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14 May 2006

Fremont website recognized + Wolff speaks

Chris De Benedetti of the Fremont Argus wrote about the A's Baseball to Fremont website and the effort behind it. There's a comment from Cindy Bonior, head of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce:
"It's been a slow process because the city warned us the A's are obligated to work with (Oakland)," Bonior said. "We're looking to be more vocal. We're just waiting for the right time."
For those who were wondering why we took so long to get the Fremont site going, that's a big reason.

Wolff also showed up in the booth at today's A's-Yankees game to talk stadium and development. He also said there's no news, but he gave insight into how long it would take to develop the ballpark.
Kuiper: What has made the Fremont site so attractive to you?
Wolff: One of the things is the size of the land. As you know, land is scarce. We had a friendly welcome in Fremont, we had one in Oakland too... The economics of the ballpark village will pay for the ballpark... We're going to need a lot of help from the city and the county.

Fosse: How long will it take to get started?
Wolff: It'll take a year to design it and get a building permit. I'd say that it'd take two to two-and-a-half years to start building. It might take a year-and-a-half to get it built... There's an environmental impact report on the site already. If we can get a revised report (instead of a new one), we can take six months off the time required.

Fosse: Talk about the luxury suites.
Wolff: We'll have 40 4-person suites at the 15th row. We'll also have regular suites. The suites will be packed with technology.

Fosse
: What will these 4-person suites look like?
Wolff: Behind it will be a private area for bathrooms and food. It looks pretty neat from the drawings we have... The 18 to 20-person suites require a (huge base). If you have a law firm or a family, the 4-person suite makes a lot more sense... Milwaukee is the worst at selling suites, and we found out that the type most in demand there are those smaller suites.

Fosse: Will it be "underground" or above ground?
Wolff: It'll be above ground. (Note: This is probably due to the location's low elevation - 27 feet above sea level - which makes it susceptible to tidal flows.)
What's unclear to me is why it would take so long after the the team gets the permit. There's no demolition or remediation that would need to be done on the site. It might take a few months to get it ready, but since it wouldn't be a sunken field, there wouldn't be a significant amount of excavation. I'll have to defer to the people in the know on this one.

If that timeline is right, the ballpark could open in 2011 or 2012 at the earliest. That would coincide with the A's desire for a Coliseum lease extension to 2013.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has an eye-opening report on how the sports industry cooks attendance figures. Sometimes I wonder if the multiple choice "You Guess The Attendance" bit done near the end of games is a matter of guesswork for the A's front office. The article lends credence to the idea, though I've been able to guess the Coliseum's attendance within 1,000 most of the time based on who shows up by the 4th inning.

16 comments:

Oakland Si said...

did Wolff talk about how fans are supposed to get to this new ballpark?

Marine Layer said...

He did not. The issue is likely to linger over the project for some time.

Kevin said...

ML,

Will the aquisition of the 143 acres in Femont signal the end of any hopes of a ballpark at Diridon? Do you think it would be possible for Wolff to develop the Fremont site to help pay for a ballpark at Diridon? Of course all of this is assuming the territorial rights issue is resolved.

Marine Layer said...

The EIR process in San Jose is proceeding but planning officials have made it clear that unless there is a deal on the table with a team, the ballpark proposal will never go to the ballot.

San Jose's best hope is for the Fremont talks to collapse and all other Alameda County options to be exhausted, forcing the A's to expand their search south the county line.

I can't see Fremont allowing for the land deal to go forward without the ballpark being built there as well. They're doing this to keep entertainment options in town. Allowing the ballpark to be built elsewhere runs counter to that idea.

Anonymous said...

THe aerial photos of the site proopsed in San Jose make it seem too small to have any chance for retail and residential devlopment that the A's seem to require to pay for the park

Jeff said...

Lew's comments about the 4 person suites seem to indicate that the design of the park has been firmly established. Did the proposal for the 35K park he presented to Oakland have the same 40 four person suites? I am holding out hope for a park of at least 40K.

It appears that the Fremont plans are solidifying. There are active negotiations with the owners of the site, the city itself has expressed enthusiastic approval. Oakland maintains it's intransigent silence. The politicians there have all the cover they need to let the deal with Fremont go down. Most of the public in Oakland are opposed to public subsidies to keep the A's. The dedicated voters in Oakland are few in number and seem more intent on focusing their venom for the move on Wolfe. Perfect confluence of events for a politician to take the stump and decry the evils of capitalistic entrepeneaurs....knowing all the while they will be held blameless for the teams departure. Perfect.

2012 seems an awfully long time though. How old is Wolfe himself? I seem to remember that he was in his 70's. Something else to consider I suppose.

When is this opportune time for the Chamber of Commerce to become more vocal? Could this be a signal from Lew that it's time for them to step up and lead the charge? He is now publicly acknowledging that a deal is imminent. It seems that he is announcing that he is merely talking with Oakland because he is legally bound to do so....but he recognizes that the possiblity of the team remaining in Oakland is nil.

Bleacher Dave said...

It's a negotiating smoke screen. There is no there in Fremont. Destination shopping malls are passe, and there are only 81 home games a year.

The multi-year lag is to allow Wolff to flip his Fremont property and buy "blighted" land in Oakland on the cheap.....

pslade said...

One other interesting takeaway from the Wolff apperance was that (to my ears anyway) he strongly implied that in the event of a Fremont move the team would retain the "Oakland Athletics" name.

He said something to the effect of "Fremont doesn't mean we're leaving Oakland. There are plenty of sports teams that play just outside their home city and keep the name."

James said...

Dave,

Absolutely not true. Wolff is working full time on the Pacific Commons negotiations and site planning... a man of his prominence wouldn't put so much effort into a mere "smokescreen." Face it, Oakland has run out of viable site location options. What might become available would either (1) require emminent domain of several individually-owned parcels, delaying the project by several years or (2) require extensive and costly site remediation, thus making very expensive the "cheap... blighted" land you or Oakland might propose.

Secondly, I don't see Wolff backing out of the Fremont plan once a deal is inked because the City of Fremont has very clear visions on what it will allow on that land. The city is willing (eager, actually) to rezone it for destination retail/entertainment if the ballpark deal is finalized. Otherwise, it is specifically intended for a high-density technology office park, and Fremont has demonstrated that it will hold out for that use. The limitations the city has placed on it, in the current economy, makes it less attractive to potential developers. Therefore, once Wolff finalizes the deal with Cisco, it's a clear indication that that is his final plan.

What I haven't seen in viable argument as to why Wolff would want to stay in Oakland. The A's fan base is regional, not city-specific, so that argument wouldn't fly. With the lack of suitable land, he would be spinning his wheels. With land enough for only a stadium, he would require the city to subsidize the project, requiring a public vote which probably wouldn't pass. Wolff certainly doesn't have any emotional ties to Oakland. The pols there aren't making the A's a priority, and have presented no "outside-the-box" thoughts to make a project work. So why would he want to stay there?

Fremont is where it's at for Wolff.... he can get the land, he can expand the fanbase into San Jose and the Silicon Valley, and the numbers just work there in a way the don't work anywhere else.

Georob said...

JRBH cancelled his season tickets at the mere mention by Lew Wolff that he was going to start looking outside of Oakland. While I still don't believe it, it served as a preview of the type of rhetoric we're going to see out of the Oakland supporters over the next few months.

I predicted this a long time ago and still stand by it: Oakland will play the "victim" and claim race and class discrimintaion before this is all over.

Will it be effective? It shouldn't, but it all depends on how the Bay Area media wants to handle it. Especially if said media are Giants' supporters who see this distraction as an opportunity to rid the Bay Area of the Athletics once and for all.

Like that famous Bette Davis line: "Hang on, it's gonna be a BUMPY ride!"

drummer510 said...

Wow georob thats low. James, these are the reasons why Wolff would want to/should stay in Oakland:

-Suburban vs. Urban park, there's no comparison between the two, an urban park has a much longer life span and brings in "fringe fans" that normally wouldn't be inclined to go to a game. Also, urban ballparks become icons of cities.

-The are many restuarants, clubs, bars, and entertainment already in Oakland. Fremont has to develop and build an entertainment district and there's no guarentee that district will thrive.

-Oakland is the geographical center of the Bay Area meaning thousands of people commute through it, making it an easy drive/train or bus ride to a game for many fans (especailly ones in Contra Costa).

-Oakland has a very decent transportation system already in place. Fremont still has to built a new BART station and develop/build a mode of transportation from the new station to the stadium.

-Oakland has the office highest occupancy rate in the Bay Area making demand for new office buildings fairly high. Wolff can easily capitalize on this.

Just like SJ, Oakland needs the political will and voter support to pull off a deal. Fremont is the cheap short term option for Wolff, who is trying to get out of the Coliseum as quick as possible.

James said...

Drummer510 said: Suburban vs. Urban park, there's no comparison between the two, an urban park has a much longer life span and brings in "fringe fans" that normally wouldn't be inclined to go to a game. Also, urban ballparks become icons of cities.

James replies: How does an urban park, in and of itself, have a longer life span? How would "fringe fans" be disinclined to go to games? Are you saying that a fringe fan from Milpitas, San Jose, or Santa Clara would rather schlep to Oakland than Fremont? It's true that someone from Everyville, Albany or Lafayette might be more likely to go to Oakland, but then again, the largest populus in Northern California is San Jose, so my money would be on Fremont as the more likely venue to attract fringe fans.

Drummer510 said: The are many restuarants, clubs, bars, and entertainment already in Oakland. Fremont has to develop and build an entertainment district and there's no guarentee that district will thrive.

James replies: Are there any restaurants, clubs (that people feel safe going to!), bars and entertainment in within walking distance to where a new stadium could could be built, without requiring public funds, bonds, or a public vote? When people get into their cars after a game, they're either (a) going home or (b) going to a suburban restaurant where they can easily park.

Drummer510 said: Oakland is the geographical center of the Bay Area meaning thousands of people commute through it, making it an easy drive/train or bus ride to a game for many fans (especailly ones in Contra Costa).

James replies: Well, it's not easier to get there if you happen to be one of the more than one million people who live in San Jose or one of the hundreds of thousands who work in Silicon Valley or one of the 210,000 who live in Fremont!

Dummmer510 said: Oakland has a very decent transportation system already in place. Fremont still has to built a new BART station and develop/build a mode of transportation from the new station to the stadium.

James replies: It is true that Oakland has decent transportation, but that is not the be all and end all! Chances are slim that, even if a fan were to go to Oakland from San Jose, that they'd be taking public transportation. Besides, even if Oakland were to come up with a viable site, who's to say that it would be next to a BART station?

Drummer510 said: Oakland has the office highest occupancy rate in the Bay Area making demand for new office buildings fairly high. Wolff can easily capitalize on this.

James replies: If Wolff wanted to capitalize on Oakland's office leasing situation, he could do it independent of building a stadium there! He'd just buy the land and do it. Even if office space were part of his ballpark plan, is there enough space in downtown Oakland to build both a stadium and an office building? It's clear that his vision is a stadium, housing, and entertainment retail. By building a new venue, he can benefit by leasing the retail space out, which would benefit by baseball patrions spending their money at the restaurants. His ballpark is a benefit to the lesseess of entertainment retail, but the same cannot be said about office leases.

Drummer510 said: Just like SJ, Oakland needs the political will and voter support to pull off a deal. Fremont is the cheap short term option for Wolff, who is trying to get out of the Coliseum as quick as possible.

James replies: Fremont is neither cheap or short term. It is true that either of Fremont's two options can be built at least two years faster than Oakland or San Jose. One thing that Fremont offers is a chance for him to develop an entire district around the stadium. Probably the biggest benefit is the ability to tap into an entirely new fanbase... Silicon Valley.

peanut gallery said...

Drummer - (mostly) good points about Oakland. The only items I would contend are the first two. Being in Oakland city limits doesn't guarantee "urban" or being close to the many wonderful restaurants, bars, etc the city has to offer. Take the Coliseum area for example. It has neither of those qualities. They may be arguments for specific sites within Oakland (ie: Uptown, JLS or Laney), but they aren't blanket reasons to stay in any site within Oakland.

While I'd prefer a downtown, urban ballpark, I'm not completely fixated on that, which is one reason I could go for a new park at the Coliseum site. I am a bit more fixated on having restaurants and bars nearby, which seems to be the plan (ie: ballpark village) no matter where it's built. And transit, of course, which is a deal-breaker to me.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, San Jose does not have a million people and it has a smaller metro area than Oakland.

Population
Total (2006) 953,679 (city proper) [1]
Metro area 1,735,819

Oakland, has a smaller city population, but a bigger metro area.

Population
Total (2005) 412,318
Metro area 4,153,870

Georob said...

Comparing the San Jose and Oakland "metro" areas is useless. It's all the Bay Area, and at least for major league sports; they overlap significantly.

Anonymous said...

The "metro" argument is flawed. Raw population data is a better indicator. Santa Clara 1.68 Million
Alameda County 1.45 million. This includes 220,000 for Fremont. You put Fremont in the Santa Clara County column and it's 1.9 million versus 1.23 million. It's not close then. The real story, though, is the corporate and personal wealth of Santa Clara County & Fremont versus Oakland. That makes it game, set and match for Fremont or San Jose. Down there, luxury boxes get sold out and stadium/park owners cleep very good at night with that thought. Let's cut to the bottom line, Oakland has major history with the A's, and the current transportation options are better at the current site. That is the end of the Oakland advantage though. Fremont, as well as San Jose, take the rest of the advantages. I doubt there is anyone of serious business savy that believes a new ballpark at the current Coliseum location, or in downtown Oakland, will be a bigger draw or money maker than Fremont or San Jose. To those Oakland loyalists, I understand your loyalty to Oakland. And honestly, I think Wolff would accomodate Oakland and take less money (if you consider less money as many millions versus many,many millions)if Oakland could give him a plot of land sufficient for the whole residential, commercial and ballpark plan. Oakland will not and may not even be able to even if they wanted to. What Wolff will not do is pay for the new Park out of his own pocket. He has 2 ways he is going to make this new park fly. Option 1, he will develop the land around it and use those funds to pay for the park. Option 2, he will move the A's to a city that is willing to build him a park with a lot, if not all, of it paid for by the city. Option 2 will not be in the Bay Area, and that is a drop dead guarantee. Option 1 will almost certainly not be in Oakland (again sorry Oakland diehards). It will be in Fremont, or it will be in San Jose, or it will be in some mystery bay area city to be named later. Hopefully BART happens with it to Fremont as I suspect that is the place the A's will be.... IF they stay in California. I think that IF is very, very possible.