31 December 2005
29 December 2005
As the tour guide led us through and pointed out many of the unique design elements of Petco, I made some of my own observations:
- Revenue-generating opportunities are more diverse at Petco than at SBC Park. The Western Metal Supply building alone has a restaurant, bleachers, and several party suites. The only significant party area at SBC is the concourse behind center field, which is sometimes roped off when it's reserveed for group gatherings.
- The Sony Dugout Club, which is reserved for the 150 or so ticketholders immediately behind home plate, is fantastic. It's ostentatious with its huge leather booths, granite tables, and multiple plasma televisions, but if you're a corporate guy looking to impress a client, it's a can't-miss venue. It also has a great view of the Padres' batting cage.
- The bleacher concept is only flawed in the sense that the risers descend to the field with the fence partially obstructing some views. Other than that, it's fantastic. The "beach" area will be expanded slightly when the fence is pulled in before the start of the season. BTW, the individual plastic seats on the concrete risers are the Colosseum-Two model made by Dant Clayton, a highly reputable bleacher manufacturer out of Louisville, KY.
- The standing room areas are brilliant, perhaps too brilliant. Since the standing room option ($5) has become so popular, seatholders immediately in front of the SRO drinkrails have gotten annoyed at the occasional spilled drink - so much that the Pads are taking out an entire row in front of the drink rail. A nice side effect for the team is that it will create a little more ticket scarcity since a couple hundred seats may be removed from inventory.
- The Toyota Terrace has separate club seating and suites. The tour guide pointed out the fact that several Indian gaming interests have suites. Sycuan even holds regular tribal meetings in their suite. I'll expand on this in an article on Las Vegas that will be posted on Friday.
- With 17 acres to work with, HOK and architect Antoine Predock had a large space on which they could place buildings, plants, and architectural elements. With an A's ballpark, 17 acres may not be available because of costly land acquisition (5 acres = $30+ million). The acreage was used effectively, as much of the ballpark is recessed from the street, minimizing visual impact.
- The use of differing sizes of squarish and rectangular sandstone was a nice touch. It really softens the facade while paying homage to Aztec architecture, albeit with a modern twist.
- Ramps are hidden while stairs leading up to the main concourse are prominently featured, which is reminiscent of an Aztec temple. There are 18 elevators and a few escalators, but they are also hidden away.
- The stadium appears to be built quite high when looking at it from the field, but that's only because of the proximity of the mezzanine and upper decks, which are both cantilevered well over the lower deck. It would be lower if not for the two levels of suites and club lounges, which effectively add 25-30 feet to the height of the stadium. From the streets lining the outfield, the stadium facade is some 30 feet high when it meets the sidewalk. Look straight up and you'll see the upper two decks. The field is not significantly below the street (~6 feet).
- The Park at the Park is a great concept. It's one I think can be integrated into an A's ballpark that could be a big community asset if executed well. It doesn't beat McCovey Cove and the Promenade, however.
- The Giants went a little cheap on the video/scoreboard solution deployed at SBC Park. They signed a huge package deal with Panasonic, who not only provided the scoreboard and video board (dubbed Astrovision), but also the TV's in the suites and concourses and the distributed audio system. At Petco, the Padres partnered with Cox Cable and Sony, which meant that HDTV and Sony widescreens are everywhere. There are also little scoreboards above each concourse that have static signage attached. Of course, the Pads had a nice little financial and political delay which allowed them to get the HD stuff in house, which the Giants didn't a few years back. That just means that when it comes time for the Giants to do some upgrades, they won't be cheap. Memo to Lew: 1080p LCD! And Meyer Sound - because nobody does it better!
- I counted four different Hussey Seating seat models in use at Petco. The exposed suite seats were covered with tarps. Leather rolling chairs were pulled into each suite. The first tier club seat holders got nice, wide chairs with padded inserts for both the back and seat. The high-roller Sony Dugout Club seats were a high-back variety with fold-out tablets, like those found in a university auditorium. The regular seats were the old-school looking Legend model.
22 December 2005
Ever the ballpark advocate, Mark Purdy's new column in the Merc builds on the theory that a soccer stadium initiative will sprout into something containing both baseball and soccer facilities. From this there is one glaring question: Is the pursuit of a soccer stadium an end-around to a ballpark?
Yes and No. Yes in the sense that it's an extremely clever way to get the facilities on the ballot. Separately, they're much weaker than they are together. There's no commitment from Wolff to bring the A's to San Jose, but there is a pretty clear threat should a ballot initiative be approved. No because territorial rights are still a major problem, but the thinking may be that the offer is so good for Wolff (and by extension MLB) that it would be foolish for the commish to pass it up.
So what would it look like? Try this:
The key to the idea, as I've said before, is the inclusion of public park space. There is a lack of courts and playing fields in the Midtown-Downtown area, and by including them in the package, stadium proponents could get a crucial ally that may otherwise be a NIMBY foe.
The 22-25,000-seat soccer stadium sits on top of what is now Park Avenue. To get the right amount of space, Park Avenue would have to be closed down. It actually works out quite well, since any excavated ground can be used to fill in the underpass leading to the railroad tracks. Close down Park west of the tracks for about a block, and the neighborhood will have 4-5 acres of park facilities linked together by an underpass. There would be plenty of room for the following:
- A public park situated west of the ballpark with picnic areas and unique landscaping
- A multi-purpose playing surface for a youth soccer field or sandlot
- Basketball and tennis courts west of the ballpark
- A pedestrian-only plaza or paseo between the two stadiums
- A single vehicle access ramp for both facilities and other shared infrastructure
21 December 2005
"Our goal is to create a more intimate ballpark atmosphere and bring our seating capacity in line to what we have proposed for our new venue."The team also makes a claim that the decrease in capacity is being done to improve the fan experience, citing a survey that indicated views from the ironically named View level seats were among the worst in baseball. One observation I have to make is that the A's failed to explain exactly how they were going to improve the fan experience on than the closing of the upper deck. They should have explained how access to concessions and restrooms should or will be improved, which it almost certainly will be. Otherwise it won't appear as more than an experiment.
One thing should be explained about this move: the A's probably won't get higher revenues this season as a result. Say the A's sold 10,000 View level seats per game against the Yanks/Red Sox/Giants and account for $10 per person in concessions revenue, the gross revenue for those 12 games would be $2.4 million. That's not that much in the grand scheme of things. Lost revenue from View tickets sold at other games would be made up by selling tickets for Plaza level seats. While it appears from the outside that the A's are just interested in selling a bunch of higher-priced seats, it's more about getting that predictable demand curve in place with season tickets and advance sales. Diminished walk-up sales should no doubt contribute to a flatter curve.
What wasn't known in November was the type of concessions the city and Coliseum Authority might need to make to get the A's to go along with the deal. That was finally revealed last night as A's officials and local pols said that the A's wanted a three-year extension on the existing lease. That request, along with a similar extension request by the Raiders, was denied.
In light of the difficulty seen in getting the Coliseum North project off the ground, one would think it would behoove Oakland/Alameda County to sign the A's for three more years. That time could be used to work on alternate sites or reshape Wolff's proposal into something more feasible.
The only thing I can see that may have made Oakland balk at the concession was if the lease terms were merely three additional one-year extensions with the same buyout terms the A's currently have in the 2008-10 years. That would not help Oakland in the least, since it would give the A's a longer safety net as they pursued other options out of town.
If the lease extension was a lock-in, where the end of the long-term lease agreement was pushed out from 2007 to 2010, it doesn't make much sense for Oakland to reject it. It's possible that Oakland is calling the A's bluff and holding a hard line so that the A's can be forced to make a decision by 2010. It might also net better lease terms for Oakland. Still, those are tenuous supporting arguments for a decision that can only be termed as baffling. More to come on this.
20 December 2005
Regarding the Dec. 18 front-page story "Beyond Washington, Most Teams Cover Stadium Overruns; District Agreed to Pay Costs Exceeding Ballpark Budget," about the District's lease deal with the Washington Nationals:Robert Bobb used to work for the City of Oakland. He left for the District in 2003 to head up their ballpark efforts, among other duties. He's exactly the guy Oakland needs for Wolff's project. Now I know that there are plenty of issues with Bobb's work in Oakland and his letter above has seriously flawed arguments (the large businesses are going to pass the taxes on to consumers, hello!), but I've pointed this out before and I'll say it again: these projects don't get done without a champion. That champion isn't a politician or a person from the private sector. It has to be a bureaucrat who can pull the strings and work the phones to get things done. Considering what may have to be done to get a new A's ballpark built, I wonder how it will get done in any Bay Area city without someone locally filling a similar role.
First, when comparing the District with other cities, it is important to keep in mind that stadiums in Seattle, Milwaukee and Phoenix included roofs, a complicated design feature that makes a project trickier. The District's stadium will be simpler.
The Nationals are contributing $5.5 million a year on top of $20 million upfront. Over the 30-year lease, this amounts to $165 million. Almost no other U.S. city is receiving that much rent; some teams pay just $1 million a year in rent.
Also, Camden Yards in Baltimore was 95 percent funded by that city. By comparison, the District's stadium is funded almost exclusively by large businesses, the federal government and ticket holders -- sparing average taxpayers.
Further, many ballparks, such as Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, are isolated. In the District, we've spent a little more to locate the stadium just 10 blocks from the Capitol. We're creating a new neighborhood out of parking lots and warehouses; in a few years a formerly gritty corner of the city will be lively and productive, bringing millions of dollars in sales, property and income tax revenue into the general fund each year.
Finally, most maintenance costs at the stadium are the responsibility of the Nationals, not the city.
Our hope is that the enormous economic benefits that will flow to the city and its residents in years to come will demonstrate the wisdom of this investment.
District of Columbia
18 December 2005
What Ratto didn't bring up is Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment (SVS+E), the Sharks' owners who run HP Pavilion, promote other events in San Jose and recently failed as 11th-hour saviors of the Quakes. What is SVS+E's potential role in all of this? SVS+E stands to have a major role managing operations of facilities and parking. If Wolff/Fisher partner with SVS+E, SVS+E will have control of promotions and management of two or three venues and virtually all parking around the area. Wolff/Fisher can infuse SVS+E with new capital to get a piece of the action and move things along more quickly. At the same time, new development will occur around the arena and ballpark that can provide a huge payoff (market rate condos, Santana Row-like mixed development). Does that last sentence sound eerily like Wolff's Coliseum North development plan? I don't believe it's a coincidence.
If one looks at the San Jose ballpark-arena area, it is quite obvious that it is just waiting for an enormous amount of redevelopment to occur. To understand how this can take shape, it's important to first recap other Downtown San Jose development-related news from the past several months:
- March - Wolff and partners sell a large portion of Park Center Plaza to a group headed by the sons of frequent business partner Phil DiNapoli. SJ Mayor Ron Gonzales stages a little rally in Phoenix outside the A's spring training facility. Meanwhile, the city goes forward with the KB Homes development at Del Monte Plant #51 (Auzerais), making Diridon South the ballpark site by default.
- March/April - MLB approves the purchase of the A's by the Wolff/Fisher group.
- August - Wolff unveils the Coliseum North development plan. Ballpark designs are released, which are not site-specific.
- September - MLB commish Bud Selig visits San Jose to speak at Commonwealth Club, meets with SJ officials prior to speech, repeats the "We are focusing on Oakland, we don't like changing territorial rights" position.
- October - San Jose Water Company gets entitlements from the City of San Jose to start development of the SJWC parking lots (east of the arena/ballpark). Plans call for mid-rise residential and a high-rise office tower. Once construction starts, parking in the immediate area around the arena for arena events will be significantly reduced, which means that new parking will need to be built nearby to replenish supply. One of the SJWC board members happens to be Phil DiNapoli. SJWC is looking for an experienced development partner for the site instead of developing the site by themselves. (I'll give two guesses as to who might emerge as the likeliest development partner.)
- November - SJ City Council approves the ballpark study for Diridon South, moves ahead on site acquisition efforts.
- December - Last minute efforts are launched to save Quakes from moving to Houston. The effort fails, but Wolff/Fisher/the A's emerge as a leading candidate for a new Quakes MLS franchise. Wolff indicates that the Quakes should be in San Jose. Speculation begins on the San Jose ballpark site holding a stadium or stadia for both the Quakes and A's.
16 December 2005
- Public comments for this scoping phase are due January 3, 2006.
- The Draft EIR will be released sometime in late February, with a 45-day public review period to follow.
- The final EIR will be up for Planning Commission certification around May 31.
- June 20 is the deadline for any appeals.
- The plan will then be placed before the City Council for a vote. If successful, it will become a ballot measure in the November 7, 2006 General Election.
- Several residents from local neighborhoods expressed concern about noise and traffic abatement. There is a distinct possibility that some streets in the Delmas Park area would be closed on game days/nights to better manage traffic. Soundproofing may have to be done on nearby houses and the ballpark would have to be built in a way that best mitigates noise and light pollution.
- Parking is going to be a problem, especially when the SJ Water lots are developed. Something will have to replace lost parking.
- The redone street grid will have some unknown impact. The Autumn Parkway development being planned for the area north of the arena is not budgeted at this time.
- Various ballpark configurations will be studied for their potential impacts and fitness.
- Alternate sites will be included as part of the EIR.
- District 6 councilman (and county supervisor candidate) Ken Yeager was present.
- I asked a question about PG&E's willingness to reconfigure the substation on the site. This does not appear to be a feasible option, which means the substation would have to either stay intact or relocate.
- An option to dig a bowl for the stadium and place the field 15-25 feet below street level will be studied. I brought it up because I think it could help mitigate light, noise, and vertical (FAA) clearance.
- Initial drawings continue to have the ballpark in the northeast orientation. It also has the ballpark jutting into what is now Autumn Street. That would force Autumn Street further east, next to Los Gatos Creek. One of the drawings showed a park on the creek's west bank.
15 December 2005
That brings us to today, when MLS commissioner Don Garber thanked local fans and talked about a new team coming to roost in San Jose as early as 2007. The city signed a letter of intent with MLS to get a stadium financing plan in place. Judging from the message boards at bigsoccer.com, it's no consolation.
Which brings me to an interesting A's related bit of news. Quakes announcer and longtime South Bay sports media guy John Shrader mentioned on KNBR that one of the local investor groups thought to potentially save the Quakes or invest in a new team was led by none other than Lew Wolff and the A's. No details were revealed beyond that, which is enough to start some wild speculation:
- How serious was Wolff about investing in the Quakes?
- Did he make any kind of proposal?
- Did the proposal involve a new soccer specific stadium?
- Or was it more along the lines of a shared stadium situation?
- If so, where? San Jose? Oakland? Elsewhere in the Bay Area?
- Does this mean he actually has designs on the A's moving to San Jose?
09 December 2005
That isn't to say that BART coming to the South Bay in the future isn't completely dead, but it will push the expected operation date of 2017-2018 out several more years. It's possible that VTA will move to an alternative, one that doesn't involve the expensive downtown San Jose subway that would run underneath Santa Clara Street. Since feasibility of the Fremont/Warm Springs extension is dependent on the South Bay extension, it's quite possible that Warm Springs (which did not receive federal funding earlier this year) is not happening anytime soon either. That could create a similar albeit lesser negative effect on a Fremont ballpark.
Well, I just received word that the site's slated for some new construction along with new construction already present (perhaps the Acura dealership?). So a ballpark is not going to happen along Auto Row. That's one less option.
As far as Wolff's Coliseum North plan goes, apparently the analysis is still in progress. I'm trying to find more detailed info on that analysis. Stay tuned.
08 December 2005
The payroll is increasing about 10 percent, Beane said, and Wolff, whose focus is building a new ballpark, confirmed it'll go deep into the $60 million range after the A's signed Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21 million contract.That sounds like a challenge to the A's fanbase. Not that signing Esteban Loaiza is going to equate to 2,000 extra season tickets, but it looks like Wolff is trying in earnest to get more momentum behind the team before the season begins. Signing Loaiza, keeping Zito (which many don't think will happen), and bringing in a name free agent slugger such as Frank Thomas should create some buzz around the team.
"I'm just hoping we get positive fan reaction with our attendance," Wolff said. "Billy continues to field a fabulous team, and I hope fans who didn't support us in the past will start to. It's a very big goal for me. I've got to find out how strong we are in the local market.
"We're trying to put the most quality team on the field. We just don't want to go to the playoffs."
Wolff hasn't shown any Jeffrey Loria-like tendencies, so there's no valid reason to believe that he'll conduct a fire sale if fans don't come or if he doesn't get a ballpark deal. There's always the possibility, and A's fans know too well how good Charlie Finley was at ripping his team apart.
Taking gambling off the books isn't a complete dealkiller, but it has to be pretty close. As much as the major sports would love to be the first to get a share of the big money that comes to Vegas (and stays there, as the ad says), none of the leagues wants to be remotely associated with gambling. That goes double for baseball, which still has the stench of the steroids scandal all over it. Though I wouldn't be surprised with the notion that if one league were brave enough to enter Las Vegas despite the sport still being on the books, the others would be falling all over themselves to be next.
Las Vegas is ripe for relocation, but there are concerns from the league regarding betting on baseball. When Las Vegas officials made their pitch to the Montreal Expos, who eventually became the Washington Nationals, the issue of betting wasn't resolved.
"Las Vegas made a very attractive proposal," said DuPuy about the city's efforts to attract the Expos. "There are issues with regards to Vegas indicated during that proposal. [There was] no willingness to take baseball off the books. I know that's a very, very serious issue with the Commissioner."
07 December 2005
The scoping meeting, at which the public can comment on how the environmental review should proceed, is scheduled for Thursday, December 15 at 6 p.m. The location will be the new City Hall, Room W118-119.
06 December 2005
The ballpark is on the now familiar Diridon South site. Across Park Avenue is the fire training center, which is should be converted into a public park, perhaps with parking for some 600 cars underneath. The park could have a small playground and playing fields for soccer/football and baseball/softball. To top my wish list for the park, it should be named after the late Pat Tillman. I have to admit a bias regarding Tillman because though I didn't know him personally he was a contemporary of mine, but regardless it's hard to find a more fitting, interesting former San Jose resident for whom a park could be named than Tillman.
The soccer stadium is located on what is currently an equipment rental facility. The company owns several parcels spread among two blocks of Dupont and McEvoy Streets south of Park Ave. I've gone by there several times while checking out the Del Monte site, and I noticed that it's really underutilized. One parcel at the entry to the site is for sale. An office building in the middle of the facility is empty and has a for lease sign on it. There's a good amount of open space there. Neighbors include a couple of auto repair shops and a welding company. The area is rectangular in shape, and could accommodate a 22-25,000 seat soccer stadium with little trouble. If the street grid were realigned, a compact but spacious soccer stadium could work very well there. A partial roof would be required to help mitigate noise. Of course, there would be issues with acquiring the land and moving the equipment rental company, but that comes with the territory.
One small note: the PG&E substation has been realigned next to the ballpark (in grey). If this can be done (the amount of land is the same if not the shape), it would cut down on the potential costs associated with moving the substation.
I spoke at tonight City Council Open Forum about this site. We'll see if, like my suggestion to Oakland about the Broadway Auto Row site, anything comes of it.
I visited the fire training site over the weekend, and yes, it is small. I was able to get a couple of mockups going that got stadium capacity to the 16-17,500 range, but that's too small for a SSS (soccer-specific stadium) these days. The preferred capacity for a SSS is 20-25,000, with some 20-30 suites, a stage at one end for concerts, and amenities one would typically find at a new ballpark or football stadium such as club seats and wide concourses.
It wouldn't be so bad if the site were square, but since it's more or less an isosceles triangle, shoehorning a field and stands into the space is quite an effort. Instead of 5 acres of available space, it's really less than 4. There's a possibility that a portion of a grandstand could be built over Los Gatos Greek, but that would trigger a potentially lengthy environmental review process because of the removal of some portion of the riparian corridor.
Unfortunately, we may be getting into a situation where soccer fans and baseball proponents end up fighting over the Diridon South site. Worse, the city may put together a proposal where the two teams share a stadium, an idea that goes against both MLS and MLB guidelines.
Interestingly enough, there is a piece (or pieces) of land nearby which, if the city invested in them the same way the are with the ballpark site, would make an excellent site for a 20-25,000 seat SSS. It would leave the fire training site open for the public park originally planned for the area. Where is this site, you ask? I will probably reveal it at the city council session tonight.