27 February 2006

San Jose Sonics?

A small blurb in Mitch Lawrence's NY Daily News column suggests that the NBA's Seattle Supersonics are seriously interested in relocating to San Jose. I've always thought that this was just part of a ploy to get the Sonics out of their terrible lease and have some improvements for Key Arena to boot. Until Sonics owner Howard Schultz actually makes an announcement in which he's going to move Green Team West to Silicon Valley, I'll remain skeptical.

24 February 2006

San Jose EIR Observations

I've now had a chance to give the EIR a pretty good run-through and I've compiled a laundry list of comments to submit to the City. I won't publish those yet since I want to give it another pass. For now, I'll list highlight items I felt were important in the document and its presentation.
First of all, it should be kept in mind at all times when reading this type of document that it is an environmental impact report, not a feasibility study and planning guide. Therefore, the authors are not making any judgments on its feasibility or cost, nor are they taking political implications into consideration.

Key assumptions are made early on:
  • The HOK-derived ballpark concept has a seating capacity of 45,000. That's a full 10,000 more than the Wolff concept. This will become very important later on in the discussion.
  • The ballpark is built at grade, with no submerged field. This is similar to AT&T/SBC Park.
  • Traffic and noise studies are confined to the area immediately surrounding the ballpark to within roughly 1 mile of the ballpark. There is no study of the impact on southbound I-880 due to East Bay fans driving down for a game during rush hour.
  • Development alternatives consist of sites and options discussed as of early last year. The soccer stadium option, which was discussed in December 2005, is not in this document.
  • One alternative is called Existing Plan, which is based on the development strategy outlined in the Diridon/Arena strategic planning document. There is no alternative for a combination of a ballpark and elements of the planning document. While the ballpark is cited as fitting within the the scope of the Diridon/Arena plan, there is no inherent link between the two since it is not known how the ancillary development would proceed.
  • The fire training site is to be used as a combination parking structure and area for the relocated PG&E substation. Any plans for a public park would have to be moved elsewhere.
Now onto the juicy stuff.

The most impactful issue is obviously the noise factor, which has been picked by all local media. However, the noise estimates are inflated because of assumptions made on the size of the project. As noted before, the ballpark's capacity is set at 45,000. The baseline statistical sample was data gathered by measuring noise outside Qualcomm Stadium for a Padres game where 40,000 fans were in attendance. Since the conceptual ballpark is 5,000 seats bigger, a peak noise gain of 5 dB is estimated from the Qualcomm measurements. Should the 35,000-seat ballpark be built instead of this concept, it can be assumed that peak noise could be at least 5 dB less than the figures cited in the EIR.

Delmas Park is in a bad situation when it comes to noise. It has a freeway and a light rail train immediately to the east. LRT also runs to the north. Another freeway is a mile south. Several major bus lines populate the corridors to the north and south. Jets fly in low on their final approach to the airport 1/2 mile east of the neighborhood. Freight and commuter trains rumble 1/2 mile to the west. HP Pavilion sends hundreds of cars through the neighborhood after events are completed. Finally, San Jose Water Company just received entitlements allowing it to build a planned 1,000,000 square feet of office space along with 325 homes and 3,000 parking spaces, so bring on the piledrivers.

Add a ballpark sending noise directly into the neighborhood, and the result is that the residents of Delmas Park will soon be living in cacophony if they aren't already. Delmas Park is in a zone where a limit has been established on ambient noise - 65 dBA. Having a ballpark won't make the neighborhood consistently louder. Instead, it will increases instances of loud noise. For instance, say a crowd at the ballpark cheers really loud 18 times per game, or twice an inning. Over a three hour game, that translates to 6 peak noise events per hour, equivalent to 6 additional jets flying overhead or 6 additional buses' squealing brakes stopping nearby per hour. I honestly wouldn't blame residents for being angry, especially because San Jose telegraphed this a while back when they for planning purposes expanded Downtown to include the Diridon/Arena area, yet not enough mitigation measures were taken to protect Delmas Park.

A few ideas were pitched to reduce noise and congestion:
  • Provide sound insulation for 40 affected homewoners inside the 60 dBA contour. Frankly, this should be extended to all homeowners in the neighborhood out of consideration for the impact of other development. Should the Diridon/Arena area become a true mixed-use transit hub, the noise is only going to get ratcheted up. It's the very least they can do.
  • Utilize a distributed sound/PA system. That would probably mean that venue audio kings Meyer Sound would be out of the running, with a PA system provided by other companies like Panasonic, EV, or JBL. It's a relatively minor issue, but Meyer Sound is a big reason why Jon Miller calls Coliseum PA announcer Roy Steele "the voice of God."
  • Widen Delmas Ave to 2 through lanes south of W San Fernando St. This should help traffic pass through the area more quickly and has been identified as a mitigation measure for development at the SJWC site.
There are a few mitigation measures I've identified that could make things a lot easier for Delmas Park.
  • Shut down W San Fernando St and maybe Park Ave between Autumn St and Delmas Ave/Woz Way two hours before each game through one hour after each game to all traffic except Delmas Park residents and buses. By routing most traffic on the north-south routes in the area, traffic can flow freely around the ballpark while also preventing access for unscrupulous types looking for shortcuts through the neighborhood. This option was discussed during the scoping session, but for whatever reason didn't make it into the document. There are problems related to shutting down Park Ave because the premium parking garage would be on the corner of Park and Autumn/Montgomery, but this could be managed.
  • Plant more trees. Sounds simple, but trees and other foliage can act as a nice sound barrier when strategically placed. That would means trees with lots of leaves, not low maintenance palms. Since a few dozen trees would need to be removed to make way for construction, why not use the buffer presented by the Autumn St/Los Gatos Creek public space to make a visually pleasing and practical sound barrier?
  • Tighten the seating bowl. The model used in the EIR is based largely off AT&T Park, which has an approximately 80-degree bowl angle that tapers in along the outfield lines. If a tighter infield angle were used (60 degrees based on the models I'm using), the bowl could better attenuate sound while providing fans in the outfield corners with closer views of the action. Examples of a tighter angle exist in Yankee Stadium and Raley Field.
  • Turn the field orientation 15 or more degrees north. Planners want to include the downtown skyline, but tilting the field in a more northerly direction can allow some noise to be directed away from Delmas Park without severely impacting the view.
  • Make a pact with the community. This would be similar to what was negotiated with residents surrounding Chicago's Wrigley Field in which there are a limited number of night games. It doesn't have to be that extreme, but there can be limits to the number of night concerts (15-20 estimated per year) and fireworks displays. It should be stated that sound studies don't typically measure noise that carries due to the inversion layer or other weather factors. It's that type of noise that caused the rash of complaints when the Rolling Stones came to SF, or when Shoreline Amphitheater opened and drove much of Palo Alto crazy.

Surprisingly, the Cahill Park/St. Leo's neighborhoods don't appear to be affected much by ballpark noise (see picture above: blue = ballpark 60 dBA contour, yellow = concert 60 dBA contour). This is mostly due to the field orientation as the grandstand attenuates much of the sound directed to the west and south.

There were a few more interesting nuggets I culled from the EIR:

  • The only building on the site with any significant historical value is the former KNTV Studio, which is reportedly over 50 years old. It won't be saved should the ballpark get built.
  • At 45,000 seats, the ballpark rises 165 feet from street grade, 200 feet including scoreboards, 235 feet with light standards. It doesn't need to be nearly that tall. A 35,000-seat ballpark would reduce or eliminate the need for a large upper deck. The models I've drawn up have the topmost row only 83 feet above the field. If the field were sunken 15 feet below street grade, that same row would be only 68 feet above the street, the equivalent of a 5-6 story building. The facade that fronts the concourses would be even lower. Add a roof with light standards contained beneath the roof or at the roof's edge and the height is raised roughly 20 feet. If done in this manner, the ballpark would have less height and visual impact than HP Pavilion, which rises 100 feet from street grade. This lower profile would allow the building to comply with FAA building height requirements and limit light spill into the surrounding neighborhood. There are plenty of other tangible benefits to building lower, such as decreased materials costs, lower seismic risk, and better views for fans.
  • No community benefits are pitched because it's an EIR. Since a park wouldn't be possible under this plan, perhaps there's a way to building a community center and/or gymnasium on top of the parking structure, the same way a banquet hall was placed above the Fourth Street Garage.

  • The Submerged Stadium alternative assumes digging the field 24-28 feet below ground. With a smaller first deck like the one I've drawn up (see picture above), it could be submerged 15 feet, which could reduce the amount of excavated dirt that would have to be hauled away and relocated by at least 25%.

All in all, plenty of good stuff in the EIR to chew on.

22 February 2006

Wolff family visits Union City; more on Fremont

Meanwhile, Lew Wolff and his daughter Kari visited Pioneer Elementary School in Union City, where they read to 130 first- and second-graders as part of their pro-literacy program.

Fremont city manager Manny Diaz discussed Fremont's hopes of getting the A's. According to Diaz, the A's have inquired about Pacific Commons, the new development along I-880 and Auto Mall Parkway. Talks are definitely heating up between Fremont and the A's, though Fremont is still in the preliminary stages.

SJ Ballpark EIR available

As promised, San Jose's draft environmental impact report is now available. The links lead one to just the table of contents right now, but I'll have the entire 365-page tome soon for dissection. The Merc's Barry Witt got a look at it and picked up some points about light and noise, which would affect the Delmas Park and St. Leo's neighborhoods immediately to the east and west of the ballpark, respectively.

The ballpark's northeast orientation would make the seating bowl act as a horn, sending noise directly into Delmas Park. The recommended way to mitigate this is to provide noise insulation for affected residents. Light would also be an issue because standards could be well over 250 feet above street level.

There are plenty of issues with the plan, and I'll go into those in more detail soon. For the time being, I've consolidated the bulk of the EIR (sans appendices) into a single, huge (38 MB) file for your consumption.


20 February 2006

San Jose's big vision

A new report from the San Jose Business Journal explains a bold, $1 billion vision of a revamped (again) Downtown San Jose, with new baseball and soccer facilities, museums, a concert hall, and other wide-ranging entertainment. While the proposal has not yet been finalized or presented, it is thought that the changes would be funded by a 1/2-cent sales tax or some combination of use taxes (Mello-Roos business districts or something similar, gross receipts, hotels, car rentals, etc.). Payoff would come over 30 years.

One of the interesting things about this initiative is that it's not being pitched by the mayor, city council, or other government entities. It's being pushed (and the study financed) by "Adobe Systems, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, among others." (That means the "H" and "P" in HP if you're wondering.) Lew Wolff was also asked about the proposal. He called it "a fantastic idea." It's no secret locally that Wolff doesn't see eye-to-eye with the current administration, especially budget head and Mayor Gonzales' right-hand man Joe Guerra. Wolff also doesn't believe the transformation of San Jose's downtown is complete, so bold, innovative thinking is welcome in hopes of making Downtown San Jose more of a destination that it had been previously.

Also notable is the fact that the plan, called "Creative Urban Center" is backed by a new consortium called 1stAct Silicon Valley. Recently announced mayoral candidate and proclaimed outsider Michael Mulcahy is part of this group. It's quite possible that the plan may become part of his platform as he seeks to contrast himself from the scandal-ridden and slow-moving city government.

The tax part is a big concern. Combine a 1/2-cent sales tax hike with the county's additional 1/4-cent for the BART extension and San Jose's sales tax comes to a whopping 9%, the highest in the Bay Area. It's likely that the powerful Silicon Valley Leadership Group would support both, but one could rob votes of the other if voters had to choose on the same ballot. The article also discusses how the fact that the proposal is so broad may allow it to fund stadia using an endaround past the current sports facilities funding law, which requires a 2/3 or supermajority vote instead of a majority vote.

So if you're wondering what San Jose's strategy is, it looks like it's taking shape, and without the assistance of anyone in City Hall. Something tells me that any ballot initiative wouldn't occur until June 2007 because of competition with other funding measures, chiefly the $222 billion public works proposal the Governor is currently pitching all over the state.

19 February 2006

San Jose updates

I've spent the last week in the Rockies and Plains. Compared to the weather I've experienced over the last several days, in which the temperature never went over the teens and the wind chill dropped the gauge to -40 in North Dakota, the supposedly chilly weather here is downright balmy. While I've been gone, San Jose has made a few headlines:

Two more Diridon South properties are about to be acquired by San Jose's Redevelopment Agency. Both are on the block between Autumn Street and Montgomery Street, south of San Fernando Street. That brings the tally to three properties and three acres total. The big properties west of Montgomery - the SBC/AT&T site, the old KNTV studio, and the PG&E substation - are still to be acquired. The PG&E substation has extra costs associated with because it will have to be moved to a location nearby. If the ballpark were oriented north, the substation could be moved 200 feet to the north and kept in the same configuration with the same vehicular and service access it had previously.

This orientation makes it similar to Petco Park, which also has its field opened to the north.

San Jose also just lost a lawsuit against Santa Clara County in which it sought to block the County from building a concert hall on the Fairgrounds south of downtown. Should the County proceed with building the concert hall, it would be mainly in competition with SJSU's Event Center, UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre, and SF's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. All would have a 5,000+ capacity, but the new concert hall would presumably have better amenities and acoustics than its competitors. Personally I think the Fairgrounds is better suited for a soccer stadium/amphitheater with playing fields surrounding it, while a concert hall should be downtown as most concert halls are. There's hope that the two parties can set their differences aside, but the city is still looking to appeal and the emboldened county looks like it's moving forward with its plans.

15 February 2006

Check out Athletics Nation

On AthleticsNation Blez just posted a fantastic interview with Lew Wolff. This is the second interview Blez has snagged with Wolff. A couple of points to consider:
  • How many blogs or other fansites get real, non-fluff interviews with team owners? Blez obviously deserves credit for being regarded highly enough to merit the Q&A sessions with Wolff and Beane.
  • Wolff also deserves credit for understanding the educated, oft-hidden hardcore fanbase that prowls the net. Even if you're a cynic, it's a fantastic PR move.
That said, there's something I've been wanting to get off my chest for the last few weeks. As I've learned more about the process and the complexity involved in getting a ballpark deal, it's become clear that any thoughts of a conspiracy theory are offbase. Especially in the A's case. There are too many factors and obstacles that can derail a deal for a conspiratorial plan to work. The different cities involved (including those outside the Bay Area) all have significant issues to overcome if they want to talk ballpark with the A's. If there was some real guarantee of a predetermined outcome it could make sense, but a dealmaker like Wolff knows better than to put his eggs in one basket. Too many things can go out of control as well. Example:
  • Remember the big downtown LA hotel that Wolff's urban development company was building? Wolff had to pull out last month due to rising costs. The project is now being helmed by a partnership of AEG and KB Home, who plans to build condos in some of the areas where hotel rooms were planned. Wolff is still on as an advisor, but the big bucks will go elsewhere. Think about that. Over the last several months, Wolff signaled to LA pols that costs were rising on the project. Hurricane Katrina may have sent everything through the roof. Instead of killing the deal, all parties got together to work out a plan to get the project built. It meant that Wolff had to step aside, but it looks like it will get done. In the case of an A's ballpark, Wolff won't be able to step aside, but we should expect that he'll be upfront on the costs involved, even as partners or plans change.
I've even been guilty of fomenting conspiracy theories at times, but that's been more to promote discussion of the issues than anything else. The process is not at some advanced stage, far from it. However, things can move quickly, and that should be expected the closer we get to Opening Day.

13 February 2006

Two more Bizjournals articles

New articles have appeared on the website. One belongs to the East Bay Business Times, the other to South Florida Business Journal. The first article calls the Bay Area "saturated," while the LA market definitely has room for more sports franchises.

It also cites the Bay Area's total personal income as $375.5 billion, a figure much higher than the numbers I listed in the previous post. I don't know how they arrived at this figure so I've lobbed a request for clarification. Even with this higher figure, there's little room for new franchises. Over the span of three weeks in February, the Bay Area will field four sporting events unrelated to the four major leagues:
  • AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (PGA Tour; Yes it's outside the Bay Area technically, but it attracts a large number of Bay Area attendees)
  • SAP Open (ATP Tour; the yearly men's tour stop in the Bay Area)
  • Tour of California (UCI; new cycling event with four Bay Area stages)
  • US vs. Japan (pre World Cup "friendly" at AT&T/SBC Park)
That's a lot of sports for a month that's traditionally considered an off-peak period.

Even more interesting is the Florida article, which concludes that the Marlins wouldn't be automatically be destined for greener pastures if they relocated outside South Florida. The same can be assumed about the A's and their situation in the Bay Area as well.

10 February 2006

More Market-Related Food For Thought

A report in Monday’s Charlotte Business Journal discusses the challenges facing Charlotte in its efforts to lure the Marlins. Chief among them is the a lack of financial support because of the size of the Charlotte market and the fact that two teams – the NBA’s Bobcats and the NFL’s Panthers – already occupy it.

The piece referred to an analysis by the paper’s online sibling, In the analysis “used data on team revenue and ticket prices to estimate how much total personal income a market needs to support a pro sports team.” This was done in 179 markets, which should presumably provide a pretty good data sample. (The parent company runs the East Bay Business Times, Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, and San Francisco Business Journal.)

The overall conclusion was that the Charlotte market was $86 billion short of being able to support a baseball team, in terms of the market’s annual total personal income (TPI). The minimum amount required? $89.2 billion.

I’m trying to figure out how derived this figure, but for now let’s for the sake of discussion accept it based on their due diligence. Values were given to other leagues’ franchises as well. Here’s the breakdown:
  1. MLB - $89.2 billion
  2. NBA - $38.4 billion
  3. NHL - $35.7 billion
  4. NFL - $33 billion
  5. MLS - $16.1 billion
Step back and look at that for a second. According to it takes over twice as much total personal income to successfully back a major league baseball team as it does any other sport. That makes some sense because of baseball has twice as many games as the NBA and NHL. Then again, the winter sports’ average ticket prices are usually higher. The NFL only has 10 or so home games per season and its tickets are the most expensive, but its national TV contracts are so lucrative that local support is far less necessary than with MLB (this also justifies the blackout rule).

Taking this a little further, I went over to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and pulled the latest (2003) MSA-based economic data. Since the Bay Area is split into five different statistical areas, one has to do a little hunting to compile the information correctly. Here’s how the Bay Area looks:

While the Bay Area is high in per capita income (and the associated high costs of living), we don’t have a particularly high population at less than seven million people. Pool the required income for all six major teams, and the deficit appears above. There are obviously other factors to consider like the state of facilities, transportation, and location, but the figures point to the idea that we are somewhat oversaturated with sports. Add the various event-oriented sports like golf and tennis tournaments and motor sports, plus minor league teams and college sports, and it is clear that we have more than enough sports in the Bay Area to go around. Which is why we should get down on our knees every morning and thank whoever’s in charge that we have this luxury. Not to sound like a homer, but combine these amenities with our fabulous weather, and it’s easy to see why the Bay Area consistently ranks at the top of annual “Best Places to Live” lists.

What’s more interesting is how the Bay Area compares to other regions. Other than the three largest markets in the country (NY, LA, CHI), few regions have a substantial surplus. In fact, many operate at a sizable deficit. That doesn’t mean those cities can’t field teams, it just highlights how competitive those markets are and can help explain why some teams struggle with sagging attendance, low TV ratings, etc.

The Washington-Baltimore market provides the best comparison to the Bay Area. It has six teams (the Nats’ stadium problems not withstanding), a fair amount of geographic spread, and differing TV markets, just like the Bay Area. Though it has one million more people than the Bay Area, it pulls in only slightly more TPI, just enough to put it “in the black” relative to having six teams. Add the region’s MLS team, and suddenly the market is in the red. Philly appears to be in good shape even though it is stuck between two larger markets. Boston has the pull of the entire New England market to compensate for its slight deficit. San Diego has its hands full with two teams. Portland has a $27 billion surplus, but that’s not nearly enough to handle the burden of a MLB team added to its portfolio. Sacramento faces a similar situation. Even Las Vegas, which has no teams currently, falls over $40 billion short when trying to accommodate a MLB team. Again, this concept of TPI is only one of many factors that determine a market’s fitness. Markets like Green Bay, WI, are anomalies due to the sheer size of their rabid regional fanbase and intangibles like legacy and tradition.

Now go back to the first table. In an ideal situation where income levels are equal throughout the Bay Area, it may serve the individual teams best if they were distributed throughout the region instead of concentrated in primarily two places: San Francisco and Oakland. For instance, San Jose has a single major league team, but in the Sharks’ wake numerous minor league teams (baseball, arena football, lacrosse) have stepped in to claim some of the South Bay’s surplus ($44 million). It might make more sense to move a NFL franchise south to even things out. Or it might make sense to move the Sharks to the North Bay and the A’s or Giants to the South Bay. Obviously, this is not realistic of the venue situation and the fact that Bay Area residents by in large have little trouble driving wherever they need to go, including sporting events. Nor does it take into account preferences, since the individual sports don’t substitute for each other equally among hardcore fans. It does show a more mechanical way the teams could service the market based on each micropolitan area’s individual wealth, similar to the way Starbucks places its stores by using census-based income information.

However, these figures highlight one issue in particular: there is little room for failure. There is so much entertainment variety that it’s easy for the casual fan to substitute other entertainment for a game. Many outsiders and the Bay Area’s own media blame the market’s fickle, fair-weather fans for attendance woes. In the end, does this have more to do with simple market dynamics? It’s true that when teams do poorly on the field/court/ice, their marketing departments have to do quite a bit of “circle the wagons” strategizing to hold onto their season ticket holders and suite lessees. They are, after all, competing with each other for the same limited fanbase. Just as it’s easy to find a Giants fan in Danville or an A’s fan in Novato, a corporation can switch allegiances once their lease is up.

A team can turn its fortunes around, making itself more attractive to the casual fan. This should be viewed as a virtue since competitive drive should keep all teams active to make their respective products as attractive to Bay Area denizens as possible (the 49ers are about to find this out the hard way, the Raiders have been suffering the last few seasons). With the market as limited and competitive as it is, teams have to place incentives for fans to go. The best incentive is a championship of some sort. A sparkling new venue with new amenities is another. When Lew Wolff talks about the A’s being competitive, he’s not just talking about the American League. He’s talking about the Bay Area as well. So far with the increased season ticket subscriptions that are being reported, the Bay Area is responding to the A’s offseason changes on and off the field. Isn’t that the way things should be?

07 February 2006

The final radio picture

Greetings from Odessa, TX, where I am on an unusual business trip. No meetings, no appointments, just a lot of driving around for testing purposes. Believe it or not, I encountered a tumbleweed 30 seconds after I exited the parking lot this morning. West Texas really is like that.

The rental was already tuned to a local ESPN radio affiliate, which was a relief. As my route took me further and further away from the bustling Midland-Odessa market, the station became more difficult to receive. I had my iPod with me just in case, but I decided to flip through the dial first to see what was out there.

I hit the SCAN button on the radio, and to my dismay, every single time the radio stopped the same thing came out of the speakers:
  • Rush Limbaugh
This happened six times, on six different frequencies. Since I tend to avoid any kind of talk radio outside of sports (regardless of political bent or content), I plugged in the iPod and kept driving until I found an area with more variety. That didn't happen until I got back to Odessa a few hours ago.

The lesson, besides the fact that no one should get stuck in Eunice, NM? Talk radio rules. Especially the conservative flavor. Christian radio is gaining a stronger foothold in the Bay Area with each passing year. That's what the A's are up against, even on the stations they currently inhabit. Let's take a look at the three stations that will carry A's games in the Bay Area for the next three years:
  • KYCY-1550 (San Francisco/Belmont) - I would say that CBS/Infinity should be lauded for taking a chance with the podcast format on "KYouRadio", but I have to temper that with the thought that the format could change overnight to more talk, or some other overplayed concoction. To me, the curious thing about KYCY is that they had an application to relocate to San Jose and become a 50,000-watt station. That application was rescinded in November without a peep. It's not realistic to think the A's will push any of its affiliates in one direction or another because of the historically low ratings. But if you're looking for a Exodus-to-San Jose angle in the radio dealings, Infinity's retraction doesn't help the case.
  • KNTS-1220 (Menlo Park) - The station's parent company, Salem Communications, has until now had a mixture of conservative talk and college sports. Salem has apparently taken a stance that gives their talk programming a priority over the A's. Since their weekday/weeknight schedule does repeats after 6, it's quite convenient for them to shoehorn the A's into repeat time. It's possible that if the A's do spectacularly well on KNTS, they could add full Eastern Time Zone broadcasts to the schedule, though the producers of Dennis Prager's daily show wouldn't be too pleased with their show being preempted on a semi-regular basis. The problem with the KNTS situation is that the current nighttime signal is so weak, many listeners will be turned off by the static and tune in to KYCY, XM, or the streaming feed instead. Ratings won't look impressive on KNTS as a result, which means the A's wouldn't be able to truly prove themselves on weeknights on KNTS. I asked A's VP of Broadcasting and Communications Ken Pries if Salem had told him when KNTS plans to build that 50 kW facility in Hayward. He said they didn't.
  • KVON-1440 (Napa) - One of few independently-run stations in the market, KVON has a somewhat center-left talk lineup rounded out by more eclectic programming. KVON has been carrying the A's for some time, but their role becomes significant because KYCY doesn't reach the North Bay.
Obviously, there's room for growth. Pries indicated that the team is working to add more affiliates. Hopefully, the targets will be Sacramento and the Central Coast, the two remaining (and gaping) holes for the A's to cover. With radio dominated by certain types of programming, it's a tough sell. Maybe there's a station willing to do an equity exchange the way KNBR and the Giants work with each other, but even then, there have to be ratings to back the A's placement on any station. The new setup is problematic in that the three stations could cannibalize each other to a degree.

P.S. The new affiliate list is now up.

P.P.S. I'm going to take a peek at Midland's quaint Citibank Park while I'm here. The Midland Rockhounds are the A's AA affiliate.

05 February 2006

One Coliseum, Two Teams

As 2010 approaches, Oakland, the A's, and the Raiders will have some very difficult decisions to make. Oakland is severely cash-strapped and still stings from the 1995 Coliseum renovation, which brought back the Raiders but has put the JPA in deep for the next two decades.

The Raiders have settled most of their issues with Oakland, but their lease ends after the end of the 2010 season. That would appear to pave the way for the Raiders to leave, but there aren't that many cities capable of building a NFL-sized stadium, and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue holds the keys to the Los Angeles market, where Al Davis is most interested in relocating.

The A's, who had felt neglected because of the way the Coliseum was renovated, aren't getting too warm fuzzies from Oakland in their desire to build a ballpark village. Their final year in Oakland, if they don't leave early or extend the lease, will be 2010.

Today an article in the Trib discusses how the Bay Area could attract a Super Bowl. The 49ers have an ambitious multi-use development plan in the works with housing giant Lennar and the city of San Francisco. Despite the strained relationship between the Raiders and Oakland/Alameda County, the Raiders came up with a way to keep the 2003 Super Bowl in the Bay Area (where it was originally meant for a revamped Candlestick Park): add 7,500 seats to the Coliseum. That idea fizzled and the 2003 Super Bowl ended up in a more familiar locale, San Diego. The article notes that a Bay Area Super Bowl would be bolstered by a joint 49ers-Raiders effort, but doesn't elaborate on how the competing interests (49ers vs. Raiders, SF vs. Oakland) could make it work.

The Raiders haven't released any plans for a another Coliseum redo, but it stands to reason that with the newly friendly relationship they have with Oakland, along with the team's inability to relocate as easily as they did eleven years ago, they could try to work a deal to "complete" the renovation in Oakland. The Raiders could take advantage of the NFL's G3 loan program, which provides $150 million for new construction or expansion. Myriad problems await, including financing the rest of it ($150 million won't cover it all) and getting pols to sign off on the deal. The sales pitch would involve getting the Super Bowl in Oakland (and its oft-overstated positive economic impact) sometime in the next 20 years, a carrot that has been the main selling point in getting new stadia built or upgraded (San Diego, Dallas, Kansas City).

Should the Raiders and Oakland venture down this path, the A's would once again be on the outside looking in. For how would Oakland and Alameda County be able to invest in multiple new facilities again? Therein lies the rub. Oakland's going to be forced to decide who it wants to support. And I doubt that anyone's looking forward to making that decision.

San Jose soccer deal dead

San Jose officials nixed an $80 million deal to build a soccer stadium near the Diridon South ballpark site. The controversial deal, which received little public scrutiny before it initially passed last month, involved a commitment from the city to build a SSS (soccer specific stadium) on city-owned land that currently houses a fire training site. Operating subsidies were included for the years in which the new San Jose Earthquakes expansion team were forced to play in Spartan Stadium while the SSS was being built. The plan also called for funds earmarked for public recreation facilities and parks to be rerouted to the stadium. MLS commissioner Don Garber visited San Jose two weeks ago and had meetings with the city.

This could affect the A's interest in the team, since it is unclear whether there would be any public share for a SSS, and that's what attracted Lew Wolff to the idea in the first place. After the $80 million plan was announced in December, Wolff expressed his interest and has been in touch ever since. The article states that the city still plans to meet with Wolff in the next 45 days, which could mean any number of things.

Does this mean that all hope of getting the Quakes back is lost? Hardly. I wouldn't be surprise if a different plan came out of the woodwork. It may even be *gasp* a multi-purpose facility, though it wouldn't be anything like the multi-purpose stadiums of decades past. Neither MLB nor MLS wants to share stadia with other tenants, but if it is a single ownership entity that owned both franchises, it might make more sense, especially from the construction standpoint. The difficulty lies in building a stadium that can capably handle both sports without compromising size, sightlines, or amenities in either configuration.

04 February 2006


According to Chron's Steve Kroner, the new A's radio station combo will include KYCY-1550 and KNTS-1220, not KTRB-860. There is one particular huge catch. KNTS will not carry weekday day games, and games that start between 4 and 6 will be picked up in progress at 6 PM.

Another downside is the station's signal. During the day, KNTS broadcasts at 5,000 watts, but at night it ekes out a mere 145 watts. That's right, folks, your desktop computer and microwave oven are more powerful. The point of having KNTS is supposedly to increase the A's presence in the South Bay, but as you can see from the maps below, that just isn't the case right now, at least not at night.

Day Coverage

Night Coverage

There is hope in the future should KNTS and A's decide to pursue a long-term deal (and drop the join-in-progress-at-6 policy). KNTS has a construction permit to build a 50,000-watt, 24/7 transmitter in Hayward. The transmitter would be just south of the San Mateo Bridge, close to the KTCT/KNBR-1050 transmitter. There are interference issues that need to be worked out, but should the A's be able to broadcast on the new KNTS, they'll be able to cover virtually all of the Bay Area with a single 50 kW station.

Day Coverage (Future)

Night Coverage (Future)

In the short term, this is cold comfort. The KNTS construction permit expires in 2008, so they don't have to be in any real hurry to get it built, as is the case with KTRB.

03 February 2006

Giants ballpark renamed again

As expected, that ballpark in China Basin, SBC Park, which was formerly named Pacific Bell Park or Pac Bell Park, is switching names once again to "AT&T Park". Last year's SBC-AT&T merger resulted in the new conglomerate taking on the older, more familiar moniker. The change has also been accompanied by a relentless marketing and ad campaign launched at the beginning of the year. (Speaking of which - Oasis? Puh-leeze. Damon Albarn of Blur/Gorillaz has more talent in his right pinky than Liam "The Rawk Stah" and Noel "One Scale" Gallagher combined. I know Oasis is Billy Beane's fave band, but it's the truth.)

"AT&T Park" doesn't really roll off the tongue and is probably worse than "SBC Park", but "Pac Bell Park" didn't elicit a velvety, dulcet pronunciation either and was given far too much credit for not being a set of initials.

There was the ill-fated attempt by SF Supervisors Chris Daly and Matt Gonzalez to force the edifice to be named after Willie Mays. There's still a petition effort, but contracts are contracts, so don't expect the place to be renamed out of kindness. Fans could force "Mays Field" to stick by consciously incorporating it into their vernacular, nevermind what the tickets and signage says. No offense to the Sey Hey Kid, I'm going to call it what it should be, reflective of another era when baseball wasn't the sole notable monopoly in the States:
  • Ma Bell

On the other side, supposedly Lew Wolff already has a naming rights partner in mind, and it's not a company that makes consumer products. A bank or financial services company? B2B? Whatever it is, it's probably not going to roll off the tongue easily either.

01 February 2006

Fremont Stadium Task Force Meeting + Announcement

Tonight's Fremont Stadium Task Force Meeting was quite illuminating. So much so, that I can't really share much of it with you. I can tell you that the process for Fremont is going forward, though it needs to accelerate so that if Fremont and the Tri-City area get the opportunity, they can strike while the iron is hot.

All who were present introduced themselves, including me. I mentioned that I run this site on the side, while my day job is in Fremont. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who was seated across the table from me, was taken aback and when it was his turn to speak, prefaced his comments accordingly. I consciously made the decision not to post anything I considered inside information or hearsay. He spoke at length and conjectured about Fremont's standing in the pursuit of the A's.

Later, I offered my services to run the Fremont campaign website. It will probably have a blog-style format with comments, though unlike this news-oriented site, the Fremont site will be advocacy-based. In concert with the decision I made at the meeting, any information I receive from here on out regarding the Fremont campaign will not be published on this blog unless it has been approved for public consumption. I don't have much inside information on the San Jose or Oakland efforts either, so I expect to be treating all three on equal terms. When the Fremont campaign site is up, I'll make a single post on it and place a link on the sidebar, but that's it. I realize there's an obvious conflict-of-interest that could easily be exploited, so I'm exercising editorial restraint to make sure that thin line isn't crossed. This blog will remain dedicated to tracking and compiling news about the A's ballpark plans, and that will not change as long as I run it. I don't expect to ask for help running this site - posts are infrequent enough that I should be able to handle it.

Now, onto the actually newsworthy items...
  • The ballpark village concept continues to be key to the A's plans. The difficulty, as Lew Wolff noted, is in finding available land to make it happen.
  • People may be focusing on the third deck closure, but corporate support may be the most important thing for a new ballpark wherever it's built. That means suites and signage, two things that are not selling terribly well currently.
  • As for the third deck closure, the intended effect has been felt. Season ticket sales are up 150% over last season, and opening night is virtually sold out. Sales are so good that going forward, potentially new season ticket plan purchasers (including yours truly) may not be able to include opening night in their plans, even though it's supposed to be included in all packages.
  • The A's are still working primarily with Oakland and the Coliseum JPA at least through opening day. After that, it could be fair game.
  • Fremont has some work to do, including rallying local civic groups and neighbors Newark and Union City. Expect some news about events designed to raise publicity for the Fremont campaign shortly. (No, the team will not be called the "Tri-City A's".)
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