30 March 2007
At 31' high x 103' long, the board is four times the size of one of the current Diamond Vision boards at the Coliseum. Combine the Coliseum's two video board and monochrome scoreboard sets, and you get about the same amount of display space. Boy has technology changed to make that display space more dramatic!
The lineup and defensive displays are decent, along with the designated video space above the line score. The line score itself looks quite small though I'm sure it's quite legible. I'll have to check it out in person to know for sure. The sponsorship nods on the lower corners are well-sized and out of the way. There are parts of the display that look a bit contrasty, so I imagine that colors and fonts will undergo tweaks to find a happy medium. I'd prefer to see a screen or two that looks like the front and back of a baseball card, if only for nostalgia's sake. There should be a sponsorship available from Upper Deck or Topps if someone works the phones.
Update 12:00 AM: As I expected, there were complaints about the legibility of certain display items, such as statistics in the lineup. The tweaks may come early.
29 March 2007
Maybe they're looking for a ginormous loan from the NFL, such as the one approved on Tuesday by the owners for the $1.7 billion Giants/Jets stadium. The previous debt limit imposed on teams that applied for the league's G-3 stadium loan program was $150 million. How much would the 49ers need above that initial amount? The $200 million being sought from Santa Clara's utility reserve? More?
The San Francisco plan doesn't shed anymore light, though to be fair it was conceived by the City and developer Lennar with little input from the team. In the proposal, there's no mention of financing either, except that the City vows not to tap the General Fund to make the stadium alternative work.
There's a good deal of optimism coming from 49er headquarters, but there isn't much substance to back it up. Even though Lew Wolff hasn't yet published the A's plans, at least he's given some indication as to what he plans to do, and has backed it up with land acquisitions and the Cisco partnership. In Santa Clara, the tide is already starting to turn against the stadium proposal with the release of data showing potential rate hikes if the Niners go with the reserve fund. They need to get control of the situation. Stat.
27 March 2007
Dickey takes a little swipe at Fremont for being "not really a city but a collection of small towns," and attributes that characteristic to the lack of progress in extending BART south. Followers of the WSX and BART-to-SV extensions know that Fremont's size has little to do with it. Both projects were packaged contingent upon funding happening in Santa Clara County. No one city has sufficient enough clout to extend BART, not San Francisco, Oakland, Antioch, Livermore, Fremont, or San Jose.
Then Dickey starts with the "bait-and-switch" possibility:
It's simple. The BART station condition was based on the idea that the ballpark would be in Oakland. Last time I checked, Fremont was not within Oakland city limits. As the stadium site moves south, it draws different demographics. Since much of the new demographic is going to be South Bay residents who don't have the privilege of a having a nearby BART station, BART obviously won't be a requirement for them. It's the South Bay contingent that's expected to make up for much of the lost BART-based fans.
A’s managing partner Lew Wolff had made proximity to a BART line a condition for a new site in Oakland. When he announced his preferred Oakland site, across 66th Avenue from the Coliseum, he insisted that a new BART station must be built there.
Now, the official word from the A’s is that a BART station nearby is not a requirement for the new site.
What’s going on here?
Let's take a look at Dickey's primary argument:
I'll keep bringing this up until I'm blue in the face: Fremont's control of the zoning is their leverage. Why on earth would they approve the land development deal without the ballpark? They're not interested in changing the city's charter and adding residents without new revenue streams to go with it. Fremont's angle is keeping the entertainment dollar in the city. Accepting separate plans for the housing and ballpark village kills their leverage. The entire project has to be submitted with all parts included, otherwise environmental and economic impact studies can't be done properly. In the end Fremont has to certify the studies associated with the project to let it proceed. If it doesn't, Wolff is stuck with a bunch of land in South Fremont that isn't appreciating much.
Never forget that Wolff has made his money in real estate. His projects have included much of what has been built in downtown San Jose.
The projected baseball park in Fremont would be part of a much larger real estate project, including retail and housing. To build that, Wolff needs to get zoning changes. The lure of a new park will certainly be enough to get those changes.
I believe that, having got the zoning changes and started his real estate project, Wolff will then announce that it really isn’t feasible to build a new park there.
And then, the bidding will begin from cities eager to get the A’s.
If Wolff wanted to play the normal stadium extortion game, he'd have done what the Marlins have foolishly done in Miami, destroying all goodwill with the community even after two World Series titles in a decade. Or easier yet, he'd have simply announced the A's were going to move to Vegas while mayor Oscar Goodman still was interested and not jaded from being used by other teams' owners and Bud Selig. Portland had a better chance to be in play when Wolff first took over the team. San Antonio has felt the sting as much as Las Vegas. It's only getting more expensive to build a ballpark anywhere with each passing year. And Wolff's not getting any younger.
What about the Cisco angle? Why would Cisco sign its name so early to a plan that could become a PR nightmare if Wolff decides to pull a bait-and-switch job? Cisco could have easily waited until the A's moved, began construction, and started taking bids for naming rights. That would've been pain-free. Instead, Cisco is a partner in this venture, and not just because the ballpark would be a tech showcase. Cisco wants to be cool like Valley cohorts Google and Apple, and it won't get there backing something that isn't substantive.
Still not convinced? Wolff submitted the Quakes/SJSU stadium proposal last week, and guess what - it looks similar in some ways to the Cisco Field concept. The financing plan involves rezoning of industrial land and turning profits from home development into funding for the stadium. Now if Wolff had the Giants' territorial rights over turned it's likely he'd have used the same rezoning plan as part of a downtown San Jose ballpark project. Since territorial rights aren't getting changed anytime soon, it makes more sense to use try to pitch it for the Quakes' stadium effort.
Sadly, there'll be conspiracy theorists who'll continue to shake their fists until the first fan walks through a Cisco Field turnstile. I can't blame Wolff for not worrying about convincing them. There's little he can do about it other than build the ballpark. Even then, many of them won't come.
26 March 2007
The SJ Giants are approaching their 20th year in existence, the longest continuous tenure of any team in San Jose. Over those two decades they've cultivated a small, devoted fanbase while showcasing *ahem* a few future SF Giants. Should the team move there will be a void that a major league team can't quite fill. Minor league baseball has an intimacy and pace that can't be captured at a major league park.
Don't cry too much for the SJ Giants' owners. Even one of the majority owners, Dick Beahrs, admits that "If the team moved elsewhere, I think you can make an argument that economically it makes sense, but we wouldn't be getting together on Thursdays in July to watch a game together." The owners will certainly be well-compensated. There's still a movement afoot for a team in the North Bay, which certainly sounds like a natural fit once the Bay Area baseball realignment has begun. The fans, however, won't receive much solace.
As it stands, the A's are still early in a relationship with new high-A affliate Stockton. The Ports play in a shiny new riverfront ballpark of their own, and it's difficult to envision that arrangement changing. The A's did operate two high-A franchises in early Beane era, so who's to say that can't happen again? Consider this:
The A's could bring SJ Muni into the SJSU-Earthquakes project, which makes sense because it's the same part of town. The A's, Quakes, and San Jose partner on Muni renovation, which would benefit the A's and San Jose (good PR), and SJSU (updated facility). While the Giants' tradition would leave, a new one could start for the A's. Stockton's market isn't threatened by a team in central San Jose. Bay Area fans would have an even greater opportunity to see A's draftees matriculate through the farm system - which tends to pay more dividends than the Giants'.
If the concept sounds bizarre, keep this in mind: One of the first sports teams Lew Wolff invested in was the late 70's San Jose Missions. Wolff has experience with the minors. The Mets and Yankees both have short-season teams in the five boroughs (Coney Island and Staten Island, respectively).
Of course, there are business reasons for not having a minor league club in San Jose. San Jose is already full of non-major league sports franchises that compete against each other (Sabercats, Stealth), and having a baseball team would dilute the market. A baseball team would also compete with the parent A's to an extent, and certainly with the Quakes for the budget sports dollar. Also, how would pro-MLB San Jose partisans feel about such a move? Would they consider it patronizing? I'd like to see the A's preserve minor league baseball for the multitude of reasons described above, but it requires some scratch and someone else to operate the team, and the economics may not allow such a situation to occur.
20 March 2007
We can all agree that the KNBR is skewed towards the SF teams and covers the W's mostly because they're under contract. The Oakland teams get token coverage, while the Sharks get mentioned because the Razor loves them. You can't fault KNBR for catering to their vested interests. Sports talk is not exactly high up on the journalistic integrity scale, so to hold them to task for this skew is laughable. To have another sports talk station makes sense for fans of those affected teams.
However, that's not the issue here.
The real question is: "Is there room in the Bay Area for another sports talk station?" The two KNBR's constitute 1 1/2 stations due to simulcasts (Razor & Mr. T), sloughing off W's or 49ers games when they conflict with the Giants or the Razor & Mr. T, Giants midnight baseball replays, and much of the throwaway syndicated programming out there (late night ESPN radio, most FOX Sports radio). Programming a sports talk station is inherently expensive and risky. Before you answer the question above, consider the following:
- How do you balance expensive, locally produced programming against cheaper (and less popular syndicated shows)?
- What marketing strategy do you use? Is the station an anti-KNBR? An East Bay station? A "fair and balanced" station? A more edgy station?
- Do you succumb to "partnering" with ESPN (Eternally Self-Promoting Network)?
- How much specialized programming do you include? Examples: boxing, outdoors/fishing, extreme sports, fantasy sports, auto racing, horse racing
- What kinds of partnerships do you strike with local universities to carry their events?
- What kind of sports news operation do you run? Do you cover every local pro sports event or cover events selectively?
- Is it worth it to pay for higher priced, big name radio talent?
- Should the station have sports programming exclusively, or a mix of sports and other news/talk?
- How much do you want shows to be content driven (interviews) as opposed to caller driven?
- How much time do you spend on pre- and post-game shows?
- How much do gimmicks factor in? Examples: scantilly-clad women, contests and giveaways
Let's talk a look at the shares for sports talk stations in more sports-crazy markets (Arbitron ratings courtesy of Radio Daily News):
I threw in LA facetiously, of course. Other than LA, a market's total sports radio share appears to typically hover between 3 and 5 (3-5% of the market). The combined share of the two KNBR's is nearly 3, and in a place as diverse and segmented as the Bay Area, can you reasonably ask for more? Would the addition of another station take away a 1 share from someone else, whether it was KNBR or other types of programming? While the sports offerings may not be diverse, it could be argued that the market penetration for sportstalk is close to maxed out.
Then again, maybe it isn't. A look at the dropoff from the SF market to the SJ market indicates that the further outside of SF, the less popular KNBR is in general. The SF market includes Oakland, so the pooling of both east and west sides of the bay presents an inaccurate picture in ratings. The East Bay must be weaker than SF and the Peninsula. Perhaps an opportunity is there for an East Bay/South Bay oriented station, one that caters to non-SF teams. There's an obvious marketing angle in presenting the station as the opposite of the so-called effete, wine-sipping types to the west.
Wolff and A's broadcasting veep Ken Pries are paying attention to the market. Pries has indicated that if a station were available locally, the A's would be interested. There's an element of timing to such an acquisition, because in the recent past most local radio station sales have been as part of huge corporate portfolios, such as the Susquehanna sale. It's possible that the rumored sale of various Clear Channel stations may make one or more individual stations available locally, but it could lead to more of the same corporate horse trading.
Thankfully, other teams' owners have already set the trend by buying their own radio properties. The following are two excellent case studies:
- A year ago, Angels owner Arte Moreno paid $42 million for KMXE, a 50,000-watt AM outfit in LA. Formerly a Spanish-language news/talk/sports outlet, KMXE was transformed into the Angels' spanish flagship. Over the last year, more English-language programming has been introduced, and Moreno changed the station's call letters to KLAA. It is thought that once ESPN-710's deal with the Angels elapses after this coming season, the English broadcast will move to KLAA. But what will happen to the Spanish broadcasts? Moreno has done a skillful job of marketing to that market, and he may be doing the team a disservice by not utilizing the station for Spanish. One way or another, the station promises to significantly boost Angels revenues.
- A few months prior to Moreno's purchase, a company called Red Zebra Broadcasting bought three low-power stations in the Washington, DC area. Red Zebra is run by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. The three stations form a virtual "flagship" by simulcasting the same programming (ESPN radio and Redskins games). Depending on where you are in the market, you may be best served by listening to either WWXT 92.7-FM in Prince Frederick, MD, WWXX 94.3-FM in Warrenton, VA, or WXTR 730-AM in Alexandria, Virginia. Plans to buy two additional stations in Maryland were scuttled in January. If this sounds familar, that's it mimics what the A's were doing last year with two low-powered stations - though the A's didn't own the stations. Should two or more low-power stations owned by the same conglomerate become available, it's certainly within reason for Wolff to look into purchasing them, price being a major factor. Once purchased, an application can be filed to boost a station's signal to 20,000 or even 50,000 watts if it's AM, even more if FM.
The only thing missing from Swift's article is SB 4, the 2005 bill that flew under the radar during the legislative session, only to be stillborn as it went through committee. We should be proud of the fact that we aren't likely to get extorted as our counterparts are in Pennsylvania, Florida, and even New York. It doesn't matter that California alone would be one the world's top ten economies. Let's remember who would be competing for public funding if it were allowed at the state level (which it hasn't for decades):
- A's ballpark in Oakland/Alameda County
- San Francisco 49ers stadium
- San Diego Chargers stadium
- Sacramento Kings arena
- New LA football stadium to attract an NFL team
- San Jose Earthquakes stadium
One other nice blurb from China Basin: PG&E will install new solar panels in three different areas at AT&T Park, enough to generate 123 kW, or "enough juice to power the ballpark's scoreboard for an entire season." Applause to both the Giants and PG&E for doing what they can to take a small load off the power grid.
Update (3/21): PG&E somehow "forgot" to tell its ratepayers that they would end up footing the bill for the project. Oops. So much for the good PR.
18 March 2007
MLB.com: Obviously, the stadium issue is front and center with most A's fans. Where does everything stand with the proposed park in Fremont?That's about as pragmatic an approach as one could expect. Wolff's feelings about the "leverage" situation are reflective of the realities of the East Bay market, and by extension, the South Bay as well. Honestly, what other owner have you heard or read recently that has said that he doesn't have any leverage? Leverage is the name of the usual stadium-building game, folks, and it's clear that a different game is being played here.
Wolff: It's the most complicated transaction that I've ever seen. It's a win-win-win for everybody involved, but one of the problems we have in baseball is that everyone thinks the baseball teams should underwrite everything. I'm not talking about the public. I'm talking about various constituencies we deal with. So I'm confident that we have a great program, but there's a lot of constituencies we have to satisfy, and we're trying to do that. So it's hard to set a date for when it's going to happen. If everything went great, it could be 36 months before we open it. But that's if everybody was cooperating exactly the way I want them to, which I'm not expecting. On a fast-track basis, we could open in 36 months, but it's probably going to be closer to 60 months. Right now we have a certain number of issues that we need to agree to, and we're getting close. We're trying to stay in Alameda County, because that's our district, and we don't have any leverage. We can't say, "If you don't do this, we're moving to Omaha." Every other team I know of [that's tried to get a new stadium] has had an alternate site. We're trying to do this without that. We just want to get it done here.
The window of 36 to 60 months is nothing new. Let's establish these timeline scenarios, remembering that in general it takes 12-18 months to complete and approve an environmental impact report and 24-30 months to build a stadium. Even though the ballpark village and surrounding residential development are integral to the plan, for now we'll focus solely on the ballpark itself. We'll use a hypothetical date of April 1, 2007 for the development application submission.
First, Lew's worst case:
- There's a clear line between the two major phases, but in a worst case scenario the line can turn into a messy gap. Delays could come in terms of getting financing (San Diego), legal problems such as court injunctions (Cal's Memorial Stadium retrofit), or last-minute concessions that have to be made by the developer or city (Forest City Uptown in Oakland).
- Even in this case, the A's have some wiggle room since their last option year at the Coliseum is 2013. They would still be eager to get everything in place ASAP because by that point they'll have invested their $500 million on the ballpark with nothing to show for it.
- In previous posts I had more-or-less ruled out 2010 because the schedule would be too compressed. It's not impossible as you can see from the timeline above, but far too many things would have to fall perfectly into place to make it happen. For instance:
- Unless the EIR and planning pieces went through without significant review, one year is too short. An EIR for the Cisco campus project is already on the books, but it was heavily dependent on the land's planned use. The ballpark village is a night-and-day contrast from an office park. Plus there's no telling what concessions will have to be made regarding the 2900 townhomes, some of which could run really close to the wetlands preserve.
- 24 months to build the ballpark may well be doable, since Cisco Field will be a smaller and less complex building it can't be ruled out.
- This scenario includes a full 18-month study period and 30-month construction window. There are 3 months or so of padding in the middle to accommodate any changes that may occur in the schedule. What's important is that there'd be no need to rush - and rushing costs a lot of money.
13 March 2007
The endorsement won't accelerate the project in any way, but it lends a significant amount of political weight and credibility. If, as rumored, many SVLG members are already on board -with checks for suites, premium seats, and sponsorships ready to go - then the public can start to think of the plan as more concrete. It's hard to dismiss cash. Of course, the A's still need to actually submit the development plan and get it approved before people start patting each other on the back.
Guardino said that the project "positively addresses our Valley's housing challenges." For years the SVLG has lobbying for increased housing in the Valley, a need that the project's 2,900 townhomes would start to address. SVLG has also been a major supporter of BART-to-Silicon Valley and Smart Growth initiatives such as transit-oriented development (TOD). They certainly have nothing to lose in backing the project. If SVLG had input anywhere, it may have been the change from condos (in the Coliseum North plan - the high-rises) to low-slung townhomes, which are a far more familiar housing mode in the Valley and may be considered by some to be more family-friendly (and negatively, more car-friendly).
The big clincher would be if the housing at Pacific Commons could somehow positively affect the approval for the BART-to-Silicon Valley project. As it stands, the project's 1.25-mile aerial distance from the planned Warm Springs station places it outside the radius required for nearby or adjacent TOD housing. If the ballpark village were located next to NUMMI instead, the BART extension would probably qualify for additional federal funds or at least have a better chance of getting approved.
08 March 2007
Down in South Florida, sights have shifted towards the Orange Bowl, where a plan is coming together to tear down the venerable, 70 year-old football stadium and replace it with a new home for the Marlins. The University of Miami football team would move to Dolphin Stadium, where the Marlins currently play. There were previous discussions about a downtown site, but it appears that the 9-acre Orange Bowl site may be more feasible.
Back on the left coast, the City of San Francisco is pushing to speed up the Navy's transfer of Hunters Point to the city. The former shipyard, landfill, and nuclear research facility was split into 6 pieces to help accelerate the process, but now the City wants to take over the whole 500-acre pie. All told, cleanup could cost nearly $1 billion.
That brings us to Fremont. The generic AP article that went out last week has a somewhat sensationalistic tone. It warns of the "cloud of deadly arsine floating as far as seven-tenths of a mile away from the plant." Visions of Love Canal, the Cuyahoga River, and mushroom clouds abound, right?
Of course, that ignores the fact that Scott Specialty Gases is on a one-acre plot, and as mentioned before, is more of a distribution facility than a smoke-belching, sprawling chemical plant.
That's not to say that the SSG situation won't have to be addressed. As developers, the A's and their future partners certainly don't want to have such a potential hazard near thousands of homes and ballpark visitors. And SSG probably doesn't want to be a dangerous neighbor.
So there is a solution, and it probably doesn't involve mitigation because mitigation tends to be costly (for all parties). The parties could draw out the negotiations for a while longer while construction starts, but if it looks like SSG has a decent chance of staying put, the A's will have to include mitigation in the EIR, and that's not going to look as attractive as having a full master plan free of issues.
Let's put things in perspective. The SSG situation is small potatoes compared to the problems being encountered in the aforementioned cities/projects. If I were Lew, I wouldn't consider trading places with my counterparts in SF, Miami, or the Twin Cities.
01 March 2007
- Carpool/HOV lane on Southbound I-880 from Hegenberger Rd. in Oakland to Marina Blvd. (San Leandro). This section frequently gets jammed up on weeknights as it loses a lane while going south. Adding a HOV lane should help siphon carpoolers earlier in the commute, giving ballpark goers from Oakland HOV access all the way down the Nimitz.
- Carpool/HOV lanes I-880 between US-101 and CA-237. Only a few years ago, this section was strictly two lanes in each direction. While the addition of a lane in each direction helped reverse commuters (like yours truly), those stuck in the regular commute continued to face much congestion. A HOV lane would help fans coming from San Jose while also acting as a regular fourth lane during non-carpool hours (think weekend games).
San Jose's Ballpark EIR was certified Wednesday night, setting the stage for SJ to be Wolff's shoulder to cry on if the Pacific Commons site falls apart. Yes it's moot and futile, but you never know what could happen. *cue the conspiracy theorists*
A Quakes-SJSU-San Jose partnership could result in an announcement within the next two months about a new Spartan Stadium. In the KLIV interview Wolff said he felt good about the response from the university and city. Financing would occur through a plan similar to the ballpark village, except that it would be smaller and not necessarily integrated with the venue.