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15 October 2007

The tortoise phase

Fremont officials have been grumbling louder in recent weeks about the A's delays in getting the development application in. FWIW I'm glad. They've expressed this frustration to any media person who asks - including me. I don't know if it will get the app in more quickly, but it can't hurt to put feet to the fire. Both the City and the A's have remained professional and cordial throughout.

In today's East Bay Business Times article by David Goll, Lew Wolff admits that the team's in "the tortoise phase":
Wolff himself admits he's in "the tortoise phase" of his plan, anticipating up to 18 months for the city's planning and review process to unfold once he submits a formal proposal. He also foresees spending $20 million to $30 million for a detailed design for the entire development and, assuming the Fremont City Council gives his plans a green light, about two years for construction of the stadium.
Fremont's economic development director Daren Fields gave his opinion on when he thinks the ballpark could open: 2012. I think it can still happen in 2011, but if the application isn't submitted in the next few weeks an April 2011 opening date could certainly be in jeopardy.

7 comments:

FC said...

With all due respect to Mr. Wolff, I seriously doubt the park will be open by 2010, given all the delays we're seeing with the development application. At this point I'm not even counting on the park being open in time for the start of the 2011 season.

I have to say, this delay has been a source of concern for a couple of people I've talked to. They were considering purchasing season tickets in order to secure rights to seats at the new park. However they have put off making a commitment until they see something more definitive from the A's and Fremont.

anthony dominguez said...

I'm considering changing my online ID to "Insane SJ," because that's what many reading this site think I've probably become...because I'm not giving up on San Jose! The land at Diridon South in now in the hands of the City of SJ, as relocation notices have been handed out to former property owners (FYI the former Stephens Meat products will soon be a parking lot). Diridon South remains far superior to Pac Commons, as it is a true urban area with infrastructure and transit options in place (VTA Light Rail, Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor, future BART and HSR). Ballpark EIR already complete. The Giants $20 million annual debt service to AT&T Park sunsets in 2010, so the T-Rights will soon be a non-issue (they're already a non-issue with the threat of Fremont/Pac Commons, but oh well). Lew Wolff could then use development profits from Pac Commons, Edenvale (SJ), and former FMC (SJ) to finance not only said ballpark but soccer specific stadium (sss at Pac Commons?). Anyhow, my point is that Lew Wolff and SJ business/political interests should reconsider going for downtown San Jose while the "tortoise" moves in Fremont. No need to re: to this post R.M., James, or Rob (if you still exist), because I already know what you're going to say.

James said...

Tony,

Sorry, Dude. I just can't let it go.

What makes you think territorial rights will soon be a non-issue? The Giants ain't givin' 'em up. No way, no how? It will probably never be a non-issue, but certainly it will be a less valuable asset to the SFG's when the A's move to Fremont. And.... what does the sunsetting of the Giant's debt service have to do with it? You seem to suggest that their debt is somehow tied to a tangible asset the team to the west holds.

Secondly, what makes you think the City of Fremont will allow Wolff to develop that land for anything but a high-density office park without the A's? I'd say such approval would be a longshot even if Fremont were to get a soccer stadium.

Third, what makes you think that the current EIR would transfer to a larger major league stadium. I'm not sure the size of the stadium planned in San Jose, but certainly it's a lot smaller than what Wolff envisions.

Fourth, and I've asked this over and over and over again and nobody seems to have an answer for me. What tangible benefit would Wolff gain by crossing the imaginary line that separates Fremont from Santa Clara County (especially now that he has all that land in Fremont and would stand to lose the Cisco sponsorship by moving the A's to land that Cisco doesn't control)?

Georob said...

I'm still here, but just as a spectator. I simply got tired of arguing the same old arguments over and over. At the end of the day, people are going to believe whatever they want to believe.

No matter what happens, I will support the A's wherever they play and whatever they're called. It's sad that too many here and elsewhere feel differently.

bartleby said...

Tony,

Nobody wants to see a downtown SJ A's ballpark more than I do. However, I have to agree with James' assessment of the likelihood of this happening. Without a ballpark, there is no project in Fremont financing anything. (Not that it's clear why the Fremont city fathers would want to help finance amenities in San Jose anyway). And regardless of debt service, no business is going to give away a valuable income-producing asset for nothing.

Let's say for the sake of argument the Giants think their T-rights to SC County are worth $5 million a year. (I made this number up, but it really doesn't matter what the number is). Right now, that income stream is helping pay off debt. Once Pac Bell is paid off, it becomes profit. The Giants aren't about to hand over $5 million a year of potential profit to the A's just because they don't "need" it any more for debt service.

The only way I think a SJ ballpark was going to happen was if the city paid for most or all of it with public funds. If SJ stepped up with a voter-approved financing package, "we'll build your park for you," I think Bud and the other owners would see this as so much in the interest of MLB that they'd lean on Macgowan to settle the T-rights. (He really has no leverage in the face of owner opposition; he paid nothing for these rights, and they can be stripped at any time by a simple vote). Relieved of the financial burden of building a park, the A's could affort to put forward a substantial offer.

However, even if there was the political will for this (which there isn't), it's probably too late. Event if Chuck Reed decided to make this his top priority tomorrow, by the time SJ could offer anything concrete Cisco Field will already be half-built.

I will also try to answer James' question. Crossing the county-line by itself isn't much of a factor (i.e. Milpitas would not be much better than Fremont), but there are several tangible benefits for the A's of a DOWNTOWN SJ ballpark over the Fremont site.

First, it is directly served by CalTrain, light rail, and Capitol Corridor. It is even closer to the corporate customers the A's covet than Fremont: a number could walk there from their office towers downtown; it's an easy light rail from the companies in North San Jose and Santa Clara; and easier to reach from most of the peninsula. One would expect this easier access would support higher attendance figures, especially for weeknight games.

Second, notwithstanding the hysterical, irrational arm-waving of the OAFC crowd, there something to the "city limits" factor. People do form a stronger emotional attachment to teams which are actually from their home town, rather than just from their region. There are 400K people who might feel this attachment to Oakland, and only 200K for Fremont, but 1 million for San Jose. This would also be expected to increase attendance and merchandise sales.

Finally, Lew Wolff has substantial real estate holdings in downtown San Jose. A project which increases the desirability of downtown and the value of downtown real estate enriches Mr. Wolff by increasing the value of his other holdings.

How much are these benefits worth? I don't know, but apparently not enough to outweight the obstacles of making it happen. The A's have reasonably chosen "good enough, and do-able" over pie-in-the-sky perfection.

Insane SJ! said...

James,
It's that melancholy time of the month again for me. I was at the Sharks game Saturday night and had visions of a grand downtown ballpark across the street at Diridon/Arena! For whatever its worth, SJ's ballpark EIR was for a 45K seat stadium, almost 13K more than what's planned for Cisco Field. Glad to see you still have a pulse Rob, and I love your attitude! Go A's!

Anonymous said...

You know, putting Santana Row downtown would have had way more of an impact than a baseball stadium. And even Lew Wolff has been critical of the city for allowing it to be approved where it was.

The freeways were in place, the light rail was in place, there were no territorial rights to deal with, and at the time; I'm sure Valley Fair would have rather not had competition across the street.

Instead, having them so close has worked to the other's benefit. Unfortunately, it has severely crippled the chances for making Downtown SJ a true destination. And Anthony, a ballpark just doesn't fix that.

The city just didn't have the political will to go against Valley Fair. So why do you expect them to challenge major league baseball?

Saying "we're bigger than San Francisco now" is such a lame sales pitch.