10 April 2007

Biz of Baseball's Wolff Interview

Maury Brown dropped a quick note to tell me that his interview with Lew Wolff was going to be up tonight. It's now available. Brown covered a lot of ground with the interview. Wolff, for his part, tackled a couple of pressing topics, though he revealed nothing new about the transportation situation.

Regarding Scott Specialty Gases, Wolff said this:
The Scott Gas issue is one of relocation and not of a soil problem.
Where are those misinformed cries about toxic waste again?

Maury also had a really good question about how the ballpark deal was conceived:

BizBall: In your opinion, is the Ballpark Village concept a unique, large market opportunity, or do you think that this represents the future of stadium construction (and how to fund it), regardless of market size? Or, is it specific to a particular market and situation?

Wolff: Well, that’s a very astute question. I have to say that if a ballpark can be accommodated in the core of a community—in the urban area—I think that has lots of pluses. Like San Francisco, San Diego, some of those parks. In our case we had to sort of create an urban center for two reasons: one, to make it esthetically interesting. We don’t want the ballpark surrounded by parking. We want it to be, as we call it, ‘a sculpture within a project.’ And secondly, since we are not getting the traditional public assistance, we need to have ancillary development to help support the cost of the facility.

This goes back to the idea of creating somewhere out of nowhere. John King's excellent two-part series in the Chronicle covers several urban-type developments in traditionally suburban areas, including some in the Bay Area. (I can already imagine the debate that will ensue.)

Opening Night notes

Tomorrow, Maury Brown at The Biz of Baseball will post the interview he conducted Monday with Lew Wolff. Over the weekend Maury kindly asked me if I had any questions to contribute, but I didn't have anything that I didn't think wouldn't be covered by the development proposal and follow-up questions.

Chron's John Shea notes that Ron Dellums sat with Wolff last night as Wolff's opening night guest. Shea got a quote that could be interpreted as leading or meaningless, depending on your view of the A's move:

"I like him a lot," Wolff said of Dellums. "He said, 'Look, if there's a way you can stay or we can help you, let me know.' But we need that space (in Fremont). When the Coliseum opened, it must've been fantastic, but it's aging. It's 40 years old."

As for San Jose, Wolff said, "That won't happen in my reign."

Fremont wants the ballpark and housing components to be joined at the hip, and I don't expect them to budge on that stance. Shea continues:

So it's Fremont or bust -- or stick around the Coliseum for another decade or two, receive millions in revenue sharing from MLB, draw a couple of million fans annually even though they're denied access to the upper deck and always turn a profit.

How bad is that for an alternative?

Not bad if you've been a hardcore fan for several decades. Not bad at all if you want to go to many games every season for cheap. Of course, it's not you that matters that much. It's a bad alternative for Bud Selig and the Lodge of owners, who really don't care to see a team continually receiving revenue sharing while consistently outperforming their own teams on the field. I'm certain that Selig's main motivation for staying on through 2009 and perhaps longer is that he wants to see the last three stadium deals through. It would serve as his crowning achievement.

If we're going to pick this apart, let's go back to Dellums and Wolff. Wolff stated that he needed the Fremont land, and I've already said that Fremont has no interest in allowing the housing development and rezoning without the ballpark. But what if there were an alternative in Oakland?

Take a look at Chip Johnson's review of Dellums' first 100 days:

The veteran politician and longtime congressman is long on social issues, short on day-to-day operations and shows troubling signs of meddling with development.

And in the one development project where he has taken an active role, Dellums effectively killed it. In March, Dellums blocked a proposal to build a 1,575-unit condominium project atop light industry in a desolate section of West Oakland.

The West Oakland project under consideration is developer Peter Sullivan's mixed-use project at Mandela Parkway and West Grand Ave. The main reason cited for pulling the project was the desired preservation of Oakland's diminishing industrial areas. City Councilmember Nancy Nadel approved the move:
"I felt the report wasn't in the best interests of the city," Nadel said. "It made me feel better that the zoning commissioners restated their intent to implement the zoning called for in the General Plan."
What if Dellums' staff are working on a ballpark proposal incorporating that piece of land? The housing component would still be needed, and such a change would effectively be the same kind of rezoning that was pooh-poohed last month, only on a larger scale. Though there's zero indication that this is actually being discussed, it can't be ruled out completely if Dellums is interested in rolling up his sleeves. Then again, West Oakland is Nadel's domain, and judging from the fans' reaction to her in one of the "Choose or Lose" rallies, they don't think she's much of an ally. BTW, the location is 3/4 mile from the West Oakland BART station.

It doesn't hurt Wolff to play nice with Oakland, even though the situation there looks bleak as it relates to the A's.