04 May 2006

Another try for the Olympics

Yesterday San Francisco made the list of five finalists for the US Olympic Committee's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The others are Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Notably absent is New York City, winner of the 2012 bid that eventually lost to London. USOC officials are scheduled to visit San Francisco for two hours on the afternoon of May 18, after first visiting LA in the morning. BASOC has a press release touting great business support throughout the region.

The debates that surrounded the last organizing effort at times highlighted how fractured and territorial the Bay Area is. There was criticism that the too many venues were centered in Stanford, not in San Francisco. The idea of bringing BART all the way around the Bay was also heavily debated, just as it still is today with the BART-to-San Jose effort. Plus there's always a question about whether or not hosting the Olympics is just a gigantic pork barrel project.

What should be interesting is how the SF bid will look once it's available to the public. Many things have changed since November 2002, when NYC narrowly beat SF in what shouldn't have been considered a shocker (post-9/11 patriotism), but was a shocker nonetheless. Among the changes:
  • Stanford Stadium, which was going to be rebuilt as the centerpiece Olympic Stadium, is being converted to a much smaller, 50,000-seat, football-specific venue. It could be a great soccer stadium for the Games, but it won't handle much else.
  • Where would the new Olympic Stadium be built? Would it be the 49ers' new stadium? The Candlestick Point/Lennar development could be shaped to fit a Stadium/Olympic Village concept.
  • Baseball and softball have been, for the time being, taken off the Olympic competition list. That would render AT&T Park and a future A's ballpark useless, unless both were used for other field sports such as soccer or field hockey, or unless the IOC were petitioned to bring the sports back into the fold.
  • An extensive plan was in place to develop Moffett Field into the Olympic Village. Since then Moffett has been split into multiple uses: consolidated military housing run by the Army, Air National Guard post, expanded NASA center, Google-plex. Would the Olympic Village even be feasible at Moffett at this point? And could someone figure out what to do with Hangar One?
  • The 2012 bid had beach volleyball at Edwards Stadium at Cal. Since we're conveniently located on the Pacific, how about having beach volleyball on, I don't know, an actual beach like Santa Cruz Main Beach or Ocean Beach in SF?
  • The tennis venue would not be at an existing facility, such as Taube Family Stadium at Stanford. A new complex would be built at Mission College (not sure how this would go over with my parents, who live in Sunnyvale less than a mile from the site).

Not to belabor the points, but the keys to this bid have to be the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village. It would be best to place them in areas that are easily accessible by mass transit (BART or the very least MUNI or VTA light rail), yet are also easy to secure. Either Candlestick Point (if someone can figure out how to keep the place warm at night during the summer) or the Coliseum complex could be good candidates. Either way it would be expensive. A track stadium does not have preferable design characteristics for a NFL stadium, so it would have to be designed to temporarily accommodate the Olympics and permanently handle football. However, it would appear that such construction would be the only truly significant project to undertake, which, relative to what's been done at previous Olympics in Atlanta and Salt Lake, would be peanuts. Many of the area's venues have been built, recently renovated, or are undergoing renovation. This includes Stanford Stadium and Maples Pavilion on the Farm, and Memorial Stadium and Haas Pavilion in Berkeley.

That leaves the transportation problem. Several issues abound there - even if Santa Clara County Measure A passed in June, there'd be a big scramble to get BART up and running by the time the Olympics began. Caltrain would absolutely have to be electrified to make it efficient enough to provide the number of Peninsula trips that would be required. There'd be a few venues spread out in places like Napa and Sacramento, but those are for more genteel pursuits like equestrian events or niche water sports like canoeing and kayaking. How would the region deal with the traffic? Would BART run 24/7? Caltrain?

The Olympics' possible effects on the A's? Probably nil.


Matt T. said...

Unrelated to the above article, but I just recieved a phone call from a researcher collecting information on Fremont, with a heavy emphasis on the stadium proposol. More than half the questions where directly concerning the stadium (and the rest, I imagine, could simply be getting supporting data for the stadium.)

Questions ranged from "Do you support the stadium idea?" and "Do the following statements make you more or less likely to support the stadium idea?" to questions detailing a ballot measure to increase taxes for city services, and asking whether bringing the A's to Fremont would increase, decrease or not change my likleyhood to vote for the measure.

So it seems that the stadium idea will feature heavily in at least one group's election campaign.

Marine Layer said...

I had heard this survey was coming down the pipe, but I wasn't sure when. I wouldn't interpret too much from the questions. It's all there to gauge levels of support among the Fremont populace.

Perhaps someone can correct me on this, but I don't think any Fremont city offices are up for election in June.

jrbh said...

I can not believe that the A's or the starstruck city managers in Fremont would let the ballpark get anywhere near a ballot.