast, etc.?

If you have other examples, please post them in comments.

New Brewers owner thinking retail

In what could be a harbinger of things to come for Oakland, new Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is exploring opportunities to develop land around Miller Park. He even has thought about the issue of preserving the large parking lot there for tailgaters:

Attanasio said he already has been taught about the tradition of tailgating in Milwaukee and the importance of convenient parking at Miller Park.

"I am confident we could come up with a mix that would work," he said. "I look at this as an opportunity to make this an even better place to visit."

Like the Coliseum, Miller Park has over 10,000 parking spaces and is conveniently near an interstate freeway. The new structure replaced the aging but venerable Milwaukee County Stadium, which for decades was a multipurpose facility that had little character.

That's where the parallels end. Miller Park, unlike the Coliseum complex, is a single-attraction venue with little development, especially residential, immediately around it. The Coliseum complex has both the stadium and arena, which offer entertainment all year-round. Miller Park only has the baseball season. The Coliseum also has BART and AC Transit serving it. Milwaukee not only does not have any kind of rail transit system like BART or light rail, but the buses that serve Miller Park only run during baseball games.

Although the city of Milwaukee is open to development ideas, it would appear that luring retail to the area is not a slam-dunk. Even with the differences in comparison to the Oakland situation, Miller Park could become a good case study for any future Coliseum-area development, especially if Milwaukee and the Brewers pursue the construction of a hotel on-site.

Sale goes through

From ESPN and

Vote at 2 PM

They'll need at least 3/4 of the owners to vote yes. All indications are that there will be little-to-no resistance.

There's another angle I hadn't considered until now for John Fisher. Fisher does not have any official ties to the Gap, but he did have a share of the Giants while SBC Park was being built, and he still manages money for the Fisher family, much of which is still on the Gap's board. Could there be some sort of quid pro quo involving his being the majority partner? For instance, Fisher may have been brought in to prop up the bid, and in return, the Gap or one of its subsidiaries would get a good deal on exclusive advertising rights in the ballpark. The Gap used to have prominence in the 'Stick, where the outfield fence had Gap signs in the power alleys (yes, the pun was intended). With SBC, the right field facade is one large Old Navy advertisement. Would all Oakland stadium personnel wear Gap khakis or Banana Republic chinos? Would fans see Old Navy commercials on the big scoreboard display in between innings?

Fisher is pretty much guaranteed to make good money on his investment once a ballpark is completed and the franchise's value rises as a result, at which point he could sell some or all of his share (with MLB approval). Or perhaps Fisher is aggressive in nature, looking to push for a better position within local media (TV, radio, cable) for the team.

29 March 2005

Tomorrow: New ownership press conference

It looks like there will be a press conference with the new ownership group tomorrow. The MLB owners' conference call will probably happen early tomorrow morning. The vote itself is little more than a formality at this point. Jim Young returned to Oakland early to set it up.

"The stadium issue is going to be the major focus of this ownership group," Young said. "But that's no surprise there."

It would be interesting if the A's actually presented a ballpark proposal tomorrow. There's probably no better forum or time to do it than right before the season starts.

28 March 2005

San Jose-Washington, DC comparison

David Pollak's article compares and contrasts the San Jose and DC situations. It does not explore the legal option, which based on the rhetoric I've heard from Magowan and San Jose supporters, may very well be the most likely scenario - but it would have to be undertaken by San Jose/Santa Clara County, not the A's.

The A's small market myth?

There's a good column about the A's and their claims of being a small-market team by virtue of their stadium situation. I agree the assessment that the A's have been holding the pursestrings too tightly, and that the small market claims are as much a sell job as they are fact. However, the writer didn't point out one big issue for the A's - the revenue sharing agreement. The A's are perennial recipients of a revenue sharing surplus, which should be fed back into the organization for player salaries. The problem with that is that the surplus is received well after the season ends. Other teams with large revenue streams get much of their money upfront in the form of suite leases, large season ticket rolls and locked-in ad agreements. The A's are stuck in a place where they'll get this surplus ($19 million this year), but they can't expect to receive that amount every year, and so they can't immediately invest it in new players. Because the amount of the surplus fluctuates from year to year, it's difficult for them to commit to free agents for long-term deals. What the A's have done (with the exception of 2004) was get players midseason, and many of those moves have enhanced Billy Beane's reputation, while giving the team that second half boost. Still, they should shell out some of the extra cash to keep a few of their franchise cornerstones instead of pocketing the cash.

There's also a little dishonesty about the Forbes figures. Since MLB is private, it's hard to tell how much revenue is being hidden by organizations who happen to also own the stadiums, concessionaires, radio/TV outlets, etc. The A's don't have that type of vested interest relationship, so their revenue figures are probably more accurate than the Giants or Yankees. Unless a team gets into major financial straits and gets audited as the Brewers did in 2004, we may never know how much any team truly makes.

27 March 2005

Wave Magazine blurb on new ballpark initiative, San Jose

The Wave Magazine notes that the March 11 press conference was not merely a little get-together between Oakland and Alameda County officials and Lewis Wolff. It was also staged to announce Wolff's "personal involvement in an Alameda County ballot initiative that seeks a new (read: permanent) home for the A’s in Oaktown." This is the first time I've seen a mention of such an initiative, and while it's considered a given that a referendum will be required for any stadium in the Bay Area, I hadn't seen anything regarding the A's direct involvement until now. That leads me to believe that the process may be fairly advanced at this point, which it would have to be if they wanted to get something on the November ballot or even the midterm primary ballot in 2006.

The clock is definitely ticking. Even if an initiative passed, it's unlikely a new ballpark would open before opening day 2009. If the ownership group is directly involved, there will almost certainly be an ad campaign accompanying it, featuring current and/or former players. The Dallas Cowboys got Arlington, TX voters to pass their new stadium initiative due in large part to a $5 million campaign. Ads and public appearances featured former Cowboy greats such as Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, and Daryl "Moose" Johnston. Stadium opponents spent only $40,000.

The irony is that some Alameda County voters may not be able to see any pro-stadium ads during A's games broadcast on KICU-36 because of poor reception.

The next issue of The Wave promises "the complete lowdown" on the San Jose effort.

26 March 2005

More on A's sale

According to an article on, the vote on the A's sale to Wolff & Co. will happen on Wednesday. Not much else new except for what appears to be a confirmation that Steve Schott will remain a limited partner in the new ownership group. There's also another quote from Selig regarding Santa Clara County territorial rights:

"We have a sport where you just can't have anarchy," Selig said. "You can't be changing territories. It's a territory that's owned by the San Francisco Giants and that will be respected. You just don't change those things and we won't."

I believe that places the ball in San Jose's court.

Estuary Plan

This post posits an alternative Oak-to-Ninth plan which incorporates several features in keeping with the EPP. Among the features:
  1. Most of the Fifth Avenue Marina is developed for recreational purposes, including an expansion of Estuary Park on the other side of the channel, a new public marina on the southwest end, a meadow/public park, and parking.
  2. Preservation of the Silveira property.
  3. Potential other mixed use (commercial/industrial)
  4. Conversion of Clinton Basin to a 70-slip floating home community much like those seen near Sausalito, in Alameda and in Seattle.
  5. 1,000 new apartments and condominiums in a 13-acre village concept on the Ninth Ave section, with up to 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
  6. 40,000-seat ballpark at the east end of the Ninth Ave Terminal, with a 1,200-car garage adjacent.
  7. 300-room hotel overlooking the estuary.
  8. Greenbelt/Park established along waterfront for both Fifth and Ninth sections.
  9. An option to preserve most if not all of the Ninth Ave Terminal building.
Click on the photo below to view a larger version.

One of the interesting possibilities lies in the land between the Embarcadero and 880 (the yellow strip in the photo above). Formerly a rail right-of-way for Union Pacific, it's not used for anything right now. The track is still there except for portions paved over at intersections. Part of it will be used for the Caltrans Fifth Ave Interchange project, but much of it may be available for other uses. The strip could be converted into parking for about 250 cars. An alternative plan could have the track reused for a trolley that runs between Jack London Square and the ballpark. Such a trolley could help alleviate the parking problem that will occur on site by letting patrons park near JLS, then take the spur to the game. While a light rail or trolley project for Oakland has been discussed for some time, the presence of rail makes it more of a possibility to fast-track a LRT plan. Alameda has been discussing transit options including bus rapid transit and a tram.


  • Nearly half of the area would used to establish new waterfront parks and recreational facilities.
  • Small ballpark footprint is designed not to dominate landscape.
  • Introduction of new types of housing (floating homes) and numerous units of affordable housing.
  • Subsidies that may be needed to support affordable housing would be lower than those that may be required of Signature plan.
  • Site is "owned" by City and Port, mitigating acquisition costs.
  • Preservation of Silveira property and artist colony.
  • Addition of a luxury or resort hotel, which currently doesn't exist in Oakland.
  • Potential to introduce new mass transit options that serve the waterfront.
  • Location is both close to downtown and highly visible from a major freeway.
  • Costly cleanup and preparation. The land is considered a brownfield, and cleanup is estimated at $16 million.
  • Distance from existing BART (Lake Merritt Station) is 1.2 miles. That's a bit too long to walk. A new station could be built along 8th St near 8th Ave next to BART's maintenance facility, but construction of a station platform and the pedestrian overpass required to span the rail yard immediately to the south could be prohibitively high. The use of a shuttle bus to negotiate the remaining distance may be cumbersome.
  • Limited parking - 1,200 spaces for ballpark in a single garage devoted to the ballpark. A parking district would also have to be created for residents.
  • Infrastructure costs. The Embarcadero along this stretch is often only a two-lane road, and it would have to be widened to accommodate assumed increases in traffic. Controlling ballpark traffic so that it doesn't hamper residents of nearby neighborhoods would also have to be planned accordingly.
  • Startup costs for trolley are high. Cost to build the roughly 1 mile segment would be $40-50 million, which may not be worth it considering the number of riders that might use it. Similar projects were developed in Memphis and Seattle, and both have very limited ridership.
  • Housing advocates may want more units or more affordable units.
The Estuary presents a unique opportunity to create a mixed development that benefits many different groups and gives the A's a distinctive home. However, there are numerous hidden costs associated with development, and it is unclear who would pick up the tab.

Estuary Site Overview

The Oak-to-Ninth Estuary area is a unique site. It's one of the last undeveloped, urbanized waterfront areas on the West Coast. Because of its development potential, civic and community leaders have been keen to make sure it doesn't become overly privatized or densely developed. In 1999, the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland put together a set of development guidelines called the Estuary Policy Plan. The EPP isn't overly specific about what should be built on the 60 acres the area covers, but it does insist on the creation of open spaces with recreational uses.

Signature Properties has the exclusive option to build on the Oak-to-Ninth site. Its plan calls for 3,100 apartments and condominiums, along with commercial uses and parking. Slightly less than half of the acreage will be devoted to open space. There are concerns about the plan and whether it provides the most benefit for Oakland residents. That and a completed environmental impact report are factors in delaying any possible groundbreaking for perhaps a year.

In the HOK study, two options were presented for a ballpark development. The West plan put the ballpark on the smaller 5th Ave Terminal/Marina site. This would've caused conflict with property owner J.W. Silveira, who owns the only privately-held parcel in the area and has a thriving artist colony on it. Silveira is already suing Oakland because of a lack of disclosure, and it's possible the same sort of thing would happen with a ballpark on his property.

The East plan put the ballpark on the large 9th Ave Terminal site, where it would've run into fewer ownership issues since it's owned entirely by the Port. Instead, it would've run afoul of community interests, would would've noted the more than 3,000+ parking spaces and wondered if someone was trying to pass them for open space. There's also the issue of the 9th Ave Terminal building, which preservationists claim has some historic value and should be preserved. The plan calls for the building to be restored and converted, which wouldn't be a bad thing considering the success of SF's Ferry Building conversion.

Unfortunately, it appears that the City and Port have settled on Signature's proposal. If they hadn't, they probably would've updated the EPP, which definitely needs revision considering the economic changes the Bay Area has gone through. It's possible that major changes to the plan (which could come from community actions, the Silveira case, or the next District 2 councilmember's support) could occur. If Signature were forced to pare down its development by 10-15 percent or make a large number of units fit under affordable housing guidelines, they may very well scrap the deal. The next post shows a compromise alternative plan that could satisfy the majority of interests.

24 March 2005

Coliseum Site

So far, only the Coliseum has been mentioned as a potential ballpark site. This may change based on economic conditions or property availability. Wolff has said other sites within the city are being considered, but did not elaborate.

Site Overview: Unlike the use discussed in the HOK study, the site being considered is not the Coliseum's existing north parking lot. Instead, it is the gravel lot immediately south of the south parking lot, and potentially site adjacent to it. The size of the combined properties is around 25-26 acres. The ballpark's footprint would take up about 1/2 of the site. The rest would be used for mixed development uses and parking.

Advantages: Existing infrastructure. Land may be easily acquired, and once funded, development could occur without too much red tape. Among the plusses for the site:
  1. 10,000+ parking spaces already available. 6,000 adjacent to ballpark in the south lot. Another 4,000 in the north lot on the other side of the Coliseum complex. Small amounts of parking may be available on the project site, but those spaces may be reserved for residents and shoppers.
  2. Proximity to BART. Close, though it's about twice as far a walk as the distance on the BART bridge from the station to the outfield plaza.
  3. View of Oakland hills returns.
  4. Little-to-no expected impact on other Coliseum/Arena events during construction. This is important because proponents will want to minimize friction from Raiders owner Al Davis as much as possible.
  5. Little impact on other neighborhood businesses during construction.
  6. Alignment along planned Airport People Mover route (Hegenberger).
  7. Low cost of land acquisition and preparation.
  8. No restrictions on ballpark shape, size, or field orientation.
  9. Minimal new infrastructure required.
Disadvantages: East Oakland location is not exactly prime real estate.
  1. Project may have difficulty attracting name retailers and restaurants.
  2. May pull limited redevelopment resources from other neighborhoods or projects that have more pressing economic needs.
  3. If project has a large public financing component to be paid using a TIF-based structure, there is a greater risk of revenue shortfalls because of site's location in a less highly-prized market. This may in turn affect bonding efforts.
  4. Electrical transmission towers that run through site will need to be moved. Cost is unknown.
  5. Other Oakland sites may have better views, development opportunities, or integration with urban surroundings.

Conclusion: While the Coliseum may be the best option due to its few conflicts and built-in infrastructure, it is also the least sexy/interesting site in the bunch, and is not without risks.

23 March 2005

The Red Sox new home is... their old home?

Looks like John Henry, Tom Werner, and company have come to their senses and are going to keep the Red Sox at Fenway for the forseeable future. Thankfully they didn't go forward with the Fenway 2: Electric Boogaloo stadium concept pushed by previous owner John Harrington. They were able to get extra seats added in any remaining free space in the park and get permission from the city of Boston to close down Yawkey Way outside the park during games for added "concourse" space. This is certainly a welcome change from the trend of building new ballparks, but it's an anomaly, not the reversal of the trend.

So you're probably wondering, can the A's and the JPA do something like that at the Coliseum? The answer to that, sadly, is no. Or at least not as long as the Raiders stay there. The Coliseum was built as a multi-purpose facility, and while it was considered at one point one of the best venues in baseball (circa 1989) and it remains a decent, underrated venue, there's no retrofit that would really benefit the stadium at this point. The JPA has already added most of the amenities new stadiums have, such as luxury suites and club sections. Certain things such as the circular seating bowl won't get fixed without basically tearing it down and rebuilding it. Plus there's still the issue of Mt. Davis, the eastside seating section that seems to always threaten to engulf the outfield. It has 3 decks of suites and the vertigo-inducing upper deck is not a pleasurable baseball experience. I tend to be in agreement with many longtime fans in the idea that if all of the 1995 refurbishment except for Mt. Davis were built, the Coliseum would be more than passable for decades to come. It would have put it on par at least with the improvements made to Busch Stadium or Angel Stadium.

When the Haas family owned the team, they helped renovate the stadium to get it to ideal state it was in during the Bash Brothers era. Field dimensions were stabilized. The concourses got splashes of color, and the stadium itself received a more baseball-tinged identity. While the 1995 refurbishment gave the stadium the forest green seats and updated scoreboards, most of the baseball identity was stripped away. What replaced it were bizarre outfield dimensions, no more views of ice plant or the Oakland hills in the background, and a guarantee that the six weeks of the season or more would be played on chewed up, elephant-trodden sod and dirt.

Now here we are in 2005. What will the new ownership group propose? A now out-of-style retro facade, or a modern or even futuristic one? Restrained field layout or everything-but-the-kitchen sink? Distinctive or hodgepodge generic? My next post will cover those issues and others as I review my own Coliseum South proposal.

San Jose editorials

There's a brief editorial in today's Merc about how, er, pathetic the Gonzales/Stone trip to Phoenix appeared, especially after the pictures came out. Gonzales is no Oscar Goodman, though it must be said that Goodman hasn't gotten MLB running into Sin City's arms.

Former San Jose mayor Tom McEnery gets a little more detailed about the current mayor's effort on his blog, which has an interesting note about Santa Clara County's territorial rights.

Goodman appears ready to strike if the Marlins don't get the $60 million requested from the state of Florida to finish funding for their new Orange Bowl ballpark. Portland is also ready to make a run if it doesn't work out for the Marlins in Miami.

22 March 2005

More idle speculation

Here's another mockup of the Coliseum lot.

Should something like this come to fruition, here's a breakdown of the potential costs

  • 40,000-seat Ballpark - $280 million
  • 288 800-1200 s.f. apartments/condos (blue buildings, 2nd-4th floors) - $60 million
  • 48 900 s.f. apartments/condos overlooking ballpark (red buildings) - $10 million
  • 130,000 s.f. retail/restaurant space (blue and pink buildings, 1st floor) - $30 million
  • 1,400 parking spaces in three garages (purple structures) - $20 million
  • Streetscape and landscape improvements - $15 million
  • Transit plaza construction - $2 million
  • Construction of pedestrian bridges over drainage channels - $3 million
  • Acquisition of neighboring properties required to complete project - $25 million
  • Contingency for delays and cost overruns (soft costs) - $45 million
  • Site preparation - $10-20 million
Total: $500 million without a hotel or other buildings. It also doesn't include the transmission line rerouting. Most if not all of the non-ballpark areas would be financed by private developers. The City would have to buy the Home Base lot, demolish it and construct the new buildings on it. One place to look for an example is St. Louis, where a Ballpark Village is going to built on the heels of the Cards moving out of old Busch Stadium this fall. The final price tag for the combined project? $650 million.

21 March 2005

Oakland = Death Valley for retail?

... or at least that's what the prevailing sentiment was before the Hegenberger Gateway project broke ground. I drove by HG over the weekend and made a few observations:

  1. It's not a very big shopping center. Wal-Mart takes up so much space that there is precious little left for other construction.
  2. The strip that faces Wal-Mart along Hegenberger already has its tenants in place. They are Starbucks, Raider Image, Jamba Juice, T-Mobile, Red Brick Pizza, Quizno's, and Wing Hop. Most of those are fast food establishments.
  3. In-n-Out and Panda Express have standalone buildings that are clearly visible along 880 South.
  4. Simeon Properties is advertising 250,000 square feet available, but it's not the most ideal location because it's in back of Wal-Mart. Not exactly a recipe for high visibility. Simeon is looking for a big-box retailer.
While that's a good start, it barely scratches the surface at providing retail establishments to the woefully underserved Oakland market. Other than Wal-Mart, none of those stores deal with significant overhead or inventory, making them low-risk. Among the retailers that have no current presence in Oakland: Target, Kohl's, T.J. Maxx, Marshall's, Old Navy, Best Buy, Circuit City, or even Bay Area-based stores like Ross, Mervyns, or The Good Guys. Oakland has hired consultants to help combat the stigma that comes with urban retail development in historically depressed areas. Whether or not you want such large retailers in Oakland is another matter altogether. If Wolff's ballpark plan includes retail, you can bet that one or more of those big names will probably be pursued. The question is: Will they have the courage to set up shop in Oakland? If they can't attract the name retailers, any kind of public financing structure based on tax increment funds will have a hard time pulling its own weight, and that's when the specter of the Raiders deal starts to appear.

As for Death Valley, it's amazing what can happen when you sprinkle some rain on the desert...

20 March 2005

Gonzales (SJ) Press Conference Post Mortem

The informal press conference held by San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales outside Phoenix Muni today wasn't mentioned in either the KTVU or KRON news tonight. It was mentioned (along with the always useful file footage) on KNTV. Among the new items:
  1. Gonzales plans to approach Wolff after the A's sale is completed.
  2. He also plans to put a ballot initiative in front of San Jose voters in November 2006. The voters will also be choosing a new mayor as well.
The Merc was the only local paper to pick up the story. That isn't entirely fair to Bay Area media, since the whole affair was pretty short notice, and the media have more important things to report, like freaky tornadoes, 11th hour bill signings and steroids.

Update: KGO-7 ran a report last night that has a video clip of Gonzales at the stadium.

Estuary plans may hinge on election

A ballpark is not currently being considered for the Oak-to-9th section of the Estuary. Instead, Signature Properties has plans for a major housing/retail development on the 60-acre property at the mouth of Lake Merritt Channel. While final approval is still at least a year away, Signature has already put up floorplans and other information for prospective buyers.

Something that may eventually accelerate or delay the development process is the May 17 Special Election for the District 2 (Oakland Grand Lake-Chinatown) City Council seat. Whoever fills the vacancy will have some measure of ability to shape the final plan. He/she will may be dealing with his/her immediate predecessor, Danny Wan, who resigned from the District 2 seat in January to take care of his parents and work for the Port of Oakland.

You may recall that the Estuary site was studied in the HOK report. It came in 5th out of 7 sites. The site has a couple of things going for it. Mainly, it is an absolutely gorgeous location with a view of the Alameda marina across the water. If a south-facing ballpark were built, fans in the grandstand would have an enviable, foul pole-to-foul pole, panoramic view of Alameda and beyond that, the Peninsula and SF. Since some of the land is vacant or in the process of being vacated, groundbreaking could occur once clean-up is completed.

That clean-up could be expensive due to toxicity levels at the site. Site preparation would also take some time because the ports were largely built with dredged bay mud and sand, making it not the most suitable foundation material. This was the case for China Basin as well, and the Giants solved that problem by driving 2,103 concrete piles into ground. Still, the area is a high-risk liquefaction zone, so special care would have to be taken to ensure the ballpark was seismically sound.

Yet the greatest opposition may come from a particularly plucky group of residents at the 5th Avenue Marina, which has established a nice reputation as a thriving little artist colony. Property owner J.W. Silveira, who may have more clout and more lawyers at his disposal, has sued Oakland to prevent the marina from being acquired or otherwise used in the greater development plan.

Whatever happens, the election winner will have no shortage of voices to hear from regarding what should be done with the land. The only guidelines exist in a 1999 document, the Estuary Policy Plan. One of those voices may be a new one in Lewis Wolff, who has plenty of experience building resorts and hotels and may find a unique opportunity to build one right on the estuary. With a ballpark, of course.

SJ Mayor to make pitch for A's

Ron Gonzales, the mayor of San Jose, is scheduled to have a press conference before a spring training game between the A's and Giants to let as many media people as possible know that he is serious about getting the A's in San Jose. He will trumpet many of the arguments put forth by the Baseball San Jose group.

Mayor takes pitch for team to A's spring training site

Purdy: Going to bat for A's is big opportunity for S.J. mayor

The next several months are all about positioning and posturing for both Oakland and San Jose. Oakland assembled a public/private group to work on a financing plan for a new ballpark at the Coliseum, only to get a "don't call us, we'll call you" response from Wolff. San Jose has been waving its arms in air to get attention, but has been rebuffed by Wolff not just based on technicality (A's are focused on Oakland only right now) but also as a matter of principle ("I promise you, we will not write a check to the Giants."). It's not really worth trying to read too much into all of the public statements, because there's nothing behind them yet. When real plans and proposals become available, the debate can begin in earnest.

Amtrak update

While doing my ballpark site surveys on Saturday, I stopped by the Amtrak station in Jack London Square. I didn't get a definite date on when the Coliseum station would be open, but I've been told it will happen sometime in the spring.

From the looks of things, it won't be ready in time for Opening Day, but the most of the hard stuff is done. All that's left is paving the access road and parking lot, and testing of trains running through the area.

A couple of years ago, the Raiders and Amtrak partnered up for a Raiders-themed Amtrak Capitol train that brought in fans from the Central Valley. There was no platform at the Coliseum, so fans disembarked at JLS and took a bus the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the relationship went sour after an incident involving drunken fans, where neither Amtrak/BART nor the Raiders took responsibility. The station will serve as part of an intermodal station, so trains should stop there regularly. What is unknown at this point is whether or not Amtrak and the Raiders will start up the special football service again, or if the train operator and the A's will do something similar.

Good news on the fares: The 10-ride ticket is good for up to 10 one-way admissions for any number of people. So it looks like it'll be a pretty good no-transfer option for those coming from the South Bay or the North Bay, even on weekdays. The nice thing about diesel locomotives as opposed to electric third rail-propelled trains (like BART) is that you can eat, drink, and listen to AM radio on them.

18 March 2005

Plans for the next two weeks

The ballpark and stadium world is pretty light on news right now, so I'll fill the blog with studies of all potential ballpark sites, regardless of whether or not they are available. It can be considered a citizen's follow-up to the HOK study done for Oakland and the A's in 2001. Things have changed pretty dramatically since then, with the dot-com bust and recession, related fiscal struggles for many Bay Area cities, and a few land deals that have affected site availability. Here's the list of Oakland sites I will study:

  1. Coliseum South (mentioned in other posts) - This is the site that it appears Wolff is focusing on. It would require the smallest amount of land acquisition, and permitting/rezoning efforts would be easier than other sites.
  2. Estuary (Oak-to-9th/Embarcadero) - Current plans call for mixed public/private development with a focus on recreational activities, but nothing has started yet.
  3. Uptown (Telegraph-San Pablo Aves between 18th and 20th Sts) - The favored site by many fans due to its proximity to downtown and BART, the site is now in the hands of Forest City, who intends to build 700+ apartments and some retail there.
  4. Howard Terminal (west of Jack London Square) - Last summer the shipping giant Matson bought the 50-acre property, where they have consolidated operations, including shipments of cargo containers and vehicles. There is space to build a ballpark, if Matson is willing to share.
  5. Laney College Fields (east of Lake Merritt Channel) - The HOK study included an option to build at Laney College, where the athletic fields are up for redevelopment. Children's Hospital of Oakland has a plan to relocate to that site. The property may be under some consideration for a ballpark, though it does have one big obstacle - a BART tunnel that runs directly underneath it and is part of the only route that serves southern Alameda County.
  6. Henry J. Kaiser Center (south of Lake Merritt) - The grand old auditorium is facing closure because of costs to run it and its inability to attract events. It may very well be the most attractive location of all, but it is probably too small for a ballpark, and the upcoming 12th Street Reconstruction Project is only going to make it smaller. Plus demolishing a nearly century-old venue with serious history in it won't be too popular.
  7. Oakland U.S.D. Campus (Eastlake) - The school district just opened a period for proposals for the campus just across the channel from HJK. Usage would require sharing the 10-acre property with the district, which wants to be able to keep administration offices and the small schools currently on the site. It's intriguing, but it would require a developers to jump through some serious bureaucratic hoops (community, school district, and state) and the site itself may be too small.
I will also study two San Jose sites:
  1. Del Monte Cannery (southwest of downtown SJ) - Del Monte is considered the frontrunner as a ballpark site because of its size (12.5 acres) and its vacancy (no businesses or residents to relocate or displace). It is also a piece of a potential land-swap deal rumored to be happening secretly in City Hall.
  2. Diridon South (west of downtown SJ, close to HP Pavilion) - A secondary site considered ideal because of its access to parking and transportation options, it would require changes in the street grid and relocation of several businesses and a few homes. Some of those businesses have already vacated the area (NBC11). Others may already have one foot out the door (Stephens, SBC).
I am including the two San Jose sites in the mix because at some point, the Baseball San Jose group will probably present them, and depending on what Wolff's eventual Oakland proposal looks like, San Jose may become an option. It is important to note that territorial rights to Santa Clara County are an enormous issue.

The point of the studies is to provide information on costs associated with a new ballpark, development opportunities around or near each site, and the political weight behind each option.

16 March 2005

Color Comparison Pic

I found a more up-to-date aerial photo on which I could overlay the ballpark/retail concept. Yes, that is Mt. Davis in the background, hideous as it is.

The DC Deal and how it affects Oakland

In a previous post I mentioned how I thought the Washington Nationals new ballpark deal would provide an example for how a ballpark would be built in the new, post-boom era. The combination of community redevelopment and ballpark are being pitched by the proponents, and it is no coincidence that the public financing deal was put together by former Oakland City Manager (and A's stadium proponent) Robert Bobb.

DC's CFO, Natwar Gandhi, just completed his review of 8 alternative "private" funding proposals. Of the 8, only 2 were approved by Gandhi. One involves a large loan from Deutsche Bank in exchange for some portion of ballpark-related revenues, and the other creates revenues to fund the project from the creation of a parking district around the ballpark. At first I didn't think the latter option would be feasible in Oakland, but the more I think about it, it's more of a possibility. In short, it's a way of diverting funds as parking revenue would pay off the stadium instead of going to the team. Whether that becomes a popular proposal is another story.

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein went on to analyze Gandhi's analysis, posing a question that these days does not have a clear-cut answer: What defines "public" and "private" funding? Pearlstein also just finished a web Q&A session which illuminates among other things, his own opinion (ambivalent? balanced? He does support it, warts and all) on the DC ballpark. I got there in time to pose a question:

San Jose, Calif.: What happens if there are cost overruns in the ballpark construction phase? Are there agreements (guarantees) in place that would shelter the DC taxpayer?

Steven Pearlstein: No, that is one of the big risks that council members were hoping to mitigate. Some of the developer proposals would have done that, but, as I say, at too high a cost. Remember,the question isn't whether you want to minimize risk, but what people will charge you for the privilege. There is no free lunch.

Both are good reads if you're interested in such matters.

Status and Speculation

Before I proceed with today's news, it is important to point out a few facts since I've had a few questions on this. That way no one starts running wild with the information posted here.

  1. There is no ballpark deal imminent. While Wolff has been bringing in consultants to explore possibilities (it is his job currently as VP of venue development), it is important to understand that no proposal has yet been put in front of any public entities. It will probably take 6 months to do a detailed economic study, 3-6 months for it to be reviewed by local politicos, and 3 more to complete a detailed environmental impact report. Then construction would take another 30-36 months. That doesn't include the possibility of a referendum, which would be required if public bonds were to be issued. So no one should expect to hear any piles being driven into the ground for a while. As news comes in, I will post it and provide analysis.
  2. The Wolff/Fisher group has not yet been fully approved to take over ownership. But it does appear that the approval is being fast-tracked, so it is entirely possible the change will occur before opening day. It is also possible that Steve Schott and Billy Beane may end up as minority partners.
  3. Any development plans or drawings I put up here are nothing but conjecture at this point. I am not an insider, so I don't have the pulse of Wolff and his crew. I do have a fairly good understanding of how stadium projects get funded, so I figure I can reasonably articulate much of the inner workings.
  4. I personally am trying to stay away from the advocacy side of things. The purpose of this blog is to prepare fans and citizens for what may or may not occur. I think I am well-equipped to wade through much of the b.s. that will likely be thrown around. What I hope will remain are facts. It is up to you, the reader, to make your own judgment based on that information.

Disclaimer over.

Ballpark/Hegenberger Development Plan

This new pic shows the field at 0 degrees (East), 15 degrees (ENE), and 45 degrees (NE). The blocks on the right depict other development.

The large red block at the top is a "big box" retailer, such as Target. Target or Kohl's would be prime candidates, since both are expanding aggressively, and neither currently serve Oakland. Target even has an unusual situation where two stores in San Leandro are only about a mile apart, making one a potential relocation candidate. (Note: These companies are just examples based on their profiles - they aren't endorsements of a particular store or its products.)

The 4 long blocks are for mixed-use retail/housing. The look would be similar to Santana Row in San Jose or Bay Street in Emeryville - open air shopping "district" with ground floor retail/restaurants and housing above it on 2-5 stories.

The orange/gold block on the bottom is a 300-room high-rise hotel. Hilton, who frequently works with Lewis Wolff, may be looking to move up from the dated Oakland Airport Hilton, and this site would be much more of a destination than the current Hilton is.

Integration with the stadium would be in the form of a large outfield plaza with a gate in center. The concept is similar to what is being planned for the new Busch Stadium. Nominal amounts of surface and/or garage parking would be required.

The advantage of a plan like this is that it completely transforms the streetscape on one side of Hegenberger. New developers could be spurred to develop on the other side. The Pak n Save supermarket across the street could be in line for an upgrade, or it could transform into a more upscale Safeway, who happens to be Pak n Save's parent company.

There are more than a few disadvantages. First is the fact that Hegenberger Gateway presents built-in competition. HG will also be a litmus test for the potential of retail in the Coliseum area. If retail space doesn't get filled up and if impressive sales figures don't come over the next year or two, fewer companies will be interested in placing a presence in East Oakland.

Then there remains the issue of cost. If someone were to want to develop all of it in a short timeframe - say, 3-4 years - the price tag would be enormous. How much? The ballpark costs $280 million. The retail and housing part, maybe $300 million. The hotel, probably $100 million. Garages - another $10 million. So the total cost of this project would come close to $700 million! And that doesn't even count whatever infrastructure improvements would be pledged by the City. (These figures come from published costs of other similar projects.)

Success would be a double-edged sword. Gentrification of the area would lower crime rates, bring better quality services and drive up property values, but it could also drive up rents, forcing lower income residents out of the market. San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood is the most notorious example of this phenomenon.

Going back to funding, one-shot building is probably not the way the project would be approached. Instead, the stadium and perhaps either the big-box retailer or the hotel would act as anchors to attract further privately-funded development.

Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid has shown interest in spurring development in the Coliseum area via a new ballpark. Reid will have to carry the torch for any ballpark project, regardless of the size. No matter how much Wolff wants to control the process, he will need someone on the inside to go to bat for him. I have a hard time believing that a new ballpark won't require some sizable amount of public funding.

15 March 2005

Insight into Wolff's dealings

Lewis Wolff made his money (estimated family holdings of $1.5 billion) as a real estate developer, dealing primarily in hotel construction. In fact, his first venture into the hotel market was the Holiday Inn in San Jose, which eventually became a part of a much larger development in downtown San Jose called Park Center Plaza. Though he will have responsibilities that come with his new title as managing partner of the A's, it is expected that he'll continue to keep his day job.

Wolff is currently working on a large hotel project in downtown L.A. near Staples Center and the L.A. Convention Center, where the City is pouring tons of money into redevelopment. Wolff's hotel deal is one to watch, because at $350 million its price tag runs close to the what a new ballpark would cost. The project is also being funded in part by a large tax subsidy, which could cover over half the cost. Wolff and partner Richard Ackerman are concerned that the tax revenue, which would be generated by an incremental raise in hotel occupancy tax, may not fully cover its share:

But hotelier Lew Wolff and financial partner Richard Ackerman, a principal at Apollo Real Estate Advisors, said last week that more revenue must be generated in order to cover its future loan payments on the $350 million project.

“We are scraping every possible revenue source so that if something goes wrong in the next couple of years we’ll be able to ride out any storm,” Ackerman said. “We’re trying to hedge our risk on an immense project by being very cautious.”

To that end, the developers have retained Anschutz Entertainment Group, majority owners of the Staples Center, to help fill the 55-story hotel with lucrative corporate sponsorships.

I'm not sure how commonplace corporate sponsorships of things as trivial as meeting rooms or sheets are, but such arrangements are very much at home in the world of sports venue construction. The best example of successful corporate sponsorships in America is SBC Park, though every new stadium and arena shows evidence of this type of activity. If you are one of those "purists" who disliked SBC Park for its commercialization, you're not going to like the new A's ballpark, especially if it ends up being largely funded by private sources. Don't be surprised if the place ends up being the illegitimate child of Times Square and Kauffman Stadium. Someone has to pay the bills.

Ballpark mock-up

This is a roughly scale projection of what a new 40,000-seat ballpark would look like on the new property. Notice how it's a good deal larger than the 8.5 acre parcel owned by the JPA. Mixed development would occur beyond the outfield walls along Hegenberger Road.

In the next mockup, I'll add a possible development model.

14 March 2005

The A's and Revenue Sharing

It looks like this season the A's will be the recipients of a handsome revenue sharing windfall:

Unlike the NFL, baseball might not share all of its revenue. But the 300 million bucks a year it does share now are having a major effect....The A's, according to sources, will get about $19 million.

Now before anyone starts jumping up and down screaming "We won the lottery!" it's important to understand what that revenue sharing figure means in the grand scheme of things. According to the Major League Agreement, all thirty teams have to share a third of their locally-generated revenues (tickets, ads, local TV/radio). The money is then pooled and split 30 ways. So if the A's paid in $15 million (1/3 of a rough estimate of $45 million in local revenue) and got back $34 million, their revenue sharing rebate is $19 million. If Jayson Stark is right about the following:
And that doesn't even include the $20 million or so each team collects in national TV money. Or the $4 million they're about to get from the new XM radio deal. Or the $6 million to $8 million each team gets from the swelling central fund.

... then the A's should have gotten well over $100 million in revenue for 2004 when merchandise sales and other national streams are included. That makes sense considering the A's pulled $110 million in 2003 according to Forbes. Remove about $40 million in infrastructure costs such as player development, front office costs, rent on the stadium and spring training facilities, and the team's left with $60-70. Most of that will go to players. Some of it may end up becoming a small profit for the ownership group. Chances are that the payroll and revenue will remain the same or dip slightly for 2005, and the cycle will continue.

More on Coliseum South Lot

After checking the Alameda County Assessor's property database and the City of Oakland's city-owned property list, I've come to the somewhat educated conclusion that most of the target property is not owned by the Joint Powers Authority or any other public entity.

The only part that is owned by the JPA is the overflow lot southeast of the drainage channel that runs along the southern border of the Coliseum complex. Below is a photo with that parcel highlighted (in green):

The land is about 8.5 acres and is mostly unimproved. Electrical transmission lines run through it, posing challenges to the JPA and developers. How do the lines get rerouted? Who pays for it?

The remaining land (17 acres) would have to be purchased by the team or purchased by the JPA and given to the team. My guess is that it would be the latter. Additional cost of land? $10-15 million, based on the price of the land at Hegenberger Gateway.

By the way, 8.5 acres is not enough space to build a new ballpark in the modern era. 12-15 acres minimum is required. SBC Park sits on a 13 acre footprint.

Amtrak to the Coliseum

This spring, fans will have another transportation option when going to the Coliseum. In 2003, the City of Oakland and Amtrak partnered to build a new train platform immediately east of the stadium. The $4 million project, called the Oakland Coliseum Intercity Rail Station, is being built to provide an anchor for the transit hub concept being envisioned for the Coliseum BART station area. Eventually, the transit hub would link BART, Amtrak, AC Transit buses, and the People Mover that may be built to carry passengers in between the hub and Oakland International Airport.

The Intercity Rail Station will be a fairly spartan affair, with a single 600-foot platform on the easternmost-track, a shelter, and 35 parking spaces. It is unclear how these spaces will be used and regulated during games, which could become an issue since at least a few hundred fans per game use the Coliseum BART station as free parking for events (BART does charge for Raiders games and high attendance A's games).

The Capitol Corridor run by Amtrak is important because it is the only direct public transportation link between Oakland and San Jose. Amtrak runs 22 trains per day betwen Rocklin and San Jose on this route. With the completion of track improvements on the East Bay portion, the service will expand slightly, mostly benefiting South Bay passengers.

The price of a trip to the Coliseum on the Capitol Corridor is another story. The regular round-trip fare between San Jose Diridon Station and Oakland's Jack London Square station is $22, which to me is prohibitively high. However, Amtrak does provide frequent traveler discounts, include a 45-day/10-ride ticket. Between JLS and Diridon the card costs $63. Between the Coliseum and Diridon it might cost $59. I'll check to see if there are any restrictions on the card's usage, such as if it can only be used once per person per trip or if can be used for multiple persons on the same trip. If it's the latter, it could prove to be a very competitive option as a family of five could get to a ballgame for less than $6 per person each way. A regular roundtrip on Caltrain between Diridon and San Francisco is $11, or $9.35 if using a 10-ride ticket. BART costs $6 roundtrip between Fremont and the Coliseum, plus $7 roundtrip on VTA's Express #180 bus between Fremont and Diridon.

A trip from Fairfield to Oakland JLS costs $22 roundtrip as well. Sacramento is $34.

New stadium issues affecting Stockton Ports

The Stockton Ports, who just a few months ago became the high-A affiliate of the A's, have been complaining about the $22 million ballpark being built for them on the banks of the Stockton Deep Water Channel. Among their complaints: the ballpark is too big (too many seats). Is it justified? Judge for yourself.

For those of you wondering why the A's high-A affiliate is no longer in Modesto, it had much to do with being lured by - that's right - a fancy new ballpark. What has Modesto done to get a new team? Why, they've gone Nuts.

13 March 2005

News from the last several days

Most of these articles are about the sale of the A's from Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman to the group led by Lewis Wolff and John Fisher.

Wolff: A's ballpark already in works

A's sale clears next-to-last hurdle 3/12

Wolff: Athletics' 'focus' is in Oakland 3/12

New A's owner says he will control planning of ballpark 3/11

A's suitor requests reins for new park 3/11

Group resurfaces for A's ballpark bid 3/8

From the latest (top) article:

"Here's a major quid pro quo," Wolff said. "I promise you, we will not write a check to the Giants. I can tell you that we are not planning to buy out the Giants' rights."

This is important because it is one of the main arguments for San Jose baseball proponents. Since Peter Magowan of the Giants is not willing to name a price for territorial rights and Lew Wolff isn't willing to pay for them regardless, it would appear that a move to San Jose is a non-starter at this point. Still, the Baseball San Jose group continues its efforts just in case the Oakland efforts fail to produce a mutually agreeable ballpark plan.

New Ballpark site

Group resurfaces for A's ballpark bid

In fact, little has been done since Wolff, who had been investigating the possibility of a new park as a minority owner, designated the Coliseum area as the best available site last summer. The park would be built on the south side but Dean doubted it actually would be in the existing parking lot, as was once thought.

"You'd have to have a parking alternative with all those spaces gone," he said, "and the idea of building a parking structure doesn't work. First, it would be prohibitively expensive and then, it would be a nightmare with everybody trying to leave at the same time after a big game."

This is the first specific mention of the idea that the ballpark will not be built on the existing Coliseum grounds. In the 2001 study done by HOK for the A's and Oakland, the Coliseum option had the ballpark built on the north (66th Avenue) side of the park.

This is an aerial photo I modified to highlight (in red) the new site. The old Coliseum option would have placed the ballpark directly north of the arena (in the dark parking strip). Hegenberger Road runs along the right (east) side of the picture. BART is in the upper-right corner. 880 (Nimitz Freeway) is west of the arena.

The site is around 25-26 acres in size. Most of it has been fenced off to prevent vehicle access due to frequent use as a site for sideshows and before that, raves. The only active tenants on the combined site are the Denny's at the NW corner of Coliseum and Hegenberger, and the EDD/office building at the NE corner of the lot. I'm not clear on who exactly owns the properties in question, but I should have that info soon enough.

What? and Why?

Welcome to the new A's Ballpark blog. My name is Rhamesis Muncada, and along with being a lifelong A's fan, I have always been a fan of the architecture of stadiums, arenas, theaters, or any venue where people gather to watch entertainment. For as long as there is an effort, I will keep this blog updated with news and links to articles about efforts to build the A's a new ballpark. First, I'll post a couple of statements about myself.

1. I am not a season ticket holder, but I go to 30-40 games a year. The A's attendance patterns make it easy for me to go to games as a spur-of-the-moment thing. If a new ballpark is built for the A's, I would most likely become a season ticket holder. I also attend roughly a dozen Giants games per year as well.

2. It is my belief that low revenues directly related to pricing and attendance at the Network Associates Coliseum have led to the team's inability to keep major free agents. I am astonished that General Manager Billy Beane and his staff have been able to keep the team competitive for six years straight even with the problems that a low-revenue team faces every season. That said, a new stadium with more attendance and revenue streams could very well help make the A's more competitive, though I acknowledge that a new ballpark is not a guaranteed panacea.

3. My focus is entirely on a new ballpark. While I understand the "Moneyball" approach to building a team and have faith in Beane's methods, there are other blogs and fansites that do a comprehensive job covering topics such as OPS, WHIP, and Range Factor. There are links for those sites on this page.

4. I do not support new general taxes such as sales or utility taxes to fund ballparks. I believe that ballparks should be able to fund themselves in large part, with minimal public investment in the form of limited infrastructural improvements. I would support a bond measure to fund ballpark construction if debt service on those bonds is met by revenues obtained through activities at or related to the ballpark. (Why the Tax Reform Act of 1986 largely prohibits this.)

5. I prefer to see the A's stay in Oakland, and have hope in new owner Lewis Wolff's efforts to get a new ballpark built. However, I hope that if a new ballpark can't be built in Oakland, it can be built elsewhere in the Bay Area so that I can continue to support the team. This includes San Jose, which is not currently available due to the Giants' territorial rights over Santa Clara County.

6. Yes I am named after a pharoah.

7. I live in San Jose. At A's games, I usually sit in the bleachers.