14 January 2006

As usual, Mayor Brown doesn't help

At a business forum in San Francisco yesterday, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown continued his hardline against public funding and stadia, while his counterpart across the bay, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, talked up a stadium and development deal with the 49ers, who have looking for a replacement home for the better part of the last decade.

Brown went so far as to suggest that the 49ers and Raiders share the Coliseum instead of the City investing in the 49ers' stadium plans with homebuilding giant Lennar Corp. An excerpt from the Chronicle article about the forum:
"We've already got a stadium and we have a nice BART system, so why don't the people of San Francisco just come on over and the 49ers play at the Coliseum? ... Maybe we could call it the 49ers-Raiders Wonderland.''

Brown's suggestion wasn't really serious, but he wanted to make a point: The business of building ballparks and sports arenas, he said, is more wrapped up in ego and emotion than good business sense. Given that football teams play at home less than a dozen times a year each, sharing a site would be economically prudent, he said.

"I think the conversation about sports stadiums is one of the most strange and imaginary kind of thinking,'' Brown said at the South of Market forum sponsored by San Francisco Business Times. "Serious business people all of a sudden revert to some childish fantasizing.''
Of course, this bluster is easy to show when the mayor is a lame duck with no constituency to answer to regarding this issue in 11 months. Brown, however, has been very consistent with his stance, so he at least deserves credit for not bending to the political winds. If the A's leave Oakland, principles won't matter much, and Brown will be long gone from his uptown loft.


Georob said...

Forget for a moment that we're baseball fans, A's fans, and want so much to have a great facility that will generate the revenue needed to build a championship team........

Jerry Brown is right. So dead-on correct that it's painful.

Why do we want all this? Unless we work for the A's or a related business the only reason we want this is so we can cheer for our team and feel good when they win.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. We pay money for entertainment and pleasure and we have a right to get the best that money can buy.

But is it childish? ego? fantasy? Probably so.

Jerry Brown is right.

Anonymous said...

And Jerry, by contrast, has spent seven years opening the City treasury to developers and schemers far and wide, so long as they returned the love come campaign time. To him it's reasonable to squandor funds for personal political gain, but childish to do so to keep a long-standing community institution viable. If the A's were housing developers there's almost nothing he wouldn't give them.

Georob said...

Agree with him or not, Jerry Brown probably feels that the A's are no longer a "community institution" worth saving, at least at the price of what it would take to do so. His big deal from day one has been "10,000 new people downtown" and if he's going to do any scheming, it'll be for that.

Again, he's doing what he thinks the voters of Oakland want, not San Leandro, Fremont, or Walnut Creek. It's a sad reality.

Brown is also very much aware the A's may have nowhere to go after 2007. Unless the A's want to play in a minor league facility for 3-5 years, there's few, if any cities out there with a major league baseball facility for them to move to.

And you wonder why Oakland didn't extend the lease for 3 years? It may be the only hand they have left to play.

And it might work

Anonymous said...

I can't see that as a viable strategy on the part of Oakland. Can the city prevent the Colliseum from egaging in extending the lease on a year to year basis? Faced with the proposition of an empty stadium verses a couple more years with a tenant, the authority will certainly extend the lease. Or so it would seem to me.

Marinelayer, what are the "politics" involved in a year to year extension in Mcaffee past 2007? Is gerobs theory a plausible tactic?

Marine Layer said...

To clarify, the lease runs through 2007, with team-exercisable yearly options through 2010. That makes it 5 years for the A's to find a new home should they run out of options in Oakland.

That's plenty of time for Wolff to sort out his options, have a ballpark plan gestate, and construct a new stadium.

If Oakland sets the hardline now, that'll give Wolff and Selig all the more reason to say, "See, they're not even interested in keeping us around. Why should we stay here? All we've said is that we want to work it out in Oakland." Even if that last sentence is an outright lie, there's no proof to contrary.

That would put Oakland in a very difficult, losing position since the A's exit would be hastened. It would also probably turn the A's into the next Expos. The city, MLB, and A's ownership would take huge PR hits. And Oakland would lose any chance of ever getting a MLB franchise ever again.

tony d. said...

Back to football for a bit R.M.,
Is it in the realm of possibilities for the Raiders and Niners to share a new stadium in SF, like the Jets and Giants will be doing in NJ in a few years? And if super liberal SF can barely get a few bucks towards getting PAC BELL built, how and the heck are they going to fund a new football stadium?

Kenny said...

Pac Bell wasn't built with public funds, it was privately financed. That's why the Giants are broke and tried to the the SF assessor to change the assessed value of the ballpark to lower value

Marine Layer said...

No chance of the 49ers and Raiders sharing with the attendance issue the way it is. The Niners are in danger of TV blackouts next season, and the Raiders have been a perennial blackout team. There's never been a worry about that with the Giants and Jets, whose season ticket waiting lists are miles long. SF passed a $100 million bond for a stadium a few years ago, but it may have to go to a vote again.

jrbh said...

Count me among those who can't find a single thing wrong with what Brown said, or his approach to professional sports since he became mayor.

I'd *love* to keep the A's -- the Raiders are another story -- and I'd love for the mayor of Oakland to work with Wolff and Fischer to make it happen. But without one dime -- not *one dime* -- of taxpayer money. Wolff and Fischer simply aren't committed to that, and if they remain that way, then I'll wave good-bye to the A's and Wolff and Fischer will spend the rest of their lives at Bay Area functions being told what assholes they were.

tony d. said...

Perhaps R.M. could elaborate, but PAC BELL was built with THE HELP of some public funds, albeit a very, very small amount. I want to say it was $15 million or so. Again, the amount is so small that it's somewhat accurate to claim that PAC BELL was completely funded privately. Alright, enough of that...I've always thought that if Wolff/Fischer really wanted to keep the A's in Oakland, they would have ponied up $300 million out of their billion$ and built a ballpark in the coliseum south parking lot.

Georob said...

Rhamesis, if indeed the A's have "plenty of Time" (or 5 years) to work out something if an Oakland deal can't be done, then why would they want a three year lease extension that presumably makes it eight years?

Wolff says that a three year extension gives him more time to work out things in Oakland. COME ON! If it's gonna take eight years to get things going in Oakland, I'd definitely look elsewhere.

More likely is the fact that it may take eight years(if not longer) to get something put together ANYWHERE. And if that's the case, the A's could (as I posted before) seriously be looking at the possibility of having no to place to play for a couple of years.

Could Oakland be another Montreal? Could be. But it might be a risk worth taking if I'm the next mayor.

Back to right now, though. Has Lew Wolff ever thought of just going to Jerry Brown personally and saying "What can we do?"
Governor Moonbeam's response might just surprise us all. The least he could do is try and bring Al Davis and the Warriors to the table and try to get something done in the Coliseum parking lot. After all, that would be "smart growth"

Anonymous said...

I think many here are missing the point. Wolfe knows there will be no public support for a stadium at taxpayer expense. I think he's counting on it. Whether people in the bay area curse him or not is of no sigficance to him. More than likely, where some will curse, the benificiaries of a new stadium will sing his praises from their new ballpark in San Jose or Fremont. The deadline of April first is drawing ever nearer and any deal with Oakland seems to be receding farther and farther away.

Marine Layer said...

The landscape changes quickly in these types of scenarios. Land suddenly becomes available (or not), cities enter and exit the pursuit, etc. What are we basing these opinions on?

1. The lack of opportunities in Oakland, many of which disappeared over the past two years.

2. The San Jose situation, which remains omnipresent and of which none of us can say how it will turn out (anyone who posts here or elsewhere "definitively" about it is woefully misinformed). Wolff's interest in the Quakes makes San Jose an even more interesting possibility.

3. Fremont, which has just begun its efforts.

4. Other sites which may emerge in the interim.

Land acquisition for any site shouldn't take more than a year even if eminent domain is not used, as long as swaps or purchases can be fairly negotiated. It takes 30-36 months (conservative) to construct a ballpark. That leaves at least a year for a ballot measure (if necessary) and financing plan upfront.

Here's why the Coliseum Authority should have picked up the lease: If the terms were a straight extra three years (which would push the option years to 2011-13 or make it a hard lease through 2013, the time factor will serve to eliminate alternate sites. San Jose, which is in the process of buying the ballpark site, can't afford to sit on it for nearly a decade while it deals with deficits and a housing crunch. Vegas has to figure out what to do with the Union Park site as well as it won't remain undeveloped forever, and Vegas's biggest advocate (Oscar Goodman) will have moved on to bigger and better things. With the East Bay populace a few more years removed from the ugliness of the Raiders' return, new discussions can begin with (hopefully) a more sports-friendly mayor. Most importantly, it gives Oakland leverage they would have the A's locked into more favorable lease terms.

FYI... When counting all of the infrastructure improvements made around Pac Bell, SF's contribution including the TIF funds is closer to $100 million. Some count that money as part of the public contribution, some don't.

Georob said...

It's a mistake to look at Oakland as a "suitor" for the A's(even though they are) For one thing, they already have the team. Secondly, as suitors go they're not all that attractive; especially in lieu of their recent attendance history.

Perhaps a realistic analogy would be to say that Oakland is playing "defense" while all the other cities are playing "offense". Oakland is going to do what it can to keep the A's given what little they have to work with. And what they have is a stadium. It's not SBC Park, but it's not Raley Field, either.

Despite the rosy projections, Jerry Brown and Co. probably figure it's going to take between eight to ten years to get a new venue in place anywhere. Now, extending the current Coliseum lease by three years certainly makes the job a lot easier to get it built in Oakland, but it also makes the job easier in the other cities as well.

But if the A's have only five years to do it, they're going to have to decide much sooner whether to make a more favorable deal with Oakland or use the "Nuclear Option" of becoming the next Montreal Expos. Would that make Oakland look bad? Sure. But it wouldn't do a whole lot for Lew Wolff's balance sheet, either. (and as for Oakland getting another team some day, it aint gonna happen no matter how good or bad the city handles this)

Oakland is hedging its bets that the road to an A's departure is much longer than it appears. So for now, they're playing defense, not offense.

Marine Layer said...

Selig might allow a long-term lease at the Coliseum beyond 2010, but I doubt it. His objective is to get the A's on the other side of the revenue sharing ledger. A stadium may take longer than Wolff wants due to local economic issues, but it's premature to handicap any city's outlook, including Oakland's.

The April 1 date looms large, since MLB can talk contraction at that point through July. Doesn't mean they'll actually go through with it, but they can threaten it if they feel it will speed things up. Since that's their M.O., I almost expect it.

jrbh said...

I just don't see how Selig could pull off the contraction thing with the A's.

First, there are some candidates that are dramatically better than Oakland. Minnesota's drive for a new park is going nowhere, and Pohldad has already allowed as how he'd be happy to take the money, and you know the Florida people would, too. It could be a cudgel to use against the DC City Council, a threat made especially credible because, unlike with any other team, it wouldn't cost MLB any more money to eliminate the Nats. The lure for the KC owners would be a *huge* profit; MLB could give them $175 million, which is $79 million more than they paid for the Royals.

(I think the Devil Rays are off the list completely; not only do they have brand new owners, but in the last go-round vis. contraction, a lot of very smart lawyers became convinced that the Tropicana Field lease issues were not something major league baseball wanted to mess with.)

The A's and Angels would fall into another class of possible contractees. Neither would cost MLB a market, and the Angels have their team name lawsuit hassle, which looks more serious than it did last year, especially if the City of Anaheim wins, which I bet they do. And I think it's fair to say that Wolff and Fischer have telegraphed that they're not very committed to Oakland, but they don't have any other serious options, either. Those are the pro-contraction arguments.

On the other hand, both teams are profitable. They have stadiums they don't have to pay for. There's no question that Moreno loves owning a baseball team and relishes his role as the first Latino owner of a major professional sports team, a high profile one at that.

I don't really know why Wolff and Fischer bought the A's, unless it was strictly to rape the franchise for cash dollars, and I'm not sure they do, either. That makes their actions hard to predict, but it also makes it hard for me to believe that they'd give up on the opportunity so quickly by agreeing to contraction this year.

Marine Layer said...

If MLB should bring up contraction, it wouldn't take much effort to see the tactic for the ruse it is. But even mentioning the C-word in public is going to be enough at first to cause FUD to spread among MLBPA and targeted cities. Thankfully they only have three months to use it, then we can get back to business as usual.

Georob said...

And if contraction is publicly brought up in relation to the A's, what does that do to ticket sales? One very valid reason for the ongoing revenue problem are the constant threats of the team leaving. This doesn't help.
(BTW, explain again why we only have a three month window to revisit this?)

Lew Wolff said he wouldn't negotiate through the press, but I think it would be to the A's benefit for him to make a public statement on April 1st that no matter what happens, 2010 will be the FINAL year that the A's play in McAfee Coliseum. (Since that's the last of his option years)

He can once again re-iterate that his intention is to stay in and work with Oakland, but that he will also entertain alternatives as a backup.

Of course, many will see this as just a ploy; but if it's done straightforwardly with a minimum of posturuing, it might put a sense of urgency into Oakland officials that is currently lacking.

Anonymous said...

Are the A's profitable? From what I understand they only turn a profit after revenue sharing, which means they aren't really profitable, they're simply subsidized.

Jazzbo Fun said...

I do not understand why the A's do not build a ballpark on the hill atop Lake Merrit where Children's Fairyland and the Bowling Greens currently exist. Childrens Fairland should be relocated near Knowland Zoo/Park anyways. And the lawn bowling crowd is (how do I say this in a PC way) getting smaller every year. The ballpark at Lake Merrit would be close to 19th Street Bart, is publicly owned, is near restaurants and shopping (Lakeshore/Grand) and near the downtown-Oaksterdam bars). Please someone tell me why we cant have a ballpark right there? Please!