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.


Georob said...

More interesting is the item about the Sacramento Kings possibly moving to Anaheim. Were that to happen, I'm wondering if the NBA would be more willing to "put a team in Golden State's neighborhood"

BTW, how are the Warriors doing financially? It's been like forever since they've either been to or done anything signficant in the playoffs. Does the fan support reflect that?

If the Kings do move, it certainly would be a big blow to those who want to promote Sacramento as a major league city(though others might look at it as an opportunity for the A's to move to a market with no competition)

An NBA team in San Jose is both good AND bad for Oakland. Good because it makes San Jose less attractive for baseball, but mostly bad becuase not only does it affect the Warriors, but adds yet another team competing for the Bay Area sports dollars. And that could ultimately send the A's out of California.

I honestly think that the NBA is Las Vegas' best shot at landing a team. Between the Kings(with Vegas owners) and Sonics situations, it may just happen.

David said...

Financially, I don't know how good the Warriors are doing. But In terms of attendance they are doing pretty well. They Average an attendance of 18,284 and 95.2% of capacity, the lower bowl is basically just season ticket holders. Damm good if you ask me, especially for a team that hasn’t made it to the playoff in 11 years.

Marine Layer said...

The W's had excellent season ticket sales going into this season based on raised expectations, but they'll have trouble renewing many of those packages if they don't make the playoffs.

Stern doesn't like the idea of a move because he knows that the Bay Area is saturated and a move would leave a gaping hole in the Pacific Northwest, especially because the Sonics have a lot of history (Lenny Wilkens, Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Downtown Freddie Brown, Dale Ellis, Xavier McDaniel, Detlef Schrempf, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ray Allen, etc.) that would go to waste.

tony d. said...

So David Stern doesn't like the idea of putting another NBA team in the Bay Area because it will hurt the sorry a$$ Warriors...THAT'S JUST GREAT! So although the Warriors don't technically have Territorial rights to San Jose, they do in fact have territorial rights to San Jose. I personnally think the NBA would thrive in San Jose (I'd definetely get season tix)...just like MLB would thrive. Such potential ($$$) my hometown has, all (currently) going to waste! go skyrockets?

tony d. said...

Hey R.M.,
Any reason why the Maloofs haven't looked to relocate the Kings to San Jose? The Kings are already established in Northern California, and SoCal is already saturated with Lakers/Clippers basketball. Their hotel/casino advertising would also get much attention in the well heeled Shark Tank.

Marine Layer said...

It's not merely about hurting the Warriors, though that's a part of it. There are only two 2-team markets in the NBA (NY/LA), and both have a dominant team and a historically underperforming team. In the Bay Area, you'd have two underperforming teams unless the W's were perennial playoff contenders, which they're not. It's not good for the league as a whole. There are no territorial rights in the NBA, so owners can relocate as long as they can escape their leases, as Vancouver and Charlotte did.

Regarding the Kings: my guess at they know the NorCal market enough that trading out constant sellouts for a slightly better facility with no guarantee of sellouts isn't a winner. Notice that these team owners (including Portland's Paul Allen) are bringing these financial situations up as their teams struggle with one or more consecutive seasons of poor records. If they were winning, we probably wouldn't hear that much about it.

Jeff said...

M.L., do you know if NBA teams are much more dependent on season ticket holders/coporate sponsors than a MLB team? The price of NBA tickets are astronomical when compared to baseball. True, they play half the games, but still, it seems they are on the expensive end of sports entertainment.

Marine Layer said...

Not really. The NBA has a much more equitable revenue sharing model. All BRI (basketball related income) is shared equally among teams with the exception of slightly more than half of each team's suite and arena ad revenue, which it gets to keep. That means local and national TV, tickets, premium club seats, even appearance fees for mascots and cheerleaders - all of it goes into the pool.

The problem for the Sonics is that most of the money they'd be able to keep goese towards debt service on Key Arena. The Kings have limited numbers of suites, premium seats, and ad opportunities so they want to expand things - just as long as they don't have to pay for it themselves. Paul Allen got the Blazers into a bad situation because he's been mismanging investments for years.

So there's a local emphasis to get each of those teams on the same financial footing as the other, more stable franchises. But it goes hand in hand with the idea that more money should be going into the pool.

The irony is that as far as publicly-funded venues go, the Sonics deal (and the W's since theirs is similar) are actually pretty responsible since the team has to shoulder a sizable share of the cost.

Jeff said...

In that case I can see your point concerning a move by the Sonics. It would seem there more interested in squeezing more money out of Seattle. Really, that makes more business sense. Why move to another market where you will actually have to compete against another team? Given a choice, the consumer will almost assuredly support the front runner, which would raise your player costs considerably.

Here's another speculative question for you. What do you imagine Selig's personal position is on the SJ market? Publicly, his hands are tied in what he says and doesn't say. But I would love to be a fly on the wall in MLB's corporate offices. It makes me wonder if the commissioners office privately salivates at the prospect of exploiting the SJ market. It is still mind boggling that such a large market is left largely untapped. Hockey barely qualifies (if at all) as a major sport. That leaves a lot of dollars on the table out there for the taking. The casual fan probably won't drive an hour/hour and a half to see a game in Oakland or SF, but right next door? Altogether a different proposition.

tony d. said...

At the very least, Bud Selig should now view San Jose as a major American city (since his visit back in Sept.05)...I bet prior to the vist SJ was viewed as merely a burb of Frisco, or as some of my co-workers thought, "the 10th largest city in California." Does this mean he would look more favorably on San Jose in terms of Major League status/potential?

Georob said...

Jeff, San Jose is hardly "untapped", as it has always been considered part of the Bay Area sports market, be it San Francisco or Oakland. Now granted, 50 miles is a long way to drive, but the same can be said for many communities (Santa Rosa, Tracy, etc) whose citizens have supported Bay Area sports teams. And besides that, Bay Area residents have gotten used to spending a lot of time in their cars getting from place to place.

A move to San Jose by the A's should instead be looked at as a "repositioning" within the Bay Area. Namely, taking advantage of a southern shift in the population mass over the last 30 years.

But to infer that San Jose is this big untapped sports market is simply not true, as a good many residents of Santa Clara County already support San Francisco teams.

MLB knows this all too well, which is why the Giants want their territorial rights either kept or compensated for.

jeff said...

I know how they feel. I remember years ago when SJ passed SF in population. I was shocked. I had no idea that SJ was that big. For that matter, I vaguely remember thinking it was about the same size as Fresno or Bakersfield.

jeff said...

I don't think it breaks down as simply as that.....a 50 mile drive in the bay is a far cry from a 50 mile drive in the central valley. In the CV that distance can be covered in less than an hour. In the bay, you might be able to get on the freeway in an hour.....then the drive When these territorial rights were created, SJ was was a sleepy little isolated inland town. The whole area is now a megalopolis. SJ is not far from being the dominant political entity in the bay. SF currently has that distiction on inertia alone. In 50 years SF may be nothing more than a glorified tourist attraction in relation to the tech giant in the south. This is not a prediction mind you, just a realistic possibility. I see your point about teams drawing support from periphereal communities. I support the A's all the way from Fresno. But I will bet you that my commute to watch the team isn't much longer than a SJ residents. That should hardly be considered as being part of a geographical market.....even though Fresno is considered part of the geographical market for both the A's and Giants. I guess my point is that SJ residents may support SF teams in a casual sense. Thats a long way from a dedicated fan base in a major metropolitan area. In that sense, SJ is largely untapped.

Georob said...

The territorial rights were created in the 1990's. By then, San Jose was already bigger than SF and far from a "sleepy inland town" In fact, SJ's growth predates the dot-com boom, as it was an aerospace and technology center dating back to the 1960's, if not before.

But like it or not, people still think of SJ as a big suburb, largely because of how it's laid out in comparison to a city like SF. That's not to say that in another 50 years that perception will change, but as long as it's called the "San Francisco Bay Area" it's going to be difficult for any other city to claim supremacy.

And because of that, San Jose is seen by many in the corporate world as part of a larger San Francisco market. Therefore to move the A's there, while certainly enhancing their fan base, will also be seen as taking away from the Giants.

But to claim that San Jose is this mass of untapped sports fans who don't identify with any existing Bay Area team except the Sharks is just not realistic.

And BTW, I too follow the A's from Fresno, and it takes me a good three hours to drive to the Coliseum going over the speed limit. If it takes three hours to get from San Jose to Oakland, it must be during rush hour and on side streets.

Jeff said...


Thanks for the information, I did not realize that territorial rights were a recent invention. Not to second guess you, but are you sure that they are of that recent a vintage? It's almost incomprehensible that Haas would agree to be shut out of such a huge population base. I am aware that SJ has been quite a large urban area for a while now. Was it really that large in the sixties? I could be wrong but I seem to remember SF being the 3rd largest city in CA for a significant part of CA history.

But it still seems to me that perceptions aside, SJ should be argued as a separate entity. I have to be forthright, I have only driven through the area, and that was quite a while ago. Are the locals satisfied with being percieved as a SF suburb? I don't know, but it would seem that civic pride would assert itself at some point in time.

Glad to hear from another Fresno local....even one that drives so I swear, everytime I hear of a 50 car pileup in LA or the Bay, I am absolutely sure that the first car is being driven by someone from Fresno. It usually takes me about 2 1/2 hours or so to make the drive, but I've got to the point that I stay at a hotel in Pleasanton and take BART to the games. On the few occassions I have driven all the was to the games, I usually end up in traffic for a good hour or more. Because of what that does to my blood pressure, I am usually relieved I live in the CV. It may be hotter than the surface of the sun, but vehicles don't usually become obsolete while they are on the freeway.

Have you lived in the SJ area? You sound very familiar with the area. By the way, thanks again for the information, lots of good stuff in there.

Georob said...

I've never lived in the South Bay, though I lived in the East Bay for over 30 years. Now, there may be some locals out there who wish to dispute this, but I've always sensed that Santa Clara County is considered part of the bigger fabric that is the "Bay Area".

You can say the same for places like Santa Rosa, Tracy, and Fairfield. All at least an hour away, but considered part of the Bay Area if only because people who live there commute into either SF or the older suburbs of SF.

Think of Stanford and Silicon Valley. If you ask someone east of the Rockies where they are they're more likely to say "near San Francisco" than San Jose.

Which goes back to my original point. There are undoubtedly lots of untapped sports fans who live in the San Jose area, but a good chunk of them are already spoken for. Otherwise, we'd be talking about putting a THIRD team in the Bay Area, much like the scenario that says Southern California could probably support an additional team near San Bernardino.

And we may just see that. I'm convinced that even if the A's stay in Oakland, San Jose interests will still try to get a team, futile as it sounds.

Which brings me to Walter Haas. I don't think he had any way of knowing what lie ahead when he allowed territorial rights to be drawn(though I'd love to know the time frame between the decision and his final illness) We DO know that Haas had a cordial relationship with the Giants thanks to knowing Bob Lurie years before either one of them owned teams.

We also know that the Giants had been looking to move to Santa Clara before Magowan put together Pac Bell Park. So, it makes me wonder if the Giants were not so worried about the A's as much as a THIRD team going to San Jose, strange as that may seem.

Jeff said...


Maybe it's fair then to think of Tracy, Farifield, and other small communtites as "satellites" of the Bay area? Certainly Modesto, Fresno, and Atwater would NOT fit that description. I think some of what you say may bear out my point. You lived in the Eastbay, and yet by your statements you give the impression that the common perception is that SJ is something "other" than part of the "true" bay area. It's certainly too large to be considered a "satellite" type of community. In all the years you lived in the area, how often did you personally make the trek to SJ?

I know some of my comparisons were a bit exagerrated, but I hope they convey my sense that SJ is definately an entity unto itself. It's true that the reigon is identified with SF more so than SJ, but again, inertia is a powerful force. How accurate is the perception compared to the reality? Certainly when one speaks of the Silicon Valley, SF is NOT the city that jumps to the forefront of the imagination. I don't know that SJ is either...but it soon will be.

As Iv'e said before, I don't think the Giants territorial rights will withstand close scrutiny....especially if SJ becomes a proponent for their reversal. And really, I can't imagine that the city will be content with the status quo indefinately. I don't have the legal background to offer specifics, but certainly there is a breach of public trust if not an outright breach of contract related to the Haas/Lurie "bargain". It may be that others disagree, but I have gut feeling that the Giants will relent long before push comes to shove.

How did you end up in Fresno? Out of curiosity, would you return to the Bay if presented the opportunity?

Funny you mentioned the Giants being more concerned with a third team, other than worrying about what the A's would would certainly seem that they took steps to prevent either scenario from playing out.

Kevin said...


I think Haas took a calculated risk when he granted the Giants rights to SC. He believed that because of the increase in distance, he would be able to attract more fans from the North Bay and SF. Unfortunately, Haas didn't put into place any conditions should the Giants decide not to relocate to SC. Obviously if he did, we wouldn't be having this discussion today, and the A's would be playing at Diridon Park.

murf said...

Haas granted territorial rights to Santa Clara County to the Giants in hopes that they (G's) would move there. If the Giants had moved, the A's would have sacrificed San Jose (mostly G's fans anyways) but picked up fan base in the North and East. It was a win-win in his view at the time.

As a SJ native and resident my entire life, I must admit that yes, we do have some civic envy of SF. That being said, we don't relate to SF as being the center of our metro area like a person in Santa Rosa or San Carlos might. SJ is a self-sustained metro entity. Our proximity to SF Bay, not SF city, is what creates the (perceived) regional connection. Many people both live and work in Silicon Valley, or commute to it from points East and South, but very few people live in San Jose and work in San Francisco, or vice-versa.

Peanut Gallery said...

Haas gave rights to Santa Clara County to his buddy Lurie to help him get a stadium down there and as Kevin said he probably thought it would help his own situation as well.

Regarding SJ vis-a-vis SF, it is definitely part of the Bay Area and thus sports fans identify with their choice of the A's, 49ers, Raiders, etc. It is being tapped by all the local teams now.

That said, many in SJ do bristle at living in the shadow of SF. So you get a lot of chest thumping and desire to create a separate identity (apart from SF) by SJ officials and residents. But that doesn't mean SJ is some separate, currently untapped sports market. SJ residents have access to 6 major sports teams, just like everyone else in the Bay Area.

Jeff said...


I think you have stated the essesnce of what I am trying to say. SJ citizens are at least amibivalent about living under the shadow of SF (very well put). Yet they have reigonal sports choices, all of which happen to be located in SF or close proximity.....which is to say, not in the portion of the region percieved as being dominated by SJ. Now having said that, I would like to mention the fact that SJ has a huge corporate presense. The very thing that MLB franchises crave. The also have a HUGE pool of "casual" fans. The point I'm making is that the dedicated fan will drive an hour and half to see their team of choice. The casual fan will probably not. Any ballpark in SJ will have huge corporate support as well as broad support from the casual fan....thus ensuring huge demand and long term sell outs of available seating capacity. Much like the current situation in SF. NO other locale in the bay could perform nearly as well as SJ in this capacity. I guess my most obvious point is that SJ is the premeir location in the bay area....the motherload of potential revenue, especially compared to other locations....for the reasons I mentioned. If this is obvious to me, why wouldn't it be so to Wolfe and company? That's been my main point. Some people may refer to it as "conspiracy"....I think of it as goal orientated business practices. A buisness man following a prepared plan to attain a specific goal. I have no personal stake in the issue, and would be content with the team relocating in any area of the bay. As an "outsider" though, I can't help but notice that SJ is the most attractive market.