18 March 2007


Lew Wolff sat down with long-time A's beat man Mychael Urban to talk shop. There are a few quips here and there about the state of the baseball side of the team, soccer, and the talked-to-death tarp matter. There's also a little insight into planning for the ballpark, though you shouldn't expect me to get too much out of these tea leaves: Obviously, the stadium issue is front and center with most A's fans. Where does everything stand with the proposed park in Fremont?
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.
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.

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.
Next, Lew's best case:

  • 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.
Finally, the likely scenario:

  • 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.


jonclaude4 said...

The change that caught my eye was the "it's probably going to be closer to 60 months". Still hoping for that 2011 opening, and appreciate your optimistism ML.

I expect about 15-20% ticket price increases between now and then, and we'll still be a good discount below comparable Giants tickets.

Seat license fees I anticipate as well ....look at the gap the A's are building the last few years between season ticketholder pricing and single game prices.

All said, the A's have plenty of financial room to get this one done.

PS-for those that didn't know, the Giants first deck seat licenses moving from the Stick first deck were $3000-$6000 per seat. Upper deck must be less, but in total quite a total for the A's to have day one.

Go A's!

Oakland Si said...

Didn't Wolff tell Dellums that the A's would be in Oakland at least through his first mayoral term? Dellums' term isn't up until January 2011, so if this is the case Wolff doesn't expect a move before then.

I also found the last sentence in the interview interesting...

Zonis said...

What do you think about Wolff revealing the A's interest in acquiring a radio station?

Anonymous said...

Another damn "fluff" piece if you ask me. 2 to 3 years is a long time for the Bay Area territorial landscape to change. Now, about that Diridon South EIR...

Georob said...

There could be hope on the radio situation now that KTRB 860 is up and running with a strong signal and a new talk format that will need something to differentiate itself from the others. And since Pappas is not as big as say, Clear Channel perhaps they could benefit by having Wolff as a partner.

Problem is the A's still have a contract with the CBS stations (1550 and 106FM), so would they be allowed to add 860 to the mix? Is there anything in the contract that allows them to bail out on CBS if a better alternative comes along? I would think not.

Zonis said...

Gerob, I think the contract the A's have with FreeFM is a per year. But I think if the A's were interested in 860, they would buy the station, not simply partner it. The idea being to make a new sports station that could flagship the A's, Earthquakes and possibly another team (Sharks?) and then spend the non-game time talking about said teams, and sports in general.

What would be the use of having 3 stations in the Bay Area all broadcasting the same thing to the same area?

Georob said...

Well, to buy a station means that someone has to be selling. And Lew Wolff has said that's difficult.

A partnership with 860 could do all that Zonis mentioned, although you have to wonder if the Bay Area can support three sports stations. A talk station is the next best alternative, but most important is a station that has a decent signal.

The Giants own just a very small piece of KNBR, and with the exception of the Larry Kreuger controversy, it's been a solid relationship. Owning a station would be nice, but it's not necessary.

I get into trouble every time I say this, but the A's have to market to the whole Bay Area, not just the East Bay or the South Bay. A strong radio station helps do that.

Zonis said...

Three too much?

But really, we only have 1 station right now. KNBR and KNBR Part 2.

But what do I know. Since there is no A's talk, I barely listen to the radio anymore anyways.

John said...

I hate to bring up the name issue, but in the interview Wolff mentions that an elected Oakland official said the team couldn't use the Oakland name if if moved. Is this just an empty threat? It seems to me that if the team retained the Oakland name but moved to Fremont, the city of Oakland would get the benefit still being considered a "major league city" without any of the hassles of actually having a team. Forcing the team to change its name would only benefit the A's. Wolff could change the team name to one that will better appeal to the Silicon Valley crowd, while at the same placating the fanbase by stating it was the city of Oakland's decision that forced his hand.

Regarding Sports radio in the bay, if a new station appeared that broadcast ESPN's Dan Patrick Show, I think the popularity of that show would earn the new station instant credibility. Maybe Dan's is now broadcast in the bay, but before I moved out of the area about a year ago I had to listen on my XM radio.

anon-a-mouse said...

Welcome back, georob! Glad you decided to return.

I'm with you, Zonis. I think of our sports talk option as two halves of one whole (or should I say hole): KNBR and KNBR, Jr. But I too listen to neither, and haven't for years, so my opinion is dated.

Marine Layer said...

Tomorrow's post will cover the radio situation, including a market that has a three-station solution (yes! one exists) and the problems that come with it.

And welcome back, GeoRob. Just in time for the new season.