30 June 2007

Ballpark plan leaked - er, linked?

The overview planning document that was shared with the Fremont Unified school board is now available, courtesy of the Merc and Barry Witt.

Witt's article has quotes from former Fremont mayor Gus Morrison, including a "scathing critique of Wolff's proposal." The excerpt:

Morrison, the former mayor, said he doesn't see how a shuttle bus system would function from the remote lots given their distance from the park and the absence of mass-transit close to the stadium.

'You've got to move about 500 people a minute' into and out of the stadium, he said. 'It just doesn't work.'

That assumes a shuttle bus system is in play. There's certainly no guarantee of a shuttle bus going to the remote parking lots. Should the Warm Springs BART extension materialize, it is thought that shuttle buses would be running from the station, which would be 1.5 miles away. Add shuttles from the remote parking lots and the area traffic associated with the existing shopping center, and you have a recipe for gridlock. When Wolff mentioned "a comfortable walking distance" previously, I think it means walking, not shuttling. I'll let the individual decide if 3/4-mile is overly arduous.

In reference to the proposed school site, Vice Mayor Bob Wieckowski asked,
"Who wants to be next to the dump?" He argued that the community will not support the proposed site.

Another coming bone of contention is the layout. The light green areas are housing sites, while the dark green areas are parkland of some sort, whether they are pocket parks or greenbelt space. 14 acres of parkland are in the plan. My worry is about the greenbelt established at the edges of the housing area. To preserve the wetlands area next door, there should be a much larger buffer, and I sense there will be an active fight to expand and define that greenbelt, at the expense of land available for housing and potentially for other public purposes, such as a school.

The plan looks similar to the mock-ups I've put together in the past, but there's a surprise. The parking area closest to the ballpark village includes the concrete plant, but only a portion of the Brandin Court properties. The Scott Gas property, in particular, is not included in the parking assessment. Is that a sign of continuing uncertainty regarding negotiations, or is it simply that those properties are currently occupied? An additional 1000 spaces are available if the entire Brandin Court area is included.

The race factor

The last several months I've written a few articles about casual fans and their impact on the A's. Not season ticket holders, not hardcore fans. Why? Because casual fans are the bulk of attendance, and have been for a long time. They are also the great variable, since numerous factors can affect their desire to choose the A's over other forms of entertainment, whether the substitutes are Giants games, other sporting events, or entirely different types of entertainment.

The casual fan, who usually brings a spouse/SO or friends/family, has his own decision-making process. Maybe he wants to tailgate before the game. Maybe he's interested in the opponent or star players. Maybe the A's are doing well, maybe they're not. Maybe they don't care much for baseball or sports in general. Race may be a factor in determining whether he wants to go or not, but how much? Please enlighten me, because I can't see how casual fan gives it that much thought.

How much does the black/latin player disparity matter? Is that phenomenon something that can even be linked to something as localized as attendance patterns? Do casual fans care much that Milton Bradley was a black player? Or that the team's makeup is mostly white, then latin?

Now there are some that choose not to go because the stadium is in Oakland and they feel it's unsafe. Then there are others who'll go to Oakland only for A's games or other Coliseum events but never go elsewhere in Oakland because of their own prejudices. Which is worse? Is that institutional racism? Or is it someone expressing their personal preference, even if it is ignorant? When does the abundance of personal prejudice become institutional?

To extend that further, let's say ownership knew that the above attitudes were somewhat prevalent and they factored that into their decision-making on where to build a ballpark. Can they quantify it? And can you? Because if they/you can't, it's very difficult to say it's anymore important than, say, access to BART, land availability, municipal politics, or true economic factors. These days it's difficult to run a business on a notion that's hard to substantiate. Quantify it, and we can have a real discussion. Until then, it's just a hot-button topic that unfortunately hasn't changed much in the A's nearly 40-year residence in Oakland. If the perception problem is as bad as some say, it's even worse that not much has been done to change it.