27 April 2006
Take the Yanks and Mets deals. Both will rely on the issuance of public, tax-free bonds to finance both ballparks. No taxes are being raised to pay for either project, but both teams will pay off the debt using PILOTs, or "Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes." In this case, the taxes would be property taxes that would be levied on the land improvements. The use of government-issued bonds may be illegal, so the IRS is going to take a look at it.
The Twins are using the typical playbook in bypassing a referendum for their sales tax hike. Yesterday the Minnesota House passed the Twins' stadium bill. The state Senate is expected to be more baseball-friendly than the House. All signs point to the Twins staying put.
Closer to home, Sacramento pols are trying to put together a public financing plan for a new Kings arena. To accomplish this, they're attempting to circumvent the 2/3 voter approval required for a specific-use sales tax hike. If this sounds familiar, Santa Clara County is doing the same thing with their Measure A "BART tax." If you're wondering, there's no mention of the A's anywhere in that article, which should be a clear indicator of where Sac's focus is - not on the A's.
Tonight is the last San Jose ballpark EIR outreach meeting (City Hall, 14th floor, Room 1446, 6 p.m.). Thank you, SJRA, for scheduling it earlier - preventing a conflict with Sharks-Preds Game 4. I attended Tuesday night's game, and the Tank really did hit 113 dB after the first Marleau goal. Marc Morris's traffic-related comments document is available if you're interested. I didn't come away from the previous meetings overly convinced that the expanded traffic study (area and time) would take place. Hopefully the continually applied pressure will make it happen.
26 April 2006
- Oakland's mayoral race could extinguish or revive any hope of retaining the A's within city limits. Frontrunner Ron Dellums appears to be convinced that the A's already have one foot out the door, while Ignacio De La Fuente has said he's willing to fight to keep the team.
- San Jose's mayoral race is wide open, and that means it's getting ugly. Yesterday, a Merc report linked Vice Mayor/mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez to the 11th hour, backroom deal for the Grand Prix race. Opponents Chuck Reed, Dave Cortese, and Michael Mulcahy seized upon the story, with Mulcahy calling for the Santa Clara County DA to investigate the matter further.
- Santa Clara County Measure A proposes a 1/2-cent sales tax hike that would fund hospitals, emergency services, and transportation - chiefly BART. At 8.75%, the County would tie Alameda County for the highest sales tax in the Bay Area. This tax is expected to be the deciding factor in the push for BART to San Jose, as its revenue stream is designed to make up for a federal funding component that hasn't materialized. Should BART not come to San Jose, the Warm Springs extension could be delayed indefinitely, even though they are technically "de-coupled."
25 April 2006
For those that think a big, free stadium is just around the corner anywhere in North America - think again. Those days are over. You can point to the DC deal and how the public has been swindled, but that took an extreme amount of coordinated (some would say collusive) effort by MLB and the owners, and the payoff had to be huge (which it will be). That payoff is not happening anywhere else.
24 April 2006
The Twins appear to be in the home stretch of their political process to get a new open air ballpark approved. About three-fourths of the funding would come from a 0.15% sales tax hike in Hennepin County (Minneapolis, not St. Paul).
A new article in the East Bay Business Times covers Fremont's vision for transformation, including the ballpark village concept and a new "downtown" area.
20 April 2006
It gets more interesting when looking at how these numbers break down. Forbes usually gets the figures pretty close since franchise sale prices tend to come very close to Forbes' appraisals, so it should be pretty easy to accept these values even with the limited information MLB and the teams make available. Take a look at how the A's and Giants compare:
- Franchise value: A's - $234 million (+26% change), Giants - $410 million (+8% change)
- Debt-to-value ratio (less than 40% preferred): A's - 38%, Giants - 37%
- Wins-to-player cost ratio (% relative to per average wins-per-dollar of salary): A's - 116, Giants - 76
- Market value: A's - $73 million, Giants - $155 million
- Brand management: A's - $21 million, Giants - $50 million
- Season ticket rolls: A's - 8,000, Giants - 28,000
On the other hand, the market value and brand management numbers are telling. In both cases, the Giants more than double the A's. The Giants have 350% more season ticket holders, though that could change drastically for the worse next season. This raises more than a few questions, such as:
- How much are the A's and Giants tapping into their relative markets, and the Bay Area as a whole?
- Are the A's low values due more to the stadium, ineffective marketing, or other factors?
- How much of a difference will a new ballpark for the A's really make in the grand scheme of things?
19 April 2006
Update (22:15): The Q&A was focused on perceived inadequacies in the Draft EIR. They ranged from expanding the traffic study to cover a larger area and the 6-7 p.m. timeframe, to questions about mitigation costs (not currently covered).
That brings up a source of consternation. While there have been recent updates to the Diridon/Arena and Midtown plans to cover new projects, there's a lack of clarity on how the ballpark will affect more than just the study area. The EIR aims to cover some of this, but there's a general feeling that there's no overall vision. Impacts from individual projects are narrowly studied and focused, so there's no sense of how they are woven into the fabric of the whole community. Whatever happens with the EIR, there will be some heated debate when the Planning Commission holds its hearing on July 12. The first mayoral election will have taken place and the results should at the very least thin the herd for a November runoff.
On the blog San Jose Inside, contributor "Single Gal" started a serious discussion over the ballpark, mayoral candidates, and the city's vision. She brought up candidate Michael Mulcahy and the notion that he may get votes simply because he's so close to the situation. Not to be lost in all of this is candidate David Pandori's swipe at Mulcahy over the weekend.
Yesterday, word came that Adobe is going forward with plans to acquire the 5.5-acre SJWC east parcel. There goes one major piece of a ballpark village, at least a viable piece for commercial use. As for the residentially zoned west parcel, nothing's been announced yet.
One bit of non-San Jose news that can apply universally: Phoenix is losing $3 million per year on a 2,800-space garage built north of Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark). Promises of 90% capacity as a multi-use parking facility never came to fruition. The garage only gets significant use during the Snakes' home games.
18 April 2006
To put things into perspective, here are a few more bullet points that you might find interesting:
- In 1999, the A's average ticket price was $10.10. That means that in seven years, ticket prices have gone up 118%.
- 1999 payroll was only $26 million. The current payroll is $62 million, a 138% increase. Pay-to-play is the name of the game.
- There's no better indicator of MLB clubs' revenue disparity than ticket prices. Ten years ago, Boston had the highest ticket price - $15.43. Cincinnati had the lowest - $7.95. Boston still holds the mantle of as ticket price champ, with its average price at $46.46. Kansas City now has the lowest - $13.71. There's also a multiplier effect because teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs routinely sell their seasons out, as opposed to the oft-lackluster attendance records of the lower-revenue teams.
Now that the A's have raised ticket prices 25% over last season, what's in store for the remaining years on the Coliseum lease? And what can we expect when a new ballpark is opened? Will it have a China Basin-like pricing structure, or will it look like PNC Park's tiering system?
Of course, Craggs doesn't mention that sitting in 310 often made one feel like he was watching the game while actually sitting in Wyoming. Believe me, I'm a cheap guy who loves my bleacher seats and used the "View level" as a reliable fallback when the bleachers were sold out, but the seating bowl's curvature was not conducive to actually watching a ballgame. I've had a chance to sit in every section in the Coliseum, even the odd Loge boxes in the corners that act as not-quite skyboxes. I absolutely sympathize with AN's Brian in 317 and FreeSeatUpgrade, who have championed the upper deck ever since the announcement to close it was made. Unfortunately, they're a small subset of A's fandom, and their counterparts in other cities have been slowly becoming extinct over the past two decades - or at the very least homeless.
The funny thing is that the upper deck vibe hasn't completely evaporated. It appears to have moved to the Plaza Outfield area (formerly Plaza Bleachers). While these sections are more likely to be sold out for high-demand games, the typical weekday series against Texas or Kansas City will render the Plaza Outfield a veritable pasture. There are far fewer desirable seats (front row for the most part) in Plaza Outfield because so much of the outfield is obstructed by the sheer height of the deck. It's still an interesting vantage point, especially if one get there early enough to sit in dead center.
My cynical side points to a strictly business ethos in the closing of the upper deck, in that sections 315-319 were too good. Similar seats in other stadia cost upwards of $20. Yet A's fans were only paying $9, or $1 on Wednesdays. For many, the price of a View level ticket acted as a cover charge, and upon entering the stadium they made a beeline for the Field level. If not trading up, finding a slightly better perch in the upper deck was likely as long as there were plenty of empty seats in the area.
Last September, Craggs also wrote about the ballpark design Wolff unveiled in his August press conference. He alluded to the scarcity issue in that piece as well, though in the throes of a pennant race I doubt anyone was even considering the idea that Wolff would experiment with the stadium in such a drastic way. The days of an A's being an inexpensive social scene are coming to an end.
Or are they? Certainly there are potentially innovative ways to bring these fans in without completely destroying their wallets, right? The A's transitioned several season ticket holders from the 300's during the offseason, but what about the young, spur-of-the-moment types? For them, I think there is a good solution: student sections. It works in college basketball and football, why not at an A's game? The student sections could be specially designated areas of either the bleachers or upper deck, with discounted tickets and special green T-shirts. Student sections at college hoops and football games tend to be loud, so they'd naturally work for cheering and heckling in baseball. Non-students would be welcome too, but a certain percentage of those seats would be set aside for students - say 500-1,000. At the new ballpark non-premium bar could be built into the stadium for the kids to visit after games - with a ticket stub acting as free admission. The best part is that it would be easy to market ticket packages to schools and students.
Some may argue that this environment is already in place at the Coliseum, but not the way I've defined it. The LF bleachers are always raucous due to the culture that's been there for decades. When the A's move to new digs, tickets will become even more scarce, which could further push fans away. Why not take a proactive approach and give it a new marketing twist? The more of those young fans can be kept in fold, the more likely they'll sign up for better seats as they get older, earn more money, have families, etc. Wolff said he likes the "neighborhood" concept being deployed at many new ballparks. Well, Lew, here's a group of fans just waiting for a neighborhood. What can you do for them?
16 April 2006
After the warm-fuzzy stuff in the article, they get down to the ballpark issue, which doesn't reveal anything new on the dealmaking front. However, there appears to be clarification on a number of subjects.
On looking outside the Bay Area:
He will look elsewhere "only if we bomb out here."Regarding Oakland:
Wolff said he has not closed the door to Oakland, although there has been no sign of meaningful talks in months. He has been in discussions with Fremont and calls the site adjacent to Interstate 880, currently leased by Cisco Systems, "an excellent location.''Then onto San Jose (emphasis mine):
But look at this from earlier in the article::
Then there's the question of San Jose, which has twin hurdles: A ballpark presumably would need voter approval, and baseball gave the Giants territorial control of the market. Wolff, who also has been talking with Major League Soccer about bringing a new franchise to the city to replace the Earthquakes, insists he won't "tilt at windmills'' and fight the Giants' claim.
Added Selig: "San Jose is a dead issue. The thing that holds the sport together is its own internal rules. If you start to break them, you're going to have anarchy.''
Yet ask Wolff, a prominent figure in San Jose redevelopment for almost four decades, what would be a good next step in the revitalization of the city's core, and he says: "If they could get the A's, that would help.''After reading the article I had to re-read it again twice. Frankly, I don't know what to think. Some of the OAFC-ers seem to believe that Wolff and Selig are playing good cop/bad cop on this, though Selig hasn't been nearly as visible as Wolff and Selig's given more soundbites to the Marlins' cause than the A's (which is likely a vote of confidence in Wolff, not in Loria/Samson). I find it interesting that those who have dealt directly with Wolff have given a near-universal appraisal of the man as a "straight shooter" or any number of words that are synonyms for "honest." Those who haven't dealt with Wolff tend to have a more cynical or negative view. I've never met Wolff myself, so I can only temper things I've heard as a San Jose local (also positive) with the various bits of circumstantial evidence that exist.
Shrugging my shoulders as always...
One more thing - I've added "Attendance Watch" to the sidebar. In my previous attendance analyses there has usually been a mention of standard deviation. I haven't done that yet with the figures because as the statheads usually say: Two weeks into the season is too small a sample size.
14 April 2006
As for the Bay Area, Silver wrote that either team had a slight but positive effect on the other:
Not much to look at here. Multiple choice--this is because (a) there’s a cleaner geographical distinction between the West and East Bays; (b) whatever Mapquest says, you couldn’t get from the Coliseum to SBC Park in 20 minutes if you were flying a Concorde; (c) Bay Area fans are characteristically non-committal and indifferent.
The last point is painfully true. Bay Area people are accustomed to having to drive an hour to get to work and at least 30 minutes to get to entertainment. I know plenty of Peninsula/SF people who never visit the other side of the Bay and East Bay folks who have little idea what the South Bay looks like. That begs the question, "How distinct are the four 'sides' of the Bay?" I've always thought it was a rather fluid dynamic because of the way I live, but maybe it isn't. Where does Fremont fit into all of this?
Elsewhere, Chris Isidore of CNN/Money looks at how scarcity is affecting ticket prices and demand. He noted that the average ticket price of an A's game went up 25% from 2005 to 2006. That number coincides with the newest Fan Cost Index numbers released by Team Marketing Report.
I'd go further into the FCI, but I'll save that for next week.
13 April 2006
First up is wide view of central and south Fremont. The yellow line represents the planned Warm Springs extension. The extension would run 5.4 miles, south from the existing Fremont terminus to Warm Springs. There is also an optional station that could be built in Irvington, roughly halfway between the two ends.
The aerial distance between Warm Springs BART and the Pacific Commons eastern boundary is 1.25 miles. Driving distance is 2.25 miles because there is no straight-line route. The next picture shows potential routes, yellow representing a bus/car route and pink an elevated guideway route for a BART, people mover, light rail, monorail, or aerial tram.
Now let's look at possible infill transit options. The assessment of positives and negatives is based on data I've seen for other transit projects and should be judged as speculative since there are no formally studied cost estimates. It also assumes that the Warm Springs Extension will be built, which is no certainty yet. BART could be extended west to the Pacific Commons site, but it could cost at least $200 million per mile. Because of the cost I will leave a BART extension off the list of solutions in the poll.
- Light Rail (LRT) could run on either surface streets in the area or on an elevated guideway to the area. Cost: $40-70 million per mile. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 5-7 minutes.
Positives: Use of existing street infrastructure, familiarity, proven technology.
Negatives: If street-based, would be the slowest system due to train sharing the road with cars. Some impact on businesses in affected area as roads are fitted with rails.
- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are buses an "express" variant of the a bus route, with high-tech features (GPS) and fewer stops. Cost: $5-10 million per mile. This would involve separate lanes for buses either along the median or along the curb. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 8-10 minutes.
Positives: Usually will bypass unnecessary stops. Can use existing bus fleets if necessary. Traffic signals can be programmed to detect buses and let them through. Lower infrastructure costs than rail or dedicated guideway options.
Negatives: May not elicit the same kind of public response as a solution with a dedicated guideway. Shares roads with other traffic.
- Shuttle bus. Cost: unknown. This option would probably use as much existing infrastructure as possible without building new infrastructure. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 10-12 minutes.
Positives: Lowest startup and capital costs. Can accommodate the most stops. Can use existing bus stock, though new buses may need to be ordered as new routes are added. Buses can be easily added to accommodate demand.
Negatives: Lesser public perception of buses when compared to rail-based service. Can add to short-term congestion before and after games.
- People movers are used throughout the US in airports for inter-terminal automated transportation. Cost: $30-60 million per mile. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 5-7 minutes.
Positives: Less required right-of-way than BART. Lower construction costs when compared to other elevated guideway systems. Often fully automated. Can operate on high frequency headways.
Negatives: Requires dedicated guideway which may be expensive.
- Aerial tramway (gondola) Cost: $40-70 million per mile. A project is underway in Portland, OR to ferry passengers between two sites using such as system. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 5-8 minutes.
Positives: Possibly lower right-of-way and construction costs than rail options. Less environmental impact than other options. Could have lower maintenance costs. May become a tourist attraction on its own.
Negatives: May hold an image as less safe than other options because the Bay Area is Earthquake country. Not a mainstream technology that immediately comes to mind as a mass transit solution.
Personal or Group Rapid Transit (PRT/GRT). Cost: $30-60 million per mile. PRT uses numerous small, 4-8 person cabs on an elevated guideway. GRT uses larger cars that can hold 30 or more. Can run fully automated. Estimated one-way trip time from WSX BART: 5-7 minutes.
Positives: Good on-demand potential. Supporters tout low startup costs.
Negatives: May not be suited for event-based, high-demand usage such as baseball games. Not a widely deployed solution.
12 April 2006
- The lease allows the team to leave with 120 days notice without penalty if it moves to a 40,000-or-more capacity stadium in Alameda County.
- Should the team leave the area, it would have to pay the remainder of its lease and a $250,000 penalty.
- Whether the 2011-2013 years are optional or guaranteed has not yet been finalized.
- The payments will be higher than in the pre-existing lease, totalling $4.7 million over the last five years. The A's payment for 2006 is only $500K.
Taking off my cynical cap, it's possible that once the election's over, Oakland pols can get to work on a good Oakland site. Council member/mayoral candidate Nancy Nadel nixed my Broadway Auto Row idea. I think it deserves a second look.
"I don't think in any way are the A's playing us against another community," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents Fremont and grew up there. "The Wolffs are genuine people. They're the most sincere people I have ever met."Wolff tried to quash the rumors as well:
The Mulcahy-DiNapoli connection was downplayed as well, simply as longtime business associates:
"We don't have any hidden agenda," Wolff told The Daily Review last week. "Anyone who's a sports fan thinks everyone has a hidden agenda. Even if I wanted to go, I couldn't go."
Both Wolff and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, a longtime friend and former college fraternity brother of Wolff's, also have said they have no intention of challenging the Giants' territorial rights in Santa Clara County. But supporters of bringing the A's to the South Bay point out that Wolff has several real estate holdings in San Jose.
Finally, Wolff issues a "firm" denial:
... the day after meeting with Fremont leaders, television cameras showed Wolff at the A's-New York Yankees game in Oakland, sitting next to San Jose mayoral candidate Michael Mulcahy.
"There is no intention of that," Wolff said.
He said there was little significance to their visit during the game, adding that Mulcahy owns A's season tickets near Wolff's seats and the two have known each other for years. Mulcahy's cousins are John and Jason DiNapoli, who own a small interest in the A's and have partnered with Wolff in some San Jose real estate deals.
"I've been a friend and a business partner with Lew Wolff for 30 years," Mulcahy said. "He's a supporter of mine."
So are you satisfied with the responses? I know one thing: when this saga has finally played out and the A's have a new home, this blog will make for some interesting - and at times painful - retrospective reading.
"We really want to stay in California, in the Bay Area, in the East Bay," he said.
"I don't know how many times I have to say that."
Props to De Benedetti for tackling the rumor mill head-on.
"I think we are the lead candidate for the new home of the A's,'' Diaz added. "If there's a deal to make for both the A's and the City of Fremont, then we'll find it and make that happen.''Though little news has emerged in the last week, the article appears to further confirm Fremont's now frontrunner status. Lew Wolff even has a few words for naysayers who dislike the current lack of transportation options at the Pacific Commons site:
"Everybody is looking for the negative here,'' he said. "There are lots of issues, and we'll deal with all of them. I don't have all the answers this minute.''There will have to be three or four distinct mass transit solutions.
- Shuttle from the existing Fremont BART station
- Shuttle from the planned Warm Springs BART station (if it's built)
- ACE/Amtrak to the planned Pacific Commons station
- Bus/shuttle from Santa Clara County
11 April 2006
The settlement doesn't mention anything about the concert hall, which leaves County with a dilemma: Do they go forward with it? Frankly, putting a swanky auditorium on County Fairgrounds makes little sense due to its location and lack of ancillary development, and when accounting for rising costs and litigation expenses, the concept may be less feasible than before. There happens to be one other venue that, because of a similar white elephant status, is now closed: Henry J. Kaiser Center in Oakland. SF's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and SJ's Civic Auditorium have also struggled at times. Here's a suggestion for County: a soccer/football stadium with adjoining fields.
Beyond the concert hall, there are a few important impacts. Chief among them is that City will be able to go forward on its North San Jose development plans. City will still need to contribute other money for transit projects and it has issues to iron out with neighboring Santa Clara and Milpitas, but this is basically a green light. While most of the first phase of 5,000 housing units is spoken for, plans eventually call for up to 32,000 homes and 26.7 million square feet of office space. The glut of available commercial space makes office expansion unlikely, but homes can work should related infrastructure be built accordingly.
This potentially opens the door for the A's, who would have difficulty putting 2,000 homes anywhere near the Diridon South site (my guess is about 800-1000 tops). As part of a ballpark deal, SJ Redevelopment could local steer local tech firms with excess land towards the A's. That would allow the financing of a ballpark to take place and, more importantly, create a more palatable ballot measure for June 2007 that looks quite similar to the deal SF made with the Giants - only the A's wouldn't be overly dependent on ballpark-based revenue streams to pay the mortgage.
One problem with the deal: the settlement will come out of City's Redevelopment funds - the same funds that are being used to buy Diridon South. Will City have to sell additional land to finish the Diridon South purchase? Or will the payment occur after Diridon South is purchased?
09 April 2006
So my eyes weren't deceiving me when San Jose mayoral candidate Michael Mulcahy appeared next to Lew Wolff in the first row on Tuesday. The Merc revealed that Mulcahy's cousins, John and Jason DiNapoli, are in fact part of the A's ownership group.
(pause to allow this to sink in)
Each adult member of the immediate Wolff family (that's five if you're counting) has given $500 to the Mulcahy campaign. You may remember my December post in which I mentioned Wolff selling a portion of downtown San Jose's Park Center Plaza to a group headed by two other DiNapolis. Naturally, the parking garage that's part of that block next to Hwy 87 has a Mulcahy banner hanging from the roof.
What's more interesting is the portion of the block that Wolff kept. In the southwest corner, across the street from the Adobe headquarters, is a rather nondescript, low-slung building with a sizable amount of surface parking. According to the Santa Clara County Registrar, this parcel is owned by a firm fronted by Wolff. Until recently the building held San Jose's first charter school, Downtown College Prep. In December, DCP moved into a more campus-like facility along the Alameda, west of downtown. The building found a new tenant quickly - another Latino-focused charter school called Escuela Popular. Unless Wolff is interested in allowing nonprofits to keep using an underutilized property in perpetuity, it's likely that the building will eventually be replaced. One of the biggest concerns San Jose residents have regarding the ballpark concept is the lack of parking, at the very least in relation to the requirements a new ballpark would entail. The 2-acre parcel could be extremely valuable at some point in the future. Wolff could build a 1,000-space parking garage (with Redevelopment's financial help, of course) there to handle the increased demand should a ballpark be built there. Or he could do a swap with Adobe, who's gunning for the SJWC property across the river/87. Or if he's bidding on the SJWC parcel and gets it, the school parcel could be a sort of gateway to the ballpark village. Housing may not be doable because of the SJC flight path overhead, but there probably aren't too many limitations on what could be done in terms of commercial use.
Going back to the DiNapoli-Mulcahy links, it's pretty obvious now that any talk of moving the A's out of state would have to come after all Bay Area opportunities are exhausted. With the combination of San Francisco interests (Fisher) and South Bay interests (Wolff-DiNapoli), it would appear that San Jose will have something to say about the A's future, whether by bringing the A's to San Jose or by pledging its support for Fremont.
08 April 2006
I had heard that Wolff already had a naming rights sponsor in mind when he entered these talks. Perhaps things have changed now that Cisco is officially in the picture. The San Jose-based networking firm already has a heavy advertising presence in the college basketball TV and pro football markets. The naming rights market has gotten sophisticated enough that much more than just the stadium can be sponsored. Club seating sections, lounges, and other architectural elements can all have a corporate name attached, as seen by Comerica's recently inked deal with HP Pavilion.
The deal is still very much in the talking stage, and that places Fred Diaz, Fremont’s city manager and Tracy’s former city manager, right in the middle of the conversations.
“Everything is very positive right now,” Diaz told me over the phone this week. “I’ve met with Lew Wolff (the A’s owner) a number of times and more often with his son, Keith. They are very serious about this.”
Diaz said negotiations between Wolff and Cisco are nearing the final stages.
“Figuring out naming rights for the stadium is one of the last unresolved issues,” he said.
07 April 2006
- A great technical document describing the noise problem for the University of Minnesota's planned football stadium is available. It contains an explanation of the impact of concert noise, which the San Jose Draft EIR has basically glossed over. I have yet to find anything that properly explains the impact of the inversion layer on sound, especially in the warm months. For those that wonder why I'm focusing on the noise issue so much - it's because any Bay Area location will probably have a huge environmental noise impact on surrounding neighborhoods. This is true whether it's in Oakland, Fremont, or San Jose.
- Marc Normandin's Beyond the Box Score blog has a nice interview with economist Andrew Zimbalist, who recently penned a book that I have purchased but haven't had a chance to read: In The Best Interests of Baseball: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig.
- On the heels of the opening of Busch Stadium III is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about the Ballpark Village concept that is going up alongside the ballpark. Cleveland State economist Mark Rosentraub, who like Zimbalist has written extensively on the problems with publicly-financed sports venues, extends some hope that a properly planned development can work for St. Louis in a better way than other stadium-based resurgence projects in other cities. Incidentally, I don't count San Diego and San Francisco as good for comparison, since for both of those cities it's generally thought that their ballparks are but one factor in causing accelerated development, in conjunction with soaring land costs and other unrelated encroaching development.
China Basin noise data gathering happens on Wednesday.
06 April 2006
The ambient crowd noise in the seating bowl was in the 70-75 dB range when the crowd was idle. Drums and chants brought the noise up 5-8 dB. Between innings, the PA caused the range to be 75-82 dB. Compare that to the interior of a BART train (60 dB stopped/71 dB moving).
Readings from the bleachers (first three innings):
- Giambi intro/BALCO chant: 92 dB
- Giambi groundout to 1B: 99 dB
- Matsui HR to RF: 96 dB spike, 92 dB roar
- "Let Go ___" chant: 90 dB
- First 2-2 pitch to Sheffield: 90 dB
- Sheffield HR: 95 dB
- Jeter drop/error: 101 dB
- Bradley single, 2 RBI: 104 dB
- Payton single: 104 dB
- "Let's Go Oakland" chant: 96 dB
- Kendall beats out DP: 102 dB
- Bradley walks, scoring Ellis: 107 dB
- "Yankees Suck" chant: 95 dB
- Waiting in line for dollar dogs: 82-84 dB
Section 203. After the Scutaro single, many Yankees fans departed. The Thomas double begat a mass exodus. The readings:
- Damon grounds out to Duke: 92 dB
- "Take me out to the ballgame": 82 dB throughout, 88 dB climax
- A-Rod K's: 94 dB
- Giambi intro: 83 dB
- Giambi flies out: 93 dB
- Sharks highlight on DiamondVision: 91 dB
- Bradley triple: 99 dB
- Cano error, Payton safe: 104 dB
- Kendall single: 98 dB
- Scutaro RBI single: 101 dB
- Thomas double, 2 RBI: 101 dB
Other readings taken elsewhere in the stadium:
- Concourse behind the bleachers: 82 dB
- Section 103 aisle during Dot Racing climax: 95 dB (proving that Dot Racing isn't the most cheered event at A's games)
- BART bridge almost underneath southbound tracks before the game: 88 dB
- BART bridge before game, middle: 75 dB
- Standing platform in RF near flags, end of game: 89 dB
- BART bridge after game near saxophone player but not while he's playing: 67 dB
- When the sax guy is playing (I really should ask him to play "Take the A Train" more often): 77 dB
I'll make the next measurements in the Giants-Astros series next week, on the promenade outside the ballpark and McCovey Point (the little park across Mission Creek from the stadium). These will be important because unlike the current Coliseum, China Basin is an open design that doesn't trap or absorb noise as well as the Coliseum.
Now that the first three games are in the books, it's time to do a comparison between the new, smaller Coliseum and last year's larger model. Having the Yankees series at the beginning of the year creates a disadvantage for the A's because Opening Day usually brings in 40,000+, so to have a Yankees game on Opening Day effectively eliminates one potentially high attendance date from the schedule. The Coliseum's stated capacity this year is 34,077 plus 1,000 or so standing room admissions. Last year the capacity was 48,219.
First, let's look at the first series this year vs. the first series last year:
- 2006 (vs. NYY): 35,077 / 31,284 / 30,165. Total: 96,526. Average: 32,175 (94.4% of capacity)
- 2005 (vs. TOR): 44,815 / 10,106 / 15,860. Total: 70,781. Average: 23,594 (48.9% of capacity)
- 2006 (vs. NYY): 35,077 / 31,284 / 30,165. Total: 96,526. Average: 32,175 (94.4% of capacity)
- 2005 (vs. NYY): 38,636 / 41,180 / 37,237. Total: 117,053. Average: 39,018 (80.9% of capacity)
I didn't attend Tuesday's game, but Wednesday's game showed how effective the structure has been so far. Most of the empty seats were in the furthest reaches of the Plaza and Field levels, along with hundreds of Plaza Bleacher seats. That's exactly what the team wants on a regular basis. The removal of the third deck from inventory was not about staffing or security concerns. Excess inventory was a factor in creating the perception of reduced value - not just of any A's ticket, but of all pricing tiers as well. Once pricing tiers and their value are well-established, demand should rise and that terrible standard deviation figure should drop, perhaps as much as 50%. That should, in turn, create a stable fanbase to which the A's and their sponsors can market.
Of course, this completely ignores on-field performance. That's what it's supposed to do, because records can vary from year to year. Some years teams make the playoffs. Then again, they could lose 100 games. Whatever the case, this fanbase stability is supposed to provide a built-in insulation against record fluctuations. Premium seats are often sold in 5-7 year increments with the promise of controlled price hikes. The same could be said for luxury suites. The hope is that should the A's leave the Coliseum in the next 3-4 years, much of the fanbase will be precommitted to the new ballpark, wherever it is in the Bay Area.
When looking at the model from a distance, it bears a kinship with the "Moneyball" philosophy. It's about identifying market inefficiencies and exploiting them whenever possible. If basic microeconomic ideas can be applied successfully to the running of the baseball side of a franchise, it only makes sense that they also be properly applied to the place they were developed in the first place: the business side.
Coming tomorrow: Crowd noise measurements
05 April 2006
Pro-stadium groups clearly followed the "new digs" playbook to get the deal done. It's equal parts hope, fear, and subterfuge. Here's a recap of how it got done:
- Promote fear over the team(s) leaving. Not that Chiefs would ever leave, but fear motivates. A most telling quote came from Steve Glorioso, one of the campaign’s strategists: “I think the campaign struck the right balance between keeping the teams and the subtle threat that they might leave.” It also doesn't hurt to point out the economic impact losing one or more teams would have on the local economy.
- Get media support. The Kansas City Star (a Knight-Ridder publication) came out in favor of the project two days prior to the election.
- Break out the celebs and memories. Royals great George Brett and some current Chiefs players were out in public hawking the paper - the same paper that supported the initiative. The campaign didn't hesitate to evoke memories of past Royals/Chiefs glory days.
- If you have to have a vote, don't have it in November. Putting ballot measures like these on a spring or primary ballot tends to make for better results since supportive fans may be more likely to vote than those who simply look at the ballot as limited and otherwise not worthy of their time. This time the stadium package brought more voters than expected out of the woodwork.
- Outspend the opposition. The pro-stadium group spent $1.55 million on their campaign. The anti-stadium group spent $501. That's well over a 3,000-to-1 ratio.
04 April 2006
I didn't notice any significant changes at the Coliseum last night, but there were a few minor things that popped out:
- There are now signs that separate the gate/security line and the traffic headed towards the will call booth.
- Some plasma screens were scattered around the field concourse. The panels only showed ads. Anyone who wanted replays or game video needed to look at an older tube TV.
- One of the souls in the always lively left field bleachers posted a sign that said "IF U BUILD IN FREMONT WE WILL NOT COME". Or at least that's what I think it said. It was impossible to see from section 123, where I was sitting. I had to walk halfway to the BBQ Terrace to see it clearly, and I have pretty good vision. Guys, I know that the purpose is to get the sign on TV, but you're trying to sell the idea to fans in the stands too. Make a bigger sign.
- I loved the Bill King tribute. If they could only make the sign above the broadcast booth permanent.
Tomorrow I do noise measurements at the Coliseum.
03 April 2006
First up is a wide shot from the northwest corner of the site. Mission Peak is the mountain on the left covered in shadow.
Then we have a closeup that's more representative of how close and tall the mountains are to human eyes.
This next photo was taken from the southeast corner of the site away towards the mountain range. The fence in the foreground represents the boundary between the buildable land and the protected marsh.
Here's a view of the fence running the opposite direction towards the west/Bay.
The protected area, with the causeway that runs over the land, allowing for uninterrupted tidal flow.
This picture was taken on the causeway section of Cushing Parkway, looking northwest on the way to Pacific Commons. The road is four lanes wide with ample space for bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. Parking is not allowed anywhere on Cushing Parkway. South of the causeway, it becomes a six-lane road. The road conveniently terminates at its south end at an intersection with Fremont Boulevard, where Cushing Parkway becomes an on-ramp for I-880 South. Northbound drivers can make a left at the intersection and drive an extra 1/4 mile before reaching the on-ramp for I-880 North.
The ecosystem in the area continues to thrive despite encroaching development. The last shot I got was the next one. If you can guess what that is in the middle of the picture, you may be able to pick up on the irony of it.
02 April 2006
At the same time, Wolff held out little hope of the team remaining in Oakland.Then comes the obligatory Las Vegas reference:
"It's a built-up area, and I can't ask them to do the impossible,'' Wolff said, adding that even "if they came up with a $400 million check, we still don't have a place to play.''
Others, however, think the Fremont play is just another step toward the team leaving the area.No one can ever deny that Vegas will be a player as long as they don't have a team. It's also in Wolff's best interests to have as many open options as possible. That includes Vegas, which MLB supposedly has taken off the table for the Florida Marlins. Has Sin City been set aside specifically for the A's should it get to that point?
"He has to show he's tried to make a 'go' in Oakland. Then he makes an effort to make a 'go' in Fremont,'' said one Major League Baseball insider. "Then Wolff can go to the commissioner and say, 'OK -- now let me go.' ''
The inside betting is that Las Vegas is high on the A's list. But Wolff says his old fraternity brother, Commissioner Bud Selig, isn't keen on putting a team in a city that allows sports book betting.
In January I wrote a treatise on Vegas and the challenges it faces. What do you think is more likely? That the gaming industry will accede to MLB's desire to take baseball out of the sports books? Or that MLB will let a team operate in Vegas with the sports books intact? Or that Fremont will be able to get an efficient mass transit solution for its site? Or that somehow San Jose will magically open up for the A's due to a MLB in-house negotiation?
That's why I can't handicap any city's chances. Those questions are hard enough to answer. They're even harder to quantify.
01 April 2006
Dellums said that after meeting with Oakland Athletics owner Lewis Wolff, he concluded that the time had passed to keep the baseball team from leaving the city.For those that held out that the frontrunner Dellums would provide hope for keeping the team in Oakland, this is troubling. Others who have observed Dellums' political career can't be terribly surprised as Dellums hasn't previously shown any significant interest in sports business during his three decade tenure.
I attended the second San Jose ballpark EIR public outreach meeting. This time the questions got more pointed as community members repeatedly poked holes in the draft EIR. I arrived halfway through the meeting because I felt I didn't need to sit through the Powerpoint presentation again, so I might have missed a few comments or questions. Here's what I picked up:
- Flaws in the traffic and parking study were pointed out repeatedly. Marc Morris, who submitted an analysis of the parking study prior to the first meeting, said that he was working on a similar analysis to traffic study. He pointed out some assumptions that may not be valid based on the idea that the EIR is not team-specifc: statistical data is based on extrapolation of usage patterns during Sharks games, and 20% (or 9,000) of those fans come from somewhere in the East Bay. Depending on how many mass-transit options are available, it may be higher. The traffic study will be expanded to include impact on intersections outside the Downtown Core and Didiron/Arena areas. The reason for this is that it is expected that as gridlock ensues, some fans will decide to take different routes to get to the ballpark, and that means increased use of other roads and intersections as well as parking in areas that don't currently see high demand.
- SSV member Don Gagliardi pushed the working group to have a soccer stadium as a studied alternative. No commitment was made, but it will be put under consideration. Gagliardi also distributed a letter to project principal Michael Rhoades touting the reduced environmental impact of a SSS (soccer-specific stadium). I think it would be help if soccer supporters provided something more specific as a counterpoint. If designed correctly, a SSS could provide significantly less impact, but if it's designed without noise mitigation built in the difference could be much smaller. This isn't easy since it costs money to design and study such impact, but that's where it will take the soccer community to provide something substantive that can be taken seriously as an alternative.
- Delmas Park and Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood residents were present, expressing grave concerns over the impact of the ballpark. I met Joe Bentley, a S/HNPA member and the guy who pointed out the problems with noise propagation in the concert configuration on Tuesday. There was a request of the working group to simulate different levels of noise in order to better inform the neighborhood what those impacts mean. Again the group was non-committal. Early last year some of you know that I bought a basic soundmeter. I plan to have a little surprise rigged up just in case nothing is prepared by the City. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have effective, realistic TPMP in place, since the prospect of regularly bringing in 60,000 people into the area looms should this project move forward.