12 January 2007

Excerpts from Wolff on Ronn Owens show

Before I forget, Chris De Benedetti's Argus article on Lew's meeting with Fremont is worth a read.

I didn't transcribe everything from the hour, but there were some choice exchanges. Here are a few:
Wolff: We're going to do the smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
Owens: Which is how many people?
Wolff: About 32,000 people
Owens: That is small.
Wolff: Very intimate, but when you look at the displacement of all the other teams, something like 25 teams could live with 30-35,000 seats.
Owens: ... if you want to sign the top people, you gotta make the big money. Are you going to be able to make that kind of money with a 32,000-seat stadium?
Wolff: With a new facility, whether it's 32 or 42 (thousand), we will increase our low net profit two or three times.
A caller asked about the ballpark shuttle:
Wolff: As far as the traffic issue - which everyone seems to have an opinion on before they've heard the plan we have - we are working to have a multi-modal system of both getting closer to BART in the Fremont area but there are other forms of transportation we are working on. It's a whole package that will be presented first to the city before we announce it on the Ronn Owens show.
Another caller called into question Wolff's sincerity about his motivation for wanting a ballpark, citing the A's excellent business model as a reason to keep the status quo. Wolff's response:
Wolff: In the year 2000 the Giants opened their new ballpark. In the six years prior to that time our attendance and the Giants' were within 0.5 million of each other. From that time and through 2006 the Giants are attracting 1.5 million more than we are... during that period we've won more games and been in more postseason play, so...
Owens: Obviously the ballpark.
Wolff: Right. The ballpark is a factor, a big factor, and we need a new ballpark. The answer is, we've been competitive because we have brilliant people that are getting a lot of players but we lose them because the team can't support that activity. Now everyone has a different opinion on that, but that's a fact. I think that the ballpark is 40 years old. We share it with the football team. It's not easy. And if you don't see that, I can't convince you.
When asked about territorial rights:
Wolff: We didn't have a lot of negotiations because the Giants feel (Santa Clara County) is their territory. It wasn't a matter of money... Statistically and socratically, we could make a good case that SCC should be our territory, but that issue is one I've stopped fighting on because both on the league level, and the Giants have preferred to keep their territory.
And here's the debate between Wolff and Bill, a definite opponent of the ballpark:
Bill: Listen, Mr. Wolff. I don't know who you've been talking to with the city of Fremont. My name is Bill, and we've formed a committee to stop the Oakland A's from coming there... The citizens of Fremont don't want the traffic, don't want the crime. I don't know what the city is telling you, but we can't even keep fire stations open in this town. And you're going to have a complex that will bring, on a good weekend, 40-50,000 people in an area that's not equipped to handle it. And I'm not alone in the city. There are a lot of people that do not want the Oakland A's in the city of Fremont.
Wolff: ... If we can provide answers that can make you more comfortable, we hope we can win you over. If we can't we won't -
Bill: Well, I'm gonna tell you - there's probably about 70 or 80% of people in this town that do not want you... This city is not equipped to handle you. We have eight police officers on the street in the evening... There's gonna be a whole lot of problems associated with a sports complex and a village over there.
Owens: What about the fact that they would bring in revenue to the city, which would enable them to hire more, wouldn't that be a factor also?
Bill: No, because the city is not equipped. The city doesn't have the resources. We don't have the fire engines. We don't have the police department. We don't have the ability to handle that crime that gonna be here.
Wolff: Each and every one of your comments - we have room to discuss and give you our answers -
Bill: Unless you want to float the money... the city tried to pass a utility tax twice because they don't have the resources to handle the police department, the fire department, the traffic, etc. -
Wolff: Number one - we're not asking for any taxes to be levied on anybody. The generation of what we do at the village, if - and it is a low density urban village - if it's something the community wants - will generate its own revenue to pay for schools, taxes... We're gonna try to go through a process to answer the very valid questions you're asking. We think baseball is a very clean, healthy, family sport. We have very few incidents or problems where we play today, and we'll have less in Fremont.
Bill: First of all the crime rate in Fremont is rising. You need to look at the statistics. Number two, if you put this on a ballot now, the city won't even let this go to a ballot measure because they know it's going to go down to defeat.
Owens: It's interesting, because that's what I was going to ask. I would have to presume that before you even propose a ballpark, you'd have to do some kind of polling to see if the people wanted it there.
Wolff: We're going through a process of determining what we want to put on the land. Right now that land could be developed with about 3.5 million square feet of office space. Just the same problems (Bill) is talking about could be generated even worse by that.
Wolff went on to say that the A's haven't done a survey, but they have gotten numerous positive phone calls regarding the project.
The "net profit" comment was a bit of a surprise. Here's a quick explanation. Putting an extra 10,000 seats on the ballpark means adding an extra deck. That would cost around $100 million. Over 25 years at 6%, that's around $7 million a year. Divide that figure by $35 per person ($24 per ticket + $11 in concessions), and you need 200,000 extra people per season just to break even on the additional cost associated with the additional seating. That boils down to roughly 2,500 additional attendees per game. Once you get past the 25,000 mark, attendance tends to be marginal. It makes more sense to have additional temporary or portable seating that can be made available for big games.