30 November 2006

Milpitas wants to know

The site of the future Cisco Field may be in Fremont, but that doesn't mean that only Fremont will be affected. Milpitas officials have expressed their concerns about the project, especially traffic along 880.
During Milpitas City Council's Nov. 21 meeting, Councilman Bob Liven-good expressed his concerns over how the sports complex would impact Milpitas residents, especially along the I-880 corridor.

"It's of concern to me obviously because the site they are focused on... is less than three miles from our city border, and as a result has the potential to be an impact on our roadways and on our quality of life," he said.

Livengood added at this early stage in planning for a stadium, he didn't know "whether to be a cheerleader of the project or a detractor of it."
As I understood it, Fremont was going to get Newark and Union City involved because they'd be impacted, so it makes perfect sense to include Milpitas... and San Jose, whose city limits are also only a few miles from Pacific Commons.

How we got to this point

East Bay Express writers Robert Gammon and Chris Thompson have this week's cover story, a thorough chronology of events over the past several years that led up to the Pacific Commons plan. Even though the full article is available online, I suggest you get a (free) copy wherever you can. I can't comment on all of the workings of the Oakland political machine, but I can say that the Fremont scenario described in the article played out exactly as I heard it nearly a year ago. It's definitely a must-read.

28 November 2006

Happy trails, Bud

You could see it on his face. He really didn’t want to be there. As commissioner, Bud Selig’s appearance at the A’s-Cisco announcement was perfunctory. His presence was needed to give the event that extra bit of gravitas, though he certainly didn’t lend a ton of charm to the proceedings. Soon, Bud Selig won’t have to fly cross-country to do these events. It’ll be someone else’s job.

It was thought that Selig would retire by the time his current tenure as commish expires at the end of 2007. Recently, he has given hints that he wants to stay on a little longer. With a new CBA in place and record attendance figures year after year, you’d think that he’d want to go out on top, or at least until he really has to face the steroids demon in earnest.

The only reason Selig would conceivably stay on would be that he thought his job wasn’t finished. That’s hard to believe, since Selig navigated MLB through 3 CBA negotiations, while presiding over the opening of 15 new ballparks (with 5 more on the way), and the expansion of the league by 4 teams. He’s also overseen the introduction of the wildcard, interleague play, and revenue sharing. In Andrew Zimbalist’s book In the Best Interests of Baseball? he refers to Selig as the sport’s first CEO.

It would appear that Selig does have some unfinished business as the game’s CEO. Chief among his concerns has to be the Florida Marlins’ situation. By inserting the league office directly into negotiations with local governments in the Miami area, Selig has bypassed the source of much consternation, Marlins’ ownership. The election of former minor league baseball lawyer, Charlie Crist, to the governorship of Florida has given MLB officials renewed hope for a deal. Kansas City was considered a problem area as well, but in April voters passed a package of renovations for Kauffman Stadium and its neighbor in the Truman Sports Complex, Arrowhead Stadium. The Mets and Yankees have broken ground on their new homes, and the Nats are well along on construction of their new ballpark, even if some of the other details are still being fleshed out. The A's still have a long way to go before groundbreaking, let alone opening day.

So what’s next? National TV deals are set through 2013. Should Florida pan out, there would be one stadium deal nearing expiration: the Angels lease at the Big A. With the home market being LA, it would be in Arte Moreno’s best interest to get something done there, while not completely alienating the existing fanbase. He’s not going to maintain his franchise’s impressive growth in value by moving out of LA.

Perhaps it’s time that MLB truly starts to consider expansion again. Before you start complaining about the watering down of the talent pool, let’s remember that foreign talent has been extremely rich over the last several years and has shown no signs of slowing down, especially in Asia. There will always be marginal players or players of questionable value. Right now, some of them get 5-year, $50 million deals. If you're really concerned about dilution of talent, turn the 25-man roster into a 24-man roster.

There are numerous ways expansion would help:
  • Having 32 teams makes realignment and scheduling easy. Again, let’s look to the NFL. They have a symmetrical dream system for scheduling, with even numbers of teams per division and conference. They have a fair number of intraconference and interconference games. Plus they kept great divisional rivalries intact. Take a look at this hypothetical MLB realignment scenario:

    The four-team division allows for great flexibility. Teams can devote all of April and September to divisional races since an odd fifth team won't be left out. And by instituting the unbalanced-but-fair scenario in green above, every team will be guaranteed an equitable number of series with each intraleague opponent. Sometimes it'll be 6 series (division), 4 series (intraleague "A"), or 2 series (intraleague "B"). No more of that weird home-away-home stuff. The awkwardness that comes from pairing a 4-team division (AL West) with a 6-team division (NL Central) will cease. 2-game series would be mostly limited to divisional play, lessening travel hardships. There are some historical rivalry issues to work out such as Royals-Cards, but that could be accommodated within this revamped framework.
  • Major league baseball should have a team in a primarily Spanish-speaking market. Options include Monterrey and San Juan, or perhaps Mexico City, Havana (post-communism), or an economically stronger Santo Domingo, DR. Frankly, this is long overdue. It's likely that a team south of the border will require revenue-sharing for its first decade of operation. That's fine. Take part of the expansion franchise fee and put it into a fund for the team. It would be well worth the goodwill it will bring to MLB. The NBA and NFL are aggressively marketing in Asia and Europe. Why should MLB keep neglecting its fertile backyard?
  • Increasing the number of jobs could push average salaries downwards. The union will love the increase in ML jobs (50). The owners will automatically have some amount of depression in average pay, since more players will be fighting for a slightly larger salary pie. The NFL’s system works largely because over double the players of MLB yet have only slightly larger annual revenues. There’s little chance that MLB will increase active rosters to more than 25 men. It’s possible that adding two more teams could make teams compete more for that fourth outfielder or starting pitcher, but I’d rather have the market play that out.
  • Holding a city for ransom doesn't work. We've seen this already play in Miami, where the city called the team's bluff, knowing how crucial a market it is to MLB. The Marlins remain in South Florida, and with MLB heading the negotiations, a ballpark deal could be made. I personally am not a fan of the public funding being considered, but I don't live in Florida. It's up to Florida residents to decide the merits of the deal. Once ransom is off the table due to zero relocation candidates, then Portland, Las Vegas, and San Antonio can cease being stalking horses. If they're interested, they can bid on the other expansion team. We'll know which city has all of the pieces in place: site, financing, ownership group, economics. All three of those markets are somewhat small right now, but in a decade all three could be excellent medium-sized baseball markets. San Antonio could even be a fallback option if a south-of-the-border city is not feasible.
  • It's almost time. Expansion wouldn't occur until well into the next decade, perhaps 2015 or so - after the current stadium boom era has officially come to a close. That's plenty of time between the last round of expansion (1998) and the next. This time, the owners wouldn't be motivated by collusion or legal difficulties. They'd be focused on actually growing the sport. Rather novel idea, no?
What do you think about expansion?

20 November 2006

The Loaiza-Kennedy rule of ownership

Today I'll pose a "hypothetical," y'all can debate it.

The A's are buying up land in Fremont. Some of it will be meant for housing, some for parking, some for retail/commercial, some towards the ballpark, the rest for infrastructure. Here's how the ownership situation would look:
  • Ballpark: 50% A's, 50% Fremont
  • Ballpark land: Fremont (A's would donate land)
  • Retail/commercial: A's
  • Parking: A's
  • Residential: Third-party developers (TBD)
  • Infrastructure: Fremont

The infrastructure piece is the obvious no-brainer, the rest are educated guesses. The A's might want the ability to retain as much of the land for future development as possible. That's why parking lots/garages would be owned by the team. The land for residential, along with development rights, would be sold early on to housing developers developers to assist in financing the ballpark. The rights might not be sold all at once because pending construction could create a glut of sorts in the housing market. Chances are that the rights would be sold in phases, which is fine if you're the A's because all you want to do is service annual debt. The rights would be sold well in advance of a 20-30 year term on privately financed stadium bonds, so that money could be used to either pay off the debt early or to be reinvested. Retail/commercial makes sense for the A's to own because they'd rake in nice leases from the various new establishments.

As for the ballpark, that's a less straightforward situation. The immediate response might be, "Doesn't the franchise's value go up if they own the ballpark?" Yes, but it would go up just as much if they didn't own it. All that matters is that the team gets new revenue streams from the stadium. As a bonus, the team would be looked upon more favorably by MLB and financiers if they weren't saddled with major debt, such as a privately-owned ballpark.

There's one more motivation that makes the most sense: Lower property taxes. If the A's owned the ballpark outright, they'd have tax liability over a $400 million building plus some $20-40 million in land. The property tax rate in Alameda County is 1.2%. Look up those timetables, and that comes to $5 million per year, or the '06 salary of Esteban Loaiza. Sure, depreciation would take a bite out of that over time, but even so that's up to $100 million left on the table over the life of the stadium. If the A's are looking to own half of the stadium as outlined above, their property tax hit would be around $2.4 million, or the '06 base salary of Joe Kennedy. (These figures don't include special assessments.)

Then again, look at the A's current situation. They don't pay any property tax on the Coliseum because it's also publicly owned. Since the A's would be moving all of their business ops to somewhere in Fremont, they would be contributing more to the county's coffers than they would in the current lease at the Coliseum. That gain has to be balanced against the hard and soft costs associated with having an entertainment district.

The $64,000 question has to be:

"Is the opportunity cost for getting a baseball team worth it?"

Let's look at alternatives for the land:

  • Another office park. That's what was originally planned for the area, though the original tenant, Cisco, nixed those plans long ago. Fremont's legacy position of reserving the area for light industrial and commercial use made sense decades ago from a planning perspective, but now that very little is actually manufactured here compared to the Far East, it's a policy worth revisiting. There are still large swaths of land to the south on Fremont Blvd/Gateway Blvd that are completely undeveloped. Fremont doesn't have the cachet that the Golden Triangle cities - Santa Clara, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View - offer for building large corporate campuses. Warehousing/distribution remains a popular land use in the area, but how much additional land does that industry really need locally to function? And is it a growth industry, especially when land costs continue to rise?
  • Another strip mall. That's not likely because existing Fremont shopping centers, Pacific Commons and the Fremont Hub, already cover this market. In fact, there are very few big box retailers that don't occupy either of those two shopping centers. The only one I can think of would be Best Buy, but honestly, aren't there enough Best Buy locations out there? Along Auto Mall/Durham, there's also Fry's, Home Depot, REI, and Wal-Mart. They're pretty well covered.
  • Housing instead of the ballpark/ballpark village. This would run counter to Fremont's intentions to keep entertainment dollars within city limits, while adding the need for additional services. Not gonna happen.
  • Leave the land undeveloped. Now this is unrealistic. The dirt's already turned over. The wetlands preserve, which is outside the project land, has already been created. Someone's going to do something with the project land, whether it's the A's, Cisco, or ProLogis.

The endgame is that after 30 years, the city will own the stadium outright. Is this a good deal for the city? For the county?

19 November 2006

Election in Fremont?, Paying off the SJ Giants

Three articles showed up in today's rags that you should read:
  • Chris De Benedetti of The Argus covers the possibility of a ballot measure for Cisco Field and the ballpark village.
  • The Merc's Barry Witt writes about Rule 52, also known as the "15 mile rule." Rule 52 prevents a major league team from relocating to within 15 miles of another team without compensation or approval by the affected team.
  • Merc writers Mary Anne Ostrom and April Lynch chronicle Lew Wolff's legacy of local development and forays into sports business.
Fremont's mayor and city council have been consistent about eschewing a referendum. The likelhood of a vote increases should general fund money be required, but both the A's and Fremont have insisted that pulling from the general fund is not going to happen. Still, there remains a question of how new services for the area will be paid for. A ticket tax? Assessments on the new condos? Tax increment financing? I can't wait for the discussion to begin in earnest.

Rule 52 is not expected to be a major issue, at least with regard to the San Jose Giants. Even if compensation is required, it probably won't be an enormous amount. Perhaps the two sides could do the right thing and put the money towards refurbishing dilapidated San Jose Municipal Stadium. Then again, SJ Giants ownership could take the money and sell/move the team to an area that wants a team and has far less competition: Petaluma or Napa. In the past, I wasn't clear on whether Rule 52 was still applicable, since the Nationals technically set up shop within 15 miles of Orioles' territory by playing in RFK Stadium. We won't know until snippets from the next ML Constitution are released (leaked).

17 November 2006

Clear Channel goes private

Radio industry behemoth Clear Channel agreed to a buyout by a group of private equity firms, including Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners. The total value of the buyout is said to be $18.7 billion.

The deal won't directly free up the radio market for the A's to pursue an interest in their own radio station. Clear Channel is divesting itself of its radio properties outside the Top 100 markets in the country, as well as its television stations, which are also in small markets. The closest market where a station could be available? San Luis Obispo. There's a slight possibility that if some of these small market stations were swallowed up by one of Clear Channel's competitors, there could eventually be some tradeout of properties. I'm not holding my breath.

16 November 2006

Ballpark Village

There's a very good reason why we haven't heard how much the whole development is going to cost:

We don't know how big it will be.

The orange area represents the Cisco land that will be purchased by the A's. The red area contains land that Wolff has recently acquired (they haven't acquired all of it yet AFAIK). Blue areas are additional land that probably will be acquired. Now take a look at the area with an approximation of the ballpark:

The cryptic message, "9,000 spaces within a comfortable walking distance," means two things:

  • They want people to walk through the village to get to the parking garages/lots. There will be garages adjacent to the ballpark, but those will be geared towards VIP's, suite holders, and personnel - 1,200 spaces or so. Everyone else will be walking 1/8 to 1/4 mile.
  • They're going to need every square foot they can get. The village will extend into the blue area immediately to the north. That red area, nearly 20 acres, could be very important. So could the old Christy Concrete plant. Combined, they'd provide 31 acres, or around 4,000 spaces. If it's surface parking, perhaps the tailgating tradition will live. If they build garages, tailgating's dead. The blue/red areas by the freeway are the best locations for parking from a development standpoint because of that all-important freeway access and the fact that the location automatically routes fans away from quieter residential neighborhoods to the south.

Village planners will have some challenges ahead of them. Questions to ask include:
  • How can housing and the wetland preserve co-exist? It appears that a large buffer will be required between the two, perhaps a couple hundred feet. This could be a good thing, since some amount of open space and parkland will be required. Might as well put them both together by making a greenbelt run along the southern portion of the orange area. The transition between the two areas would be smoother, plus there would be a nice place for families to go outside of the ballpark village core. But would that be enough to ease environmentalist concerns?
  • Where will the fire station/police station go? There is a fire station on the other side of I-880 on Grimmer Blvd., so it may not be necessary to have yet another one. Fremont doesn't operate police precinct stations, but considering the likely higher crime rates that will come with a new entertainment district, it makes sense to have some kind of community police center. This plan means 40,000 additional people and 10,000 additional cars coming into the city 81+ times per year plus playoffs and exhibitions, along 5,000+ permanent residents. Fortunately, such a station need not take up much space. As far as actually policing the games, I get the feeling that the Alameda County Sheriff's Department will be tapped for that role.
  • What about schools and parks? This is that additional infrastructure piece that is uncertain regarding funding. Lew Wolff's admission on Tuesday that the team's new name will have "of Fremont" is a big deal from a political perspective. It's a bargaining chip. How much value it actually has is up for debate, but it's Wolff saying that if Fremont wants the publicity that comes with being part of the team's name, it should contribute something other than simply pushing paperwork around. What that "something" is, is uncertain. It's absolutely clear that one elementary school will be required due to the large number of new residents (5,000 or more). There should be a park with playing fields. It's likely that the developers would donate this land in exchange for the city of Fremont and Fremont Unified partnering to build the school. If you're looking for a similar type of development, you need look no further than Santa Clara, whose Rivermark development stretched over 150+ acres on the old Agnews Hospital site. Obviously, no ballpark was included, but the community got a new $20 million K-8 school, a community policing center, a fire station, and a 11-acre park.
I haven't included the transportation part because it deserves its own discussion, and from comments here and elsewhere, it is quite a divisive issue.

Kudos to Carl Steward for
mentioning Drawbridge in his column today. I love Drawbridge.
I saw the Cisco Field commercial broadcast for the first time during a break on KGO-7's late newscast. Cisco's seriously into this.

15 November 2006

Reaction from around the Bay

Housekeeping note: I'm now moderating comments using the moderation feature. The signal-to-noise ratio has been generally poor, let's see if this helps. If you've come here to bash Fremont, Oakland, or Timbuktu, it's not showing up.
The Trib's Monte Poole, who I saw leaving Cisco HQ as I walked in (after the press conference, no less), has a good beat on the circumstances of the deal.

The Merc's Mark Purdy, who not surprisingly paints a rosier picture on things,
gets into how the deal started - a hunting trip. Purdy's colleague Mike Cassidy gets in a good San Jose jab:

The Merc’s story this morning said Wolff and the Cisco Kid, John Chambers, promise the new stadium “will be filled with Cisco networking equipment.'’ Sounds like San Jose City Hall, without the whiff of bid-rigging.
Chron writer Patrick Hoge reports that the Coliseum Authority is already looking at ways to make other money now that the A's have announced their departure. Included is this delicious quote from Ignacio De La Fuente:
"To be candid, we made more money in one Rolling Stones concert than the A's made (us) in a whole year. We will deal with it," De La Fuente said.

There's only one problem with this. When the A's leave, who's going to become the Coliseum's main East Bay competition for large outdoor concerts? Cisco Field, of course. The Coliseum will obviously be larger and have BART, but how many concerts require 50-60,000 seats anymore? It's the Rolling Stones and little else, and at some point all that cryogenics/formaldehyde won't be able to help the eventually septuagenarian Stones take a big stage. U2 no longer plays large stadia in the States, and most pop acts work the 15-20,000-seat market covered by outdoor amphitheaters and indoor arenas. International soccer friendlies are nice, but they don't come all that frequently. Plus there's the end of McAfee's naming rights deal with the Coliseum, coming in 2008. There's a good chance they won't renew since the A's won't be there, and that means the subsidy to pay for the Coliseum's renovations ($22 million this year alone) will only get higher. The bright side is that the name should revert back to "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum."

John Shea thinks the writing is on the wall regarding the "___ A's of Fremont." After seeing former San Jose mayor and Wolff consigliere Tom McEnery leave shortly after Poole, it's hard to not think along those lines.

Union City is gearing up for its TOD (transit oriented development) surrounding the planned rail station next to its own BART station. 10-20 story residential towers will be built by San Jose builder Barry Swenson. To get MTC funds for the station, planners have to hit a minimum of 2,200 housing units within 1/2 mile of the station, perhaps fewer units if some are sold/leased at below market rate. For BART stations, the bar is raised to 3,850 units. Could this approach help with getting more transit infrastructure around the ballpark village? Not at first glance, since Capitol Corridor fits under the realm of intercity rail as opposed to commuter rail. There's WSX BART, but the village is on the wrong side of the freeway and isn't within the 1/2 mile range, plus no residential is planned immediately around the Warm Springs station. Still, it can't hurt to ask.

14 November 2006

So where are the bullpens?

I'll start with the nitpicks just to get them out of the way.
  • There's no batter's eye in centerfield. The ability to see through from the park into the playing field is nice, but it's not going to work during games. I could see them putting in a curtain or screen that retracts during off days or in between innings.
  • I can't say for sure which way the ballpark is oriented, but from the flythrus the field appears to be facing northeast. If that's true that's a shame, because if they positioned 45 degrees south they'd have Mission Peak as the backdrop. Note: the field may actually be facing north.
  • The brick exteriors. I really hope the brick is only there to provide texture for the renderings and sketches. We've seen enough of it. Try something else.
  • I don't see the bullpens anywhere in the sketches or renderings. Do you? They might be beyond the 410' markers. If so, they're hidden underneath the scoreboard and have two rows of seats between the pens and the field. Now that's odd.
  • 320' down the lines and the cut-ins. I understand the neighborhood concept, but the short porches down the lines could mean a few extra cheap home runs. The extremely deep gaps (410') are a good counterpoint. The dimensions look a little similar to Petco's but the fog and marine layer won't be as much of a factor. I'll do some temperature surveys next spring to show the difference between the Coliseum and Cisco.
  • I'm still concerned that the club level (field) will prevent regular fans from being able to walk down to the front row for autographs. It's a tradition worth keeping.
  • It would be nice if the grandstand down the first base line used the same angles and the grandstand down the third base line. It's cleaner and sharper.
  • What the heck is Big Mutt?
That said, there's a lot to love about this concept. Let's start with the grandstand, since that's where most everyone will be sitting.

It appears like four decks, but it's more like two large decks. Take a good look at this cross-section, taken from the animations page:

This will be, by far, the most intimate new ballpark in baseball. The upper deck cantilever is really aggressive. It's even better than I could have hoped for, better than I've drawn up. The yellow/red model is Cisco Field, while the white model is... SBC Park in all likelihood. All of the decks are closer and lower than their SBC or McAfee counterparts. Techies (like me) better be on the lookout, because if they're busy staring down at a smart phone, they're liable to get a screaming liner right in the grill.

The upper deck is actually split in two. The lower section has 13 rows, while the upper section has 7. That makes the combination one row deeper than the Coliseum's upper deck. Why are they separated? Three reasons:
  • Wolff said that he wanted all concourses to have a view of the game. The separation allows that to happen.
  • Wheelchair seating positions are easier to come by. I wrote about this in my review of Stanford Stadium. This arrangement has also in use at New Busch Stadium and Great American Ball Park.
  • It's easier to define different pricing within the upper deck. The A's might decide to have a handful of cheap seats in the upper deck corners. Even those will be good seats.
The leftfield bleachers rise above a small street and connect to a building across the street. Now that's integration. I hope the risers are made of steel or aluminum so that they can get really noisy. It wouldn't be hard to bring the "A" or triangle shape used in last year's model.

The full street concourse is an evolution of what's been done in Baltimore and San Diego. Rightfield looks a lot like Eutaw Street, and the centerfield park is a lot more cohesive than the park-within-the-park area at Petco. The double-sided video board isn't new, but its sheer size will make it compelling. It wouldn't be a bad idea to show all road games on the exterior board. And once a week during the summer, the board would be a natural place to have outdoor movies and concerts. One of the neat things about Petco is that they have a $5 Park Pass admission, which acts as a cover charge of sorts that allows for standing room admissions. Since the street and park would be part of the ballpark when during games, it's conceivable that several thousand of these Park Passes could be sold without violating fire code. It's a cheap ticket to get in, a bump in revenue, and a way to bring fans into all of those restaurants in the ballpark village. Yes, standing room sometimes sucks, but...

You'll have a lot of places and room to stand. The entire outfield/street concourse for starters. Perhaps those steps that lead up to the area beneath the video board. Both the upper and lower deck concourses.

I'm pleased with the ballpark concept and the village integration. It builds upon earlier ideas and adds a few neat twists. Unlike most other new ballparks, this one's really got the potential to make the game experience truly intimate. I look forward to seeing more.

Tomorrow: the parking and housing mystery.


I'll have a first impressions review of the design soon, but for now I'll let this cute little souvenir speak for itself:

Sorry folks, this one's not for sale or trade.

A's-Cisco official press release


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Athletics owner and managing partner Lew Wolff announced today the A's have reached an agreement to purchase a 143-acre parcel from Cisco Systems with the intent of constructing a baseball park in the City of Fremont.

The state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium will be named Cisco Field as part of a 30-year naming rights agreement, which is valued at $4,000,000 million annually, with the potential for annual increases based on inflation. This naming rights agreement is transferable at any time. As part of the naming rights deal, Cisco will be granted an undisclosed amount of guaranteed print, radio and television exposure.

360 Architecture, with offices in Kansas City, Mo., Columbus, OH and San Francisco, and Gensler, with offices worldwide, will serve as the primary design companies for the ballpark.
Cisco Field will be located in Fremont, which is approximately 20 miles to the south of McAfee Coliseum, five miles north of the Santa Clara County line and 12 miles from downtown San Jose. With a population of over 210,000 people and an area of 92-square miles, Fremont is the fourth most populous city in the Bay Area and California's fifth largest city in area. The ballpark site is proposed to be located on the west side of Interstate 880 off the Auto Mall Parkway.

The partnership with Cisco also includes a broad marketing and business agreement which will underscore the A's commitment to create a unique fan experience by leveraging state-of-the-art network technology throughout the ballpark and franchise operation. As a result, Cisco Field will be one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world and will demonstrate the positive role technology can play in sport, entertainment and connecting communities. Cisco's technology will be used to enhance every facet of the stadium, from ticketing and concessions to management of game day operations.

The partnership allows Cisco to utilize the facility for corporate and community events and to create a Cisco Customer Solutions Center at the ballpark in an effort to showcase the use of networking technology in a stadium. Cisco becomes the "Official Technology Partner of the A's and Cisco Field" and the A's will deploy Cisco technology to serve the needs of Cisco Field and the baseball village.

Groundbreaking on the project will commence once the A's gain approval from the City of Fremont, Alameda County and other government agencies.
The estimated cost of the ballpark is between $400-500 million (excluding land) with construction time taking between 24-36 months.

The anticipated funding for the ballpark will be a combination of private equity and the application of the value of land use entitlements that will be generated by the activities of the ballpark and the adjacent ballpark village developments. The public assistance sought will be in the form of processing the development activity in the most efficient manner possible, the agreement that benefits generated solely by the development will in part or in total be used to facilitate the development program in a manner that will not impose on general fund or bonding issues on local government and other aspects of public-private cooperation that will stand the test of public acceptance.

"Today marks the beginning of a new era in A's baseball in the Bay Area," said Wolff. "Cisco Field will become a destination attraction that will be enjoyed by baseball fans throughout the Bay Area and beyond for generations to come. The location of the ballpark will able us to significantly expand our market place while giving our fans a unique experience at what promises to be one of the most exciting venues in the country. We thank Cisco Systems for the will and ability to make this new standard in fan and sponsor experience a reality. We have a number of rivers to cross, but once the value of what Cisco and the A's are committed to accomplish is clear to the citizens of Fremont and Alameda County, we are confident our plans will add to the economic, social and community base of the region we serve."

"The A's are more than just a great baseball team, they are a symbol of the Bay Area, and Cisco is proud to play a role in ensuring they continue to call it home," said Cisco President and CEO John Chambers. "Technology is changing every aspect of our life experiences and for Cisco, this is an opportunity to harness the power of our own innovative technologies to create a truly unique experience that transcends sports, connects communities and takes the fan experience to a whole new level.

"Cisco intends to be aggressive in ensuring the entire Bay Area community, particularly younger fans, have the opportunity to enjoy the A's experience. We have a vision for how to make Cisco Field the model for all sports franchises," he concluded.

"This announcement of a new ball park for the Oakland Athletics ensures the long-term stability of the club in the Bay Area," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "I congratulate Lew Wolff of the Athletics and John Chambers of Cisco for developing a partnership that will benefit the community as well as the A's and Cisco.

"As the landscape of baseball economics has changed dramatically in recent years, the importance of new ballparks that maximize the fan experience and expand club revenues, enabling the home team to remain competitive, can not be understated."

Up to date information on the progress of Cisco Field can be obtained on the team's official website The Cisco Field link will include an overview of the project, artist renderings, videos, a virtual tour and ballpark facts and figures. Fans may also offer their suggestions regarding any aspect of Cisco Field through a special feedback section. Fans suggestions will be compiled on a weekly basis and forwarded to A's management.

The A's will continue to operate under its current lease agreement at McAfee Coliseum through the 2010 season, with the addition of three one-year club options through the 2013 season. Opened in 1966 and home of the A's since 1968, the Coliseum is the eighth oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues behind Fenway Park (1912), Wrigley Field (1916), Yankee Stadium (1923), RFK Stadium (1961), Dodger Stadium (1962), Shea Stadium (1964) and Angel Stadium (1966), although both Yankee Stadium and Angel Stadium have undergone significant renovations over the years. The Coliseum is one of only four multi-purpose stadiums in the Major Leagues, including Dolphin Stadium in Miami, The Metrodome in Minneapolis and Rogers Centre in Toronto.

One of the American League's original franchises, the Athletics have won nine World Series championships and have captured 15 American League pennants. Only the New York Yankees (26) and St. Louis Cardinals (10) have won more World Series championships than the A's. Since 1968, the A's have captured four World Series titles, six American League pennants, 14 AL West Division titles and one AL Wild Card. The A's are one of the most community-minded teams in all of sports as the organization continues to support numerous charitable organizations in an effort to improve the quality of life of people throughout the Bay Area.

Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet. Information about Cisco can be found at For ongoing news, please go to

13 November 2006

Announcement coming Tuesday

From the A's press release:
Oakland A's Owner and Managing Partner Lew Wolff will be making a major announcement tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. PT regarding the team's quest for a new ballpark in the Bay Area.

The announcement will be available live on at 11:30 a.m. PT. FSN Bay Area will also show the broadcast.
From Cisco's press release:
Oakland Athletics and Cisco Systems To Host Press Conference

Who: Oakland Athletics and Cisco

What: The Oakland Athletics and Cisco will host a press conference for a special announcement.

Cisco's Executive Briefing Center
300 Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA (Building 10)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. PT
Doors open at 10:30 a.m. for TV camera set-up

Public can view the press conference live on FSN or via live webcast at A replay will be available following the event at

Update: I have a credential, but unforseen circumstances will force me to be unable to attend. I'll be streaming along with many of you.

A caveat, Olympics are dead, Santa Clara update

The sheer number of articles covering the A's-Cisco deal can cause anyone to miss a few not-so-minor details, including yours truly. The biggest one comes from Barry Witt's 11/9 article (emphasis added in bold italics):

Lew Wolff has said he would fund part of the expected ballpark's expected $400 million or more price tag through profits that would be created if the city agrees to convert Cisco's industrial-zoned land to housing uses. He gave no details of that plan to council members Wednesday, but in a September discussion with the Mercury News editorial board, he suggested those profits would be given to the city, with the understanding the city would become an investor in the ballpark.

As outlined by Wolff, the city would "reinvest the money in a ballpark, provided you guys build it, you guys take care of any overruns, and you guys run it with no obligation on our part for operational deficits."

"The city can continue to have the ownership, or the percentage they put into it," he said. "If they put in" $200 million "and we put in 200, it's 50-50."

In past interviews Wolff suggested that the city would end up owning the ballpark, and I wondered how that could happen on private land with private financing. Now it's starting to make sense. Once you start talking overruns and deficits you get into dangerous territory. Witt clarified the context in the quote. Wolff is speaking as a voice of the city, with "you guys" being the A's.

Elephants in Oakland interviewed Field of Schemes author Neil deMause about the A's Fremont overtures.

The effort to get the Olympics to the Bay Area in 2016 is already over before they could get started. The bid's anchor venue was supposed to be the new Candlestick Point stadium, but now that the Yorks have declared the project too expensive and have moved their focus to Santa Clara, the bid has blown up.

A source familiar with the discussions between Santa Clara and both the Quakes and the 49ers told me that the two projects are in fact not competing for the same land next to Great America. The 49ers are looking at the Great America parking lot while the Quakes may end up using another site nearby. There's plenty of open space in Santa Clara to do both as long as they aren't co-located.

12 November 2006

Wolff vs. York: The Battle for Santa Clara

Rumors about the A's-Cisco partnership and the team's possible move to Fremont took less than 48 hours to be overshadowed by another team's announcement: The 49ers were giving up on San Francisco and were leaning towards a Santa Clara home near their training facilities and Great America.

49ers owner John York and his staff hastily arranged a press conference for Thursday at the Santa Clara Hilton. During the press conference, York proceeded to bore the media to tears with explanations about why the Niners' plans for a huge football-retail-housing complex at Candlestick Point wouldn't work. He even used a slide presentation, which went over like gangbusters as I was listening to his spiel on KNBR. Not surprisingly, many members of the media accepted York's supposed trials and tribulations as a rationale for heading down the Peninsula. Shortly afterward, the media picked up on the fact that York failed to explain how the stadium was going to be financed.

Now that talks are back on with San Francisco, it's unclear whether the Santa Clara announcement was real or merely a threat to SF pols. It's probably a little of both, but elsewhere lies a third way for the Niners. And unlike the first two explanations, this one actually looks smart.

Wednesday also marked the opening of the A's/Quakes South Bay office on the ground floor of the Fairmont San Jose. Lew Wolff was there to exhort the amassed soccer fans, who so far are ecstatic about having truly local ownership that wants to build a proper home for Earthquakes 4.0. Sites being considered include Diridon South, the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and SJSU South Campus near Spartan Stadium.

The dark horse candidate is Santa Clara. That site just happens to be the same one that the 49ers are targeting for their stadium.
  • Is it possible for separate football and soccer venues to exist on that land? No. There isn't enough land for both unless you want people to park in Sunnyvale.
  • Is it possible for football and soccer to share a venue? No. A typical NFL stadium seats 60-65,000, has 100-200 luxury suites, and 5-10,000 club seats. A model MLS soccer specific stadium (SSS) holds only 20-25,000 and has a fraction of a NFL stadium's suites and club seats. Wolff's three-year option with MLS calls for a SSS to be built for the Quakes. A shared situation with the A's or 49ers will not work, the Quakes have to be the marquee tenant.
I've heard that Wolff has had some pretty fruitful initial discussions with Santa Clara pols. For York, that's bad news because the Plan B (Candlestick Point is Plan A) is Santa Clara. What happens when Plan B gets eliminated? You lose leverage, that's what. On the other hand, Wolff has had well scoped Plans A, B, and C (which city you affix to A-C may be dictated by what you believe Wolff's motives are) and has so far come out looking pretty clean. That just goes to show how despite the similar situations (difficult cities to get a stadium deal done) it's all about execution. The main things going for York at this point are that his 49ers are a ton more valuable than the Quakes and the Niners (as long time residents) have a good relationship with Santa Clara. By making the announcement, York has effectively taken Santa Clara off the table for the Quakes indefinitely. It doesn't matter at this point whether or not it can be paid for. As long as attention is focused on the Niners he doesn't have to do anything else.

Where I come from they call that a cockblock. For once in your tenure as owner, Mr. York, well played. Well played indeed.

10 November 2006

Transit Solution #1: Start with a spur

Fixation on BART has made it seem like the other transportation solution in the area, good old-fashioned rail, has been ignored. That's easy to do since the Capitol Corridor and ACE systems are less than twenty years old and neither is as visible as BART in the East Bay. Trains can help fill the gap that not having BART creates, but only if it's done in a smart way to maintains the convenience that BART riders enjoy.

Capitol Corridor is a commuter service that runs between Auburn/Sacramento and Oakland/San Jose. It was launched in 1991 and has grown impressively ever since. Capital improvements used to reduce congestion on the rails it shares with Union Pacific, Amtrak, and ACE have allowed CC to increase its schedule to 32 trains per weekday and 22 trains per Sat/Sun/Holiday. Despite the fact that CC has to share rails with other passenger and freight services, its on time performance is 85%. Compare that to BART, whose on time performance is 91% with much greater schedule frequency but also a completely separated guideway that it doesn't (and can't) share with anyone else.

11 Bay Area stations are along the Capitol Corridor, from Fairfield to San Jose. Union City's station is being planned, though
today's report of funding problems for the Dumbarton Rail project makes Union City's development less certain. The original Pacific Commons plan called for a station to be built at the end of Auto Mall Parkway, over one mile from the project development area. Should the "A's Town" project move forward, formal discussions about the Pacific Commons station will commence. Keith Wolff has reportedly been in contact with Capitol Corridor (among multiple transit agencies) about the possibilities.

Here's the aerial photo from last April showing the BART WSX extension, station, and routes from Warm Springs to Pacific Commons. Note the location of the ACE/Amtrak station.

Even though the station is unencumbered by a freeway or other obstacles, it's still over a mile away from PC. This is because much of the land is either protected preserve or is earmarked for other uses, such as a public park next to the planned station. From here there are two options:

  • Keep the station where it was originally planned. This will incur less capital cost, but the ongoing need for shuttles from the station to PC may cost more in the long run. By shuttle, I mean either buses or some form of rail transit.
  • Add a short 3/4 mile, double-tracked rail spur that terminates within the project boundaries. Getting the fans right to the doorstep eliminates the need for a mode switch or transfer. This convenience this provides would go a long way towards convincing fans that rail is a preferable method of travel. Below is a close-up.

Having a separate terminal station has other advantages. It creates queueing areas for special event trains, so special A's trains coming from either Sacramento or San Jose/Gilroy could end their routes at the station. Existing track can be freed up for use by regular service trains and unrelated uses such as freight. The cost of the station would be $10-25 million depending on how elaborate it is (multiple platforms, station buildout).

Since some of the preserve space would be affected by building the spur, other project land would have to be reclaimed as new preserve area. I'm guessing around 9-10 acres. Here's another photo of the area that includes a train station overlay and a bus depot.

What about BART? As you can see from the table below, there are two existing stations from which serve both BART and CC. Richmond's location at the end of a line makes it useless as a transfer station, so only the Coliseum station can function in that manner. Should the Union City station come online that'll create three. If you're worried about having BART and CC sync, the two groups should have incentive. As I wrote yesterday, BART faces a sizable loss in ridership without a good solution for A's fans. This allows them to create a smooth, single transfer solution for many East Bay and San Francisco fans.

It also doesn't hurt that BART runs Capitol Corridor on behalf of the CCJPA. Even more incentive to get them working together, no? And how's this for impact: Should Capitol Corridor recover only 10% of those displaced BART riders I wrote about yesterday, CC's ridership would go up about 10%.

I'd like to see Translink get into the solution, but I'm not holding my breath. CC conductors are going to use bar code scanners at some point in the future, might as well get them to read smart cards as well. Travel times for the BART and CC are comparable (CC slightly slower), and CC fares when applying multiride discounts are also comparable. Times shown include a 6 minute jaunt from an established Fremont BART or Amtrak station to Warm Springs or Pacific Commons, respectively. The key will be to make that transfer as painless as possible, and that's the challenge. That's where Translink comes in.

Tri-Valley fans aren't served by Capitol Corridor. ACE goes to Dublin, Livermore, and out to Tracy and beyond, but let's see how their service ramps up before we start looking to ACE as a solution. As it is now, ACE only runs 8 trains per day - only on weekdays.

09 November 2006

Who gets hurt more - A's or BART?

One couple of housekeeping note first: The long dormant "Scoreboard" feature on the sidebar has been redone with a different question, "Does the outlet/media figure support the A's-Pacific Commons ballpark plan?" The question and the associated reactions may change as details are revealed. I've linked the columns by Gwen Knapp, Ray Ratto, Carl Steward, Mark Purdy, and Dave Newhouse so far.

With all of the talk about not having BART to service the Pacific Commons site, I decided to look into this further. We all know that no BART will equate to some indeterminate loss of A's fans, but their substitutes may end up being South Bay fans. That's not something I can quantify at this point, but it's a reasonable assumption.

What about the effect on BART? Unlike the A's, there's no easy substitution for BART if A's fans don't ride it. Some fans may take BART & MUNI to Giants games, but it's most likely that BART will suffer a ridership loss. The question is: How big?

Let's start with actual BART ridership. According to the 2005 Annual Report, BART's fiscal year ridership was usually under 100 million one-way trips or "exits" as they call them. The average ticket price was around $2.50.

Using the 15-25% BART riders-as-attendees figure cited previously, I produced the table below. It uses a sliding scale in which with larger crowds, a higher percentage of fans use BART. The total attendees using BART was 528,750, which may be overestimating things a bit (it works out to 25% of all A's fans) but for now we'll go with it for the sake of argument. The following table shows how much A's fan trips to the Coliseum factor into total BART ridership.

1% may not sound like much, but it's actually disproportionately high compared to the actual effect the A's have on the local economy, which is more in the neighborhood of less than 0.1% of the Bay Area's
Gross Regional Product. Credit goes to A's fans who utilize BART so well. 1 million rides means that A's-related BART usage is actually heavier than all of the annual activity on some low usage stations such as Castro Valley or San Bruno.

Let's use the worst case scenario for BART, in which no Warm Springs extension is built. Fans who no longer use BART for A's games simply wouldn't use BART at all for baseball, not even for Giants games. That includes a shuttle scenario to Pacific Commons, which I personally don't think will work when coming from the existing Fremont BART station because of its cost and limited use. If we assign a $3 value for each one-way trip, the lost revenue would come to over $3 million per year. For a public transit agency that has trouble making ends meet, $3 million in lost revenue is nothing to sneeze at. The only thing that helps BART is that they're pretty heavily subsidized, so the hurt won't be too bad. Still, it could mean job cuts, higher fares, or other ugly solutions to this market change.

Contrast this with the A's situation. In the model below, those same BART riding fans would be split into two groups: those who would drive to Fremont, and those who would stay home. The split is an even 50-50. I haven't done any surveys or seen any numbers to back this assertion, but it's a reasonable starting point. The "$ per fan" figure comes from two sources: an average ticket price of $25 per game, and $10 of concessions. If that 50% that would still attend drives instead, you get roughly 1000 additional cars per game, whose parking revenue would offset the loss somewhat.

Obviously, the money the A's would lose on paper dwarfs what BART would lose. However, there's a big difference between the two in that the A's have other sources of revenue (besides the parking) to offset this loss. The team's also expected to perform well at the gate for at least the first two years (numerous sellouts) so the attendance/concessions revenue would be maxed out anyway. That two year stint (perhaps longer) may end up being the waiting period required before BART finally comes to Warm Springs.

As for BART, they'll take a decent hit. It's not even close to enough to justify the cost of building WSX by itself, but it could contribute to revised ridership numbers that could boost the cases for both the WSX and San Jose extensions (the current numbers are admittedly dubious). Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who has championed the A's-to-Fremont cause, is also a MTC commissioner who controls much of the regional transit money. He has the power to push funding in the right direction.

Tomorrow I'll present a scenario in which BART would be used to the ballpark. Implemented correctly, there's an opportunity to keep many of those lost BART riders and keep the costs low.

08 November 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Call it "Cisco Field"

Update 11:27 p.m. - Trib reports that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has approved the Coliseum lease extension, finalizing the A's stay in Oakland through at least 2010.

Also, according to Chron the 49ers have given up on staying in San Francisco. Santa Clara may be next. I hope that the Yorks aren't trying to game the city into giving them a big handout, because it's not happening.

Update 10:07 p.m. - Chron's Patrick Hoge has more details:
Unlike many stadiums surrounded by parking, this one would be swathed in shopping, Wasserman said. Ballpark patrons would park elsewhere and be shuttled in, he said.
Now that's an unusual idea. If people coming on transit have to take a shuttle, why not have everyone? It's baseball with the inconvenience of waiting for a bus to an airport long term parking lot.

Barry Witt has the scoop again: Cisco and the A's have sealed their part of the deal. Among the highlights:

Wolff, who declined to speak to reporters today, told council members the development would be something like San Jose's Santana Row -- featuring condominiums stacked above street-level retail -- with the major addition of a high-tech ballpark filled with Cisco-produced infrastructure.
The Santana Row comparison is a bit ironic since Wolff was a known critic of the plan when it was initially proposed in San Jose several years ago. A downtown advocate, he felt that Santana Row would effectively sink any chance for retail in downtown San Jose (which it did - restaurants and clubs are only half of the retail picture). Once Santana Row showed remarkable success, Wolff acknowledged it. Now it's Wolff who will attempt to create something along that scale in Fremont.

In a previous comment thread, Bleacher Dave posed the idea that Fremont officials might be upset by having the initial press conference/presentation at Cisco's San Jose headquarters than in Fremont. I don't think this is a big deal at all. How else are Wolff and John Chambers going to dazzle the media if not in front of gigantic video screens at Cisco?

Election wrap

Tuesday's midterm elections didn't have any issues that directly affected the A's, but some legislation passed that impacts the market enough to make ownership notice.
  • In Sacramento, voters soundly defeated Measures Q & R, which would have raised and allocated money for a new Downtown Sac arena for the Kings. Over the last month, both items became doomed when the Kings pulled their support of the measures due to disagreements over deal terms, particularly parking agreements.
  • Propositions 1A and 1B passed by their necessary margins, paving the way for needed transportation infrastructure improvements all over the state. The Bay Area could receive up to $4.5 billion of Prop 1B's $19.9 billion total. $1.3 billion of the regional money will go towards mass transit, but let's be realistic about what that means - $1.3 billion doesn't go that far when considering the number of large projects out there. Some small but not insignificant amount will help with the BART Warm Springs extension and maybe even with planning for the San Jose extension, but the money can't pay for everything.
  • San Jose's new mayor will be Democrat Chuck Reed. A fiscal conservative, Reed is not the go-to guy if anyone's looking to facilitate a sweetheart deal for the A's in downtown San Jose. Reed did vote for the ballpark EIR study and I came away from several meetings thinking the Reed would go with the downtown site if that's all the A's wanted, but as we now know from the larger scope of the A's plans, the site itself won't be enough.
  • Proposition 90, the eminent domain compensation measure, was defeated. A similar measure passed in Oregon two years ago and resulted in billions of dollars of compensation claims against local and state governments. Prop 90 wouldn't have been relevant in the Fremont Pacific Commons situation, but should that fail and the A's look elsewhere, it could come to the forefront.
More on transportation later today.

06 November 2006

Selig to visit next week, announcement coming?

Update (10:22 PM) - Matier and Ross chime in. I've now heard 35,000, 40,000, and now 36,000 as the capacity. Ray Ratto also makes sure that Fremont knows its place in the pecking order.

Update (3:05 PM) - Paul T. Rosynsky and Chris De Benedetti report that the press conference could take place at Cisco headquarters in San Jose. And MLB spokesman Richard Levin chimed in on the city name issue:

"There are no rules on the books (regarding names),'' said Richard Levin, spokesman for Major League Baseball. "It is something the commissioner would have to deal with.''

Cue the commish.

Update (2:48 PM) - Barry Witt reports that Lew Wolff will meet with Fremont City Council members this week to give them a sneak peek at the Pacific Commons development plans.

KCBS sports reporter and one-time fill-in radio play-by-play man Steve Bitker has learned that "the Oakland Athletics will soon announce plans to move the club to Fremont, and build a new stadium complex there." In addition, MLB commish Bud Selig will fly in next week, probably to give it his blessing. Selig and the MLB office have been uncharacteristically quiet regarding the A's efforts. That's a sharp contrast from the Marlins' situation, which appears to have MLB instead of the team negotiating directly with the pols.

With the expectation that Cisco officials will also be present, Fremont may be the place for the announcement. The forecast for November 14: Scattered showers. Apropos?

Bitker's scoop is an interesting one. As a tenured Bay Area media guy and former A's employee he's got tons of access to local sports franchises, but he has "inside baseball" going the other way too. His wife, Alice Lai-Bitker, just happens to be Alameda County District 3 Supervisor.

In other news, the San Jose Earthquakes/Oakland A's South Bay office will officially open this Wednesday, November 6. Check out Soccer Silicon Valley for more details.

04 November 2006

MLB to Vegas is dead, says Goodman

Not much has been heard from the Vegas camp for several months. In SI writer Ian Thomsen's Inside the NBA column, flamboyant mayor Oscar Goodman talks about Sin City's prospects for a pro sports franchise, namely a NBA team such as the Kings. While commissioner David Stern's stance on not allowing a team in Vegas until the city's casinos take NBA games off the books hasn't changed, Goodman will keep trying, starting with selling the experience of the sure-hit 2007 All Star Weekend.

What about baseball? I'll let the following blurb speak for itself (quotes attributed to Goodman):
On Major League Baseball, which two years ago appeared to be the frontrunner to move a team to Las Vegas:

"It died. I spoke to (baseball commissioner Bud) Selig because the Marlins had come out to see me and I wanted to pursue that. They called me and they said that Selig didn't want them talking to me. I called (the commissioner's office) up and verified that, and I wasn't about to make an enemy. I've had (NFL commissioner Paul) Tagliabue that I've had to contend with, so I didn't want to make an enemy out of Selig too.''

So much for the Vegas conspiracy. Oooh, here's one: Selig was really saying that in not allowing the Marlins to talk to Goodman, he's reserving the A's to pursue Vegas. R-i-i-i-ght.

02 November 2006

Coliseum, BART, and other news

Oakland's City Council unanimously approved the A's lease extension at the Coliseum. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is next.

The Federal Transit Administration approved the Warm Springs BART extension's environmental impact statement. According to the article, the project is $145 million short of its funding target. Rising costs may push that figure above $200 million. WSX is still not considered viable unless the San Jose extension is also approved. The approval will allow for right-of-way acquisition and power line rerouting.

Hennepin County (MN) is proceeding with eminent domain proceedings against existing landowners at the projected downtown Minneapolis ballpark site.

St. Louis and the Cards unveiled its vision of the Ballpark Village to be built next to the new Busch Stadium.