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.


murf said...

The new community amenities (school, Police sub-station, etc) at Rivermark fell on the pocket book of the developers as conditions set by the city for development of the Rivermark housing and retail.

Fremont doesn't have quite the same bargaining position with the A's as Santa Clara had with the Rivermark developers, because the A's are already giving the city something. Themselves. For Fremont to ask for infrastucute on top of that would be a bit of a stretch.

Marine Layer said...

murf - what do you think about the residential development encroaching on the preserve? What can be done to protect the wetlands?

Kevin said...


Who owns the two large parcels of land along Auto Mall Parkway? Is Wolff looking to purchase those parcels as well?

Anonymous said...

why did you place the ballpark pointing in that direction? was something previously shown or communicated to indicate that placement???

Marine Layer said...

kevin - If you're talking about those rectangular patches of dirt, they're already developed. They contain the Costco, Lowe's, In-n-Out, Rubio's, and other businesses. Is that what you're referring to?

anon - I'm using the flythru animations as a reference. I was able to pick out a few distinctive buildings and orient the field accordingly. The plans could change, even drastically. For now this is what we're working with.

Jeff August said...

Tailgating, in spirit, could continue in the park behind center field. I already envision taking my wife and kids there for a picnic before games.

Is the Cisco Field commercial on youtube or anything? It sound sinteresting I want to see, but I doubt they show it in Sacramento.

John ten Bosch said...

I haven’t heard if Cisco is planning on unveiling their high tech gizmos in the Coliseum or if they’re going to hold out until the opening of Cisco Field. Do we know anything about this yet?

Kevin said...


Yes the two parcels I was looking at are at the intersection of 880 and AMP.

How well do you think Wolff will be able to intergrate the ballpark/village into the surrounding area? I've passed by that area a couple of times and I think I have a general idea of what it looks like. In a way, I see this turning out to be like Disneyland where you have a park/village surrounded by non-related homes and businesses. I always thought it was strange where you could walk a couple of block from Disneyland, and end up in regular residential neighborhood. Maybe that's exactly what Wolff is looking for. A place where you can park your car, and enter a baseball fantasy land.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of potential names, if it were up to me it would be "The A's".

jeff p said...

I'm still stuck on how small the park will be. 34K seems very small. I wonder if the ballpark will be designed so that additional seating can be added at a later date. The Red Sox are in a perpetual struggle to squeeeze more and more seating into Fenway. I would hate to see the A's build themselves into a corner from the get go. I was really hoping for at least a 40K park. I think many fans are going to suffer from "sticker shock" in a few years.

I have to say that I love the renderings. This could really be a unique park. Originality is hard to come by these days, especially where baseball is concerned.

I think your right about the law enforcement aspect ML. I think there will be partnership between Fremont PD and Alameda SO. Does the Sheriff's office have a substation nearby?

Anonymous said...

Tailgating is to be discouraged as it does not produce revenue. It is a low class activity ( eating hot dogs on a lawn chair in an asphalt parking lot)and this will be a high class ball park. Do your "tailgating" at the cafes shops and retaurants in the village or in th club facilities.

Bleacher Dave said...

Hey ML,

Is it possible to show the wetlands area on your site map? Do those have to be protected in place, or can they be developed and then mitigated by protecting other bay wetlands?

There are some pretty huge power lines on the site - much larger than the ones at the Coliseum. I've heard that some parents that live near electric transmission lines believe they may cause cancer clusters. Would it be irresponsible to expose kids to such strong EMF's until more is known?

I'll tell ya one thing. This park may be scalpers heaven. With such low supply, the secondary ticket market may get a nice boost. And partial season ticket plans may become a thing of the past. MLB TV ratings are falling, but more fans are being priced out of the live experience.

I went to the Warriors game last night. I was shocked to see that I ended up in a seat that had a $180 face value. I have seen the future, and it is expensive.

Jeff August said...

On the Tailgating tip- I agree, from a revenue perspective, that the A's would want to minimize tailgating. Heck, I would too. The only thing that appears to fly in the face of my logic here is the video board on the back of the stadium. It appears that one could hang in that park behind centerfield for the whole game and see the game as it unfolds. I guess it depends on how they use that video board.

On the name- I am convinced the team will go with the Silicon Valley A's of Fremont. Of course, it is I who has convinced myself of this. So take it for what it is worth. I do like the idea of the team just being "the A's."

Anonymous said...

Amazing piece of property. It seems that the traffic patterns are that south bound 880 flows pretty well, but north bound is slow for the evening commute. The current widening and upgrades will help.
I drove from Castro Valley to Pacific Commons in approximately 30 minutes and 25 miles. I came back 680 and found that the north bound lanes were a little slow, but south bound moved well. Again, I did this after 4 pm to get a sense of the traffic flow in the areas. I think the traffic angle is way out of proportion. I am also willing to wait and see what road and rail improvements they can come up with. Maybe everyone should be patient.

jonclaude4 said...

Regarding "sticker shock" (Jeff P's comment), in the commercial when the guy did a ticket upgrade, wasn't that a $56 MVP seat? Well above the current $38.

Marine Layer said...

BD - Everything to the south of the colored areas is wetlands. The preserve was created as part of negotiations between the EPA, USFW, and developers. Total preserve area is 390 acres. Anything that might have to be built there would need inclusion in the project EIR, with mitigation and additional protection activities (purchase or assignment of more land to preserve).

jeff p - There's something very clever about the way the upper deck is constructed that leads me to believe that expansion would be fairly simple and cost-effective. However, I wouldn't count on it, at least not right away. FYI, adding a row along the top of the upper deck could add 500-750 seats.

Marine Layer said...

The power transmission lines run next to the freeway. So anyone wanting to build housing there would have to contend with both the power lines and the freeway. It's silly to think that would happen given all of the land that's available. The edge of the project area (orange) is over 1000 feet away from the power lines. That's a good distance away.

murf said...


Admittedly, I’ve long meant to tour the site to gain a better understanding of the conditions of the wetlands on and near the property, but as of yet have not. An accurate assessment would require wetland delineation and soil samplings, but just seeing the place in person would be far better than working off of aerials alone.

From what I know of the area, largely from your work, I’ll offer some general thoughts.

The currently undeveloped portion of the property is likely entirely historical wetlands, but what matters more is the wetland’s current condition. Typically, regulatory agencies will happily grant permits to projects that present an opportunity for net improvement to the overall ecological function of an area, especially for historical wetlands. As far as wetlands go, 10 acres of pristine habitat is worth far more ecologically than 1000 acres of compromised and/or neglected sludge. Currently, it looks like the entirety of the property being considered for development probably more closely resembles the latter.

The best strategy for a project proponent to take in a project like this would be to front-load the ecological restoration as an integrated part of the project, rather than proposing an ecologically irresponsible project and have regulatory agencies pile on conditions and environmental mitigations. Regulatory conditions of agreement and mitigations can be extremely expensive by design – they are often imposed to make bad projects that destroy environmental resources cost prohibitive. The best strategy is to present a self-mitigating project, one that strives to make habitat restoration a priority, and compromised wetlands provide just such an opportunity.

By setting aside a strategic portion of the historical wetlands and committing to pay for it’s restoration back to pristine ecological value, Wolff, Chambers, et al could ensure that the footprint of their residential development would be happily approved, or at least negotiated in a cordial manner. The key is to get the right people involved up front. A qualified ecological restoration firm should be included in the development team to deal exclusively with the issue of restoration of a portion of the wetlands. They should invite representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are currently working to restore some nearby salt evaporators as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, to participate in their initial strategic planning sessions. By doing so, the developers would spare themselves from roadblocks that might require a lot of time and money to surpass in the process.

Another strategic part of the project, as you have already hinted towards, would be a buffer between the new development and the historic and/or restored wetlands. One idea that I would like to see explored is a designated green zone surrounding the entirety of the stadium/village development. It could be as small as 100 feet in width, but should include a recreational aspect, such as a jogging trail. An amenity such as a ring trail along a green swath of parkland around the entirety of the new development would provide an additional non-event attraction to the area, and would increase the value of the new residential units exponentially. A ring trail around the development might also provide an opportunity to connect to the proposed Bay Trail, which might present an opportunity to secure State grant funding to assist in its construction. The ring trail could be designed such that it runs along an elevated (2-3 ft) corridor, which would provide for a hydrologic separation of runoff from the developed areas and the newly restored wetlands, another plus when considering mitigating the effects of the development.

I’ve wanted for some time to sit down with the aerials of the site and do some hypothetical planning, but as of yet have resisted, waiting until I was convinced that the effort might actually be worth doing. It seems that maybe the time has arrived. I’d like to invite a landscape architect colleague of mine to assist in preparing some conceptual drawings to flush out the full potential of the site. I have actually spoken with her a few times about the site, and she seems to be just as excited as I am about the potential for this development. If planned properly, the project could be designed such that all of the regulatory entities that will be involved in permitting the project would jump on board, gleefully, to see that their interests in the project are met. We, as a grassroots community, could also work with existing 401c3’s that promote restoration and recreation in urban communities, to secure some grant funding to create the park/ring trail/wetlands portion of the overall stadium and village project.

Obviously, I’ve got some grandiose ideas for the site. ML, perhaps we can talk offline sometime about how to par those ideas down to conceivably workable contributions to the actual project. I do think that a community sector will be needed to make this project happen more seemelessly, and that we might have the beginnings of such a sector developing here on your Blog.

bartleby said...

The 34,000 capacity is a savvy business strategy. The idea is a large season-ticket holder base and perpetual sellouts, a la the NFL. The sellouts become a self-perpetuating thing which can get the team through losing seasons. Sure, you miss out on some extra ticket sales for the games against the Giants and Yankees, but you more than make up for it by selling out Tuesday night games against the Royals.

Nor is a small capacity a major limiting factor on revenue. When you get to the point where demand supports perpetual sellouts, you simply raise ticket prices (see Red Sox, Boston).

It's no accident that even the teams which can sell out 55,000 seat stadiums (e.g. Yankees, Mets) are down-sizing their buildings. The Rockies thought they could support a bigger ballpark due to the massive crowds at Mile High in the early years, but they are sorely regretting it now.

bartleby said...

I gather from your post that you did not pay $180 for your Warriors ticket (or probably anywhere near that much, or you wouldn't have been so surprised). Good for you; I wouldn't pay that much for a sporting event, either. (OK, at least not in the regular season).

Here's the thing: When they build these new sports palaces, ticket prices do go up, especially for the best seats, which get gobbled up by corporate season ticket holders. But nobody can go to all those games, so it's pretty easy to go on Craigslist or outside the arena and score awesome seats for 1/2 face price or less.

Another reason why the hand-wringing about regular folks getting priced out of games is overdone.

pfkaa said...

murf - Excellent point about the Bay Trail. Pacific Commons would perfectly fill a small missing segment of the trail from where it ends on Cushing Rd to where it's picked up again on Boyce/Cherry. And thanks for the rest of that amazing analysis. Great thoughts all around.

Bleacher Dave said...

The ticket I wasn't bought by corporation, but rather by an upper-middle class long-term season ticket holder. 3-5 years ago those seats cost half as much; I wondered why I stopped getting tickets offered to me. Now, I understand.

And the tickets he doesn't use are re-sold on the Warriors ticket site.

Anonymous said...

JonClaud, the $56 seat price is high, but well within the prices of other stadiums. 2006 MVP price was $36 for season ticket holders or $44 single tickets. So if we look at it that way it is not too bad. The A's have been one of the best baseball bargains for a long time. A new park will increase prices, but I do hope they save a section of tickets for family packages and day of game sales. As a long tome season ticket holder, I have already suggested that. I do agree that it will be interesting to see how fast or gradual they up the ticket prices starting for 2007. According to the front office, we should know next week

Kevin said...

Anon 12:50

2006 MVP tickets were $32.00/$38.00. 2007 MVP tickets prices are now posted on the A's website. The new prices are $36.00/$44.00.