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02 July 2006

Purdy puts Wolff at top of power player list

The Merc's newest edition of their "Bay Area's Most Powerful Sports Figures" is due, and columnist Mark Purdy has placed Lew Wolff at the very top. That's not surprising. Wolff currently controls the fates of two sports franchises - the A's and the future Quakes - and his deals may indirectly affect revenues for all other major pro sports teams in the region due to club/suite and ad revenues.

While A's ownership including Wolff (and family, I'm sure), President Michael Crowley, and GM Billy Beane have been living it up in Germany recently while attending the World Cup. Undoubtedly, they've gotten pointers looking at new and refurbished stadia, many of which hold a baseball-friendly capacity of 40,000. Before soccer fans get their hopes up, costs will prohibit a European-style fully-enclosed, mostly roofed stadium from being constructed here (unless someone other than the A's is willing to foot the bill). In the meantime, putting out a shingle for an Earthquakes office and retail store could help salve the wound created when the team Mayflowered its way to Houston.

Purdy takes a position that is a definite shift from what he has argued in the past. Instead of pitching Fremont as a diversionary tactic while the A's deal with San Jose, Fremont is meriting real consideration. As the greatest media flagwaver for the San Jose effort, this is almost downright earthshattering.

Back to the list. Bay Area sports history has had a huge range of personalities and styles among its power brokers, whether they were brilliant (Wally Haas, Peter Magowan, Eddie DeBartolo), inept (John York, Chris Cohan, Steve Schott), or somewhere in between (Al Davis, Bob Lurie). Superstar players and coaches also inhabit the list, as do some non-print media types. Wolff's ascent to the top of the list is a testament to how Wolff understands and plays the media game. Other than Trib columnist Art Spander, Wolff has Bay Area media eating out of his hand. He's skillfully given bits and pieces of his vision, never giving too much away and always leaving the curious (like me) wanting more.

Purdy ends the piece with could be interpreted as a bit of foreshadowing:

"A year from now,'' Wolff says, "I'd like to be deep into the process of getting environmental approvals for a baseball park. And for soccer, I'd like a place we can play for the following season, even if it is just temporary.''

To me that sounds like a Fremont ballpark and Spartan Stadium (temporarily for the Quakes). Even if Ron Dellums' staff starting work on a proposal the minute Ignacio De La Fuente conceded the mayoral election, an EIR/study couldn't get fast-tracked to start in Oakland before the end of 2007.

26 comments:

Jeff said...

Welcome home ML, hope you enjoyed your trip. I missed the Mecury article on Wolfe. Glad your on top of things as usual, no matter the geographical challenges.

Wolfe indicates that the Fremont effort is ongoing, yet he offered no concrete tentative agreements. It makes one wonder what the negotiations actually entail. If Wolfe is serious about the Fremont deal, but is still speculative about a SJ move, might he not be engaged in calling Mcgowans bluff? The Giants have said that they have no issues with the A's moving to Fremont, but does anyone truly take them at their word? Fremont is minutes away from SJ, and there's no doubt that the A's will be taking aim at a significant amount of the Giants market share. Is there a possibility that Wolfe is negotiating an "open ended" purchase of the PC site with an eye towards making a swap with Mcgowan when/if his bluff is called? In other words, will Wolfe offer Mcgowan a share of a residential development component in Fremont for a return of the rights to Santa Clara county? I could see this as being beneficial to both parties. Obviously the A's will take a large market share of SJ if they move to Fremont and there's not a lot the Giants can do to stop it. If, on the other hand Mcgowan enters a partnership with Wolfe, at least he will recieve revenue to pay off his own ballpark. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

ML,

I've seen the public transit issue with the Fremont site debated here for quite some time. Even with Santa Clara County election results, Wolff appears to keep moving forward with the Fremont site. Do you think he likes the site so much (due to proximity to San Jose) so much that he'll move forward anyway, even without municipal investment in public transit? Also, given the size of the Pacific Commons site, is a parking garage mandatory, or is there enough land for acres and acres of parking?

Georob said...

Until he has a lease or contract somewhere, Wolff will not close the door on any site, including Oakland. In fact, I'd venture to guess that if Fremont falls through, Ron Dellums will try to get Oakland back in the picture.

I would guess that South Bay corporate interests don't really care if it's Fremont or San Jose and neither do potential South Bay fans. The only ones that REALLY care are the diehards that keep reminding us ad nauseum that San Jose is the "tenthlargestcityinthe unitedstates"

Of course, San Jose's mayor has no time for such cheerleading. He's just trying to stay out of jail.

Marine Layer said...

Availability of public transit is important, but it's not a make-or-break issue. Nothing comes close to site and financing. PC has area for a garage, but not surface parking. Housing/retail/parks will take up much of the area.

When bringing up the possibility of a backroom deal for San Jose, remember this: these people didn't make billions by automatically conceding anything. Wolff will have other investors - including those outside the A's ownership group - to answer to. By conceding to an outside party it's taking money off the table.

James said...

Jeff,

Without the ballpark, there will be no housing component at Pacific Commons. Approval for 2,000 housing units west of 880 will be directly contingent upon the ballpark and the retail component of the ballpark village.

Anonymous said...

As of right now, the Giants territorial rights to Santa Clara County only serve one purpose and one purpose only...to keep Major League Baseball out of San Jose. THAT'S IT!! They don't mean anything anymore as they relate to Giants South Bay season ticket holders, corporate sponsors, fan base, etc. As Mark Purdy alluded to in his wonderful piece (God bless the man), a move to Fremont hurts the Giants as much as a move to SJ proper. As for Magowan having no issues with an A's move to Fremont...YEAH RIGHT!! He made that statement back during the Schott/Hoffman regime, knowing full well they had no intention of relocating to Fremont (remember, back then it was a Santa Clara/Great America ballpark or bust!). So in the end, Peter Magowan will be known as the A$$ Hole who kept Major League Baseball out of San Jose, but who lost his fan base and corporate dollars to the "San Jose A's of Fremont."
If Magowan ever saw the light and decided to give up Santa Clara County, don't expect Wolff to give him $hit! He doesn't need to because he can get exactly what he wants out of the $outh Bay from a Fremont location. Expect any form of indemnification for the Giants to come from Major League Baseball (see Orioles/Nationals saga). If Peter Magowan was a smart business man, he would deal Santa Clara County and open the door for the REAL San Jose A's. Get the gauranteed money flowing now Peter, because in a few years your team's going to be horrid, and those $20 million debt payments are going to loom mighty large!!

Jeff said...

James,

While I don't doubt that what you say may have validity, can you explain to me why the residential development is contingent on the ballpark being built at the PC site?

Marine Layer said...

Fremont's being very careful about what types of housing will be built within city limits. 2000 new housing units means expanded city services. Unless tax revenues from new development (the ballpark village) can help to pay for the infrastructure, it's not going to happen.

It's possible that Fremont could declare the ballpark village area a TIF zone to help pay for those city services.

That said, the only thing that would appear "contingent" upon building the ballpark and village at the same site is property value. If these condos can be marketed at a slight premium because of their proximity to local entertainment options, colocation may be worth it.

James said...

Jeff,

Currently there is no Fremont housing west of I-880 except in the extreme northern part of the city. The PC property is currently zoned for industrial, R&D, office, and retail, largely consistent with the City's Master Plan. The City has been loath to give property owner Catellus (predecessor entity of ProLogis) much flexibility, although the City did in late 2003 or early 2004 give special entitlements to reposition the retail component of Pacific Commons and increased to retail entitlement to about 750,000 square feet so Catellus could develop the power retail center that currently exists along Auto Mall Parkway. Certainly, over the 50-year history of Fremont, the city has had plenty of opportunities to develop housing along the I-880 west side but has never allowed such use except in North Fremont. It is clear that Fremont needs to focus on more commercial uses for the vacant land in the city.

The ballpark village is a dramatic change from the current zoning, however, Fremont would undoubtedly give special entitlements to Wolff should he assume Cisco's land lease. But there is no reason to believe that the city would allow a housing on that land without it being part of a master planned ballpark village inclusive of destination retail and restaurant development along with a hotel and possible office space.

This is why I believe that once there is a deal with Cisco, it will be a done deal! There are such stringent limitations on the land use which Wolff obviously would be bound by. If he does not build the ballpark and ballpark village, zoning would revert to its current restrictions and it may be years before there is a demand for a Pacific Commons-style master planned community. But Wolff would be locked into such use.

Jeff said...

James and ML,

Thanks for the explanations. They were informative and enlightening. I am assuming that Fremont is banking on the retail tax base to support city services should the development go forward. If I am correct, most city revenue is generated by industrial/corporate taxes. So what you are both saying is that the residential component of the project is tied to the retail component due to revenues generated by the retail services.

So one cannot happen without the other under the current political/financial picture. Interesting. I am axiously anticipating the conclusion of this little drama. It really does look like the sun has set on BBSJ under the scenario you guys have presented. Too bad for them, but I can live with the Fremont site.

Georob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Georob said...

Rhamesis, I did some digging and found a couple of articles that you should have handy whenever people start crying about San Jose territorial rights, and how/why it happened.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/merc
urynews/sports/baseball/mlb/oakland
_athletics/10971494.htm

This is a February, 1995 article in the Mercury that reviews the history. And for those that question why the A's approved the territories, there's no better answer than this:

"We were reasonably happy and would have been reasonably happier if the Giants had moved to San Jose. Why would we get in the way?" said a member of A's management from that era who asked not to be named.

I had always assumed that this all started when the Giants were trying to move to Santa Clara, but was a little surprised that it dated back to 1990, before Peter Magowan came along.

So, the "day of infamy" was an owner's meeting in Cleveland on June 14, 1990. I found an article that talks about it, but none that I could link without a login. Nonetheless, here's the important quote from it:

"The San Francisco franchise now occupies, within our rules, the territory including both San Francisco and Santa Clara County and one other county (San Mateo)," baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said after the vote.

So, there you have it. Does it change anything? No. And the conspiracy theorists will continue to believe what they want. Still, it's a good read from a historical perspective.

Bleacher Dave said...

GeoRob,

thanks for the cite. I love having the facts.

ML,

what's a TIF?

Georob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Georob said...

Looks like the Mercury News link doesn't work without a login either, but here's most of that article reprinted from a blog ironically devoted to bringing MLB to Portland:

http://obc.infopop.cc/groupee/
forums/a/tpc/f/515605187/m/
9061051132

And my mistake, it was from 2005, NOT 1995.

Marine Layer said...

TIF stands for "tax increment financing", a redevelopment tool used to fund infrastructure and development. This is a different story because we're talking about land that hasn't been developed previously, instead of blighted land that is the typical redevelopment case. TIF is being used all over Oakland, BTW.

Georob said...

I don't get it. The way I see it, unless it's vacant land it's been already developed, blighted or not. So what do you mean by "land that hasn't been developed"?

Marine Layer said...

The land is vacant. It's still essentially wetlands with a few flags in place to mark streets and such and a couple immobile earthmovers. The land has been leveled out a bit but is otherwise untouched. The only legal difference between it and the other wetlands in the bay is zoning. So the term "redevelopment" doesn't apply. But I'm not an expert on redevelopment rules and regulations so I can't say if a TIF zone is doable there. I can say that Fremont's redevelopment agency is not geared towards that type of work, as Oakland's and San Jose's respective agencies are.

Anonymous said...

Cool, this is awesome. I can't wait to get my Fremont A's Road Jersey. Fremont will finally get some street cred. We will be cooler than Oakland!!!!. I can't wait for my homies to kick it in Fremont. WORD!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Now let's get the Raiders to Fremont as well and we'll be the best sports town in the Bay. Represent!!!! Fremont fans are more hardcore than those loser Oakland fans!!!!!! We know how to tailgate and throw phat parties in the parking lot in Fremont. Oaktown fans are week and lame. We'll have more drummers in the bleachers and more drunken fans who are more passionate!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:06/11:08....

Lil??????? Is that You????

Seriously though, I will NEVER for the life of me, understand those who are so opposed to move that keeps the A's in the freaking bay area...memo to those who are...this is NOT the same as the Raiduhs moving to Los Angeles, and yes Lil, It is NOT the same as the Dodgers moving 3,000 miles away from Bklyn to L.A.

Anonymous said...

It's time that the sleepy burbs like Fremont had something. Now we can be the best sports town in the Bay Area. Fremont has the best fans who are passionate. We'll have twice as many Flag Wavers in the bleachers and twice as many drummers. We'll have twice as many Trumpet players in the stands and twice as many Banjo Men. We'll have the phatest tailgates in Fremont which will be better than the Green Stampede tailgates cuz we'll have twice the bands, DJ's, and Rap acts than Oaktown!!!!! Oaktown can't compete cuz the Fremont will supplant Oakland as "THE TOWN"!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Fremont will also have twice as much traffic, congestion, and air pollution too! Yay for Fremont!

Jeff said...

In all fairness, Fremont will eventually have twice the traffic, population, et al, whether the A's ever move there or not. Nothing can prevent that from occurring sooner or later. Fremont is an area with growth potential in a market that is growing ever larger. Wouldn't it be prudent of the city to take every advantage that it can? And the A's are certainly an advantage.

Anonymous said...

Oakland's fans suck!!!! They don't show up to the ballpark in full force!!!! In Fremont, we have fans, more than Oakland!!!!! Our fans are better at drumming!!!!! We have better chants like "Let's Go Fremont!!!!" We have better banjo players and trumpet players. Our Hockey Mask fan in the bleachers is better than Oakland's. He's the real "510". Also, in Fremont, our fans will show up with 35k in the stands every night. More dedicated and passionate. At least we have flag wavers in the front row of Left Field and Right Field unlike Oakland!!!!

Anonymous said...

By the way, in Fremont we "Wave'em Higher" than Oakland cuz we have more fans with flags!!!!