13 April 2005

Brief comment about attendance

I didn't attend the night-after-Opening Night game for the first time in 4 years to attend the BART hearing. I listened to the game on the radio on the way home, but I didn't get an idea of how sparse the crowd was until I caught the rest of game later on TV. For those that don't know, here's the attendance of Tuesday night's game:


I realize that it was chilly, and many spent some good money on Opening Night, but that's still rather pathetic. The Brewers had a similar dropoff from Monday to Tuesday, and they're in a brand new, albeit lacking, stadium. The argument about attendance is not so much about seasonal attendance, it's about the wild fluctuations from game to game and the anemic revenue streams derived from the gate. Wednesday will be the first of many BART Double Play Wednesdays with $2 tickets and $1 hot dogs. It's a certainty that many stayed home Tuesday night to take advantage of Wednesday's promotion. It's good to have promotions for families and casual fans, but the A's are getting peanuts compared to other teams. And as long as large swaths of seats are shown empty on game telecasts, the media will continue to hammer the point.

What effect Warm Springs?

Why all the fuss about Warm Springs? Well, if you remember the HOK study, Fremont was considered as a potential site. In fact, it came in third behind the Uptown site and the Coliseum site. With the Warm Springs extension slated to come online around 2010, it may become a viable site if an Oakland site can't be worked out. Below is a picture of the area, with the ballpark site area in green:

The large road running down from left to right is I-880.

The Warm Springs Specific Plan (choose #4 for the Existing Conditions report) involves all manner of different development uses. The land right now is vacant, and is owned by many different parties, including GM, as part of the property is within the NUMMI plant. There is only a brief mention of a ballpark with no details.

A ballpark could be built here if the land was successfullly acquired for the ballpark effort. MLB has said that a Fremont site wouldn't violate the Giants' territorial rights because Warm Springs is just north of the Alameda-Santa Clara County border. It's plenty spacious and there would probably be few homeowner NIMBY issues because there aren't any homeowners there.

That's not to say it's without downsides. History of recent ballpark construction indicates that suburban sites are less successful in spurring development than urban sites. Because of the Bay Area's never relenting real estate market, it's not likely that a ballpark would become a white elephant, but it would still be difficult to convince voters of a ballpark's economic benefits over a bunch of housing or retail on the site, especially if much of it is taken up by parking as is shown in the HOK study. There's also the issue of traffic leading to the ballpark. If the intention is to get more Santa Clara County fans, the net effect would be 3,000 extra cars clogging up one of the Bay Area's most congested interchanges just south of the site, I-880 & Hwy 237. Extending BART all the way south to Milpitas and San Jose would help, but getting that built is another story. Lastly, if any money was required of Fremont, it would be difficult to come by, since they're making some serious cuts including the highly controversial "burglar alarm" police response cut.