28 May 2008

Upcoming ballpark trip

Circumstances have allowed me to move my planned trip to Nationals Park from August to June. Along with DC, I'll be traveling north to take in games at Baltimore's Camden Yards, Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park. If time allows, I'll be heading with some friends to Cooperstown as well. The trip is planned for June 19-29.

Here's the tentative schedule I've planned:
  • June 19: Nationals Park tour; Pirates vs. Orioles @ Camden Yards
  • June 20: Angels vs. Phillies @ Citizens Bank Park
  • June 22: Reds vs. Yankees @ Yankee Stadium
  • June 23: Baseball Hall of Fame
  • June 25: Diamondbacks vs. Red Sox @ Fenway Park + tour
  • June 27: Orioles vs. Nationals @ Nationals Park
I've been to all of the cities before and all of the ballparks except for DC and Philly, but not in a quasi-academic capacity. If possible, I'll try to get inside looks at both the new Yankee Stadium and CitiField. I'm not taking in a game at Shea, I figure once is enough.

Any suggestions for other baseball/sports-related places or events? FWIW I'm trying to cram in the NBA Draft (June 26) into the trip. I went to the 2003 (Lebron James) draft, and it was great pageantry. I'd love to do the NFL draft at some point too.

22 May 2008

Tampa Bay Rays Stadium Review Session

Wow, was that frustrating. Consider this: the Tampa Bay Rays are trying to do much the same thing the A's are doing except for the following:
  • Over half of the stadium will be publicly financed
  • The public part is largely dependent on valuations and revenue streams that are not even close to guaranteed
  • There are contributions from both St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, thus requiring approvals from both parties
  • The Rays are trying to cram the whole approval process into 6-8 months
  • There is a referendum in November
I have to say I appreciate the Rays' positioning of several public sources of revenue (sale of land and development rights, parking revenues) as not public. It's cagey and if the St. Petersburg City Council were born yesterday, they may have bought it. Instead, they're chock full of questions for city staff and team officials that alas, couldn't be answered.

The key part of the deal at this point is the shuffling of parking revenue from some 4,000 parking spaces in and around the downtown St. Pete area, within 3/4 mile of the ballpark site. Follow me on this. The Rays prepay a long-term lease on 2,000+ spaces downtown. The city takes that money and contributes that towards ballpark construction, around $35 million. There are also suggestions that a $1 parking fee be charged during games to create another $20 million for the project. Out of this discussion came concerns that there weren't enough spaces to handle this revenue model, and that the city would be liable if there were a parking revenue shortfall.

I don't understand why this thing is being rushed through like this. I'd like to give Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg the benefit of the doubt, but too often important details are missed when the process is rushed like this. Fremont and the A's are devoting the better part of two years to their project, this one merits a timeframe approaching that.

At least I got one thing out of the three-hour session, courtesy of councilmember Jeff Danner:
A lot of what I hear is "All you have to do is put out the referendum and let the people decide." But that's gonna be two questions, fifty words, and I've got a stack a foot high of what we're deciding. We're expected to do a lot more than that.
I've never heard a more effective argument against ballot box planning.

21 May 2008

San Jose approves soccer stadium plan

Last night the San Jose City Council approved the first part of the Earthquakes' stadium development plan. The stadium/hotel/office/retail project will be built on the old FMC property west of Mineta San Jose International Airport, along Coleman Avenue. Financing the stadium is still tied to the second part of the project, a residential development at the iStar property in San Jose. There's an interesting admission by one SJ official:
Paul Krutko, the city's economic development director, said the hotel, retail and office project would go through regardless of whether a stadium gets built.
I'm off to the businessperson's special.

17 May 2008

Neukom confirms territorial rights

Ann Killion's latest column on the demise of Peter Magowan has a little info on his successor, William Neukom. Not surprisingly, Neukom maintained the status quo:
Neukom was also adamant that nothing will change with the Giants' position on territorial rights, so the notion that Magowan's departure will hasten the A's move to Santa Clara County is a false one. He said that it's a significant part of the rights package that makes up the value of the franchise.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Giants would have to be major financial straits for territorial rights to become an issue. Will that happen? I doubt it.

16 May 2008

Revisiting San Jose

In November 2005, Gwen Knapp wrote what many called a tongue-in-cheek article about the A's trading Barry Zito to the Giants for the territorial rights to San Jose. How ironic it must be now that the Giants, facing dwindling attendance and sizable debt loads (one of which is Zito), may very well entertain such a concept. Mark Purdy is back drumming up San Jose again. We'll see if it goes any further from there.

Before I get into the transaction, it's important to set the table. According to Cot's, Zito is owed $101.5 million on his contract after this season, which includes the $7 million buyout for the 2014 season. If for whatever reason he's kept on the team, his salary is $14 million, bumping the remainder to $108.5 million. The Giants also supposedly have a mortgage payment of $20 million per year until 2017, with no way to pay it off early.

That doesn't mean the Giants are taking on water. Thanks to tax rules they can write off Zito's contract. They can write off the stadium in a similar manner. And they have the "actual stadium expenses" deduction as part of revenue sharing to soften the blow there too. That isn't to say it's a dollar-for-dollar write-off, it's more like 40-50 cents on the dollar. For argument's sake let's say that it's on the higher side. That puts the combined Zito-ballpark hurt at $19 million.

The Giants are also down 4,500 per game in paid attendance. Project that dropoff over the course of the season, and they're down $11 million in revenue ($35 x 4,500 x 81 games). From the looks of the TV broadcasts, it's far worse with what appear to be at least another 5,000 no-shows per game. That translates to another $5 million or so in lost concessions revenue through the end of the season. Revenue-wise that puts the Giants $16 million off from last year.

To compensate for the revenue drop, the Giants dropped payroll from $90.2 million last season to $76.6 million this season, a drop of $13.6 million. That doesn't quite make up for the shortfall, but it's close. In other words, they planned for this drop-off reasonably well. According to Forbes they made almost $20 million in profit last season. It's hard to say how much that will drop due to the switch from KTVU to KNTV, or Bonds' departure for that matter. The new 30% stake in CSNBA allows for the Giants to potentially hide some revenue from revenue sharing. For this season, they should be fine. Multiple years of under .500 teams will not look kindly on the Giants' ledgers, and their profits should drop significantly.

How to ease the burden? In my last post, I noted that the Bay Area is the only two-team market that is split, not shared. It's also the only market in which one team is a net payer into the revenue sharing system (Giants), while the other is a net payee/receiver (A's). It's been reported that the A's received anywhere from $12-20 million each year for the past several years, amounts that have allowed them to be profitable while escalating salaries. It can be argued that the Giants are directly paying the A's their revenue sharing receipt. Ted Robinson noted on his MSNBC blog that neither Giants nor the traditionally big market teams are happy about the baseball welfare state.

The simple solution, then, would be for the A's to give some of their revenue sharing receipt to the Giants. It could start at a minimum, around $15 million. Any amount above that could either go to the A's or be split between the two teams. $15 million would go a long way towards easing Giants ownership's concerns about the "unfair" aspects of revenue sharing, while also largely taking care of the ongoing, long-term debt burden. This adjunct to the revenue sharing agreement would continue until the A's completed construction of their new baseball stadium in San Jose, probably in 2012 or later due to the land acquisition costs at the Diridon South site and negotiations that need to be done with PG&E to move the substation there. If you're wondering, part of the site has already been cleared. Once all of the land has been acquired (not through eminent domain - that's been ruled out), the A's could conceivably start building thanks to the already certified EIR (some changes would have to be made to accommodate the smaller ballpark size). Surprisingly, even after the stadium's built, there's a decent possibility that the A's would continue to get revenue sharing if their TV contract situation doesn't improve. That smaller check could also go to the Giants until 2017. Total revenue sharing rebate for the Giants: $90 million over ten years($15 million per year from 2008-11, $5 million per year from 2012-17).

The A's would, of course, take a major hit to their revenue. However, the way the revenue sharing is conducted, with payments and receipts occurring well after the season ends, the A's see less benefit than if they had the money up front. Receipts are meant to be reinvested in the club, but as we have seen with the Marlins and Twins in recent years, that isn't always the case. To compensate for the drop in revenue, the A's would have to keep payroll low as long as they remained at the Coliseum. It could even drop well below the current $48 million level depending on which players the Billy Beane decides to retain. The $30 million drop in payroll this season, combined with the major drop in attendance, could translate into a $20 million revenue sharing check.

Beyond the day-to-day operations of the club, there still remain several questions:
  • What about Fremont? This is where it gets dicey. Although the area columnists like to say that nothing's a done deal until the A's break ground, it's a lot more complex than that. The A's have invested in nearly $200 million worth of land that, if the ballpark isn't built there, will remain industrially zoned. They could move forward with plans to build up to 4 million square feet of office originally intended for Pacific Commons. They could also go with an alternative that could be mapped out in the EIR: the lifestyle center in Fremont, but surrounded by office/industrial instead of residential. The residential portion of the lifestyle center could stay or go. Fremont gets the lifestyle center but without the ballpark. Pros for Fremont: little infrastructure cost, less environmental and political opposition. Cons: No name recognition, less bang-for-buck appeal, the appearance of having been used as a stepping stone for San Jose. As for the A's, the problem with this is simple: they can't use this plan to finance the ballpark, at least not much of it.
  • Is San Jose ready? No, not even close. They have a certified EIR, which is a big step. But they stopped with land acquisition proceedings and the prices are only going to go up. San Jose would have to sell the portion they've already acquired to the A's, which is good for the city's budget. The A's would be on their own to do the rest. The city's issue would be the renewed political squabbling that an impending deal would cause, especially neighborhood outcry. A lawsuit would seem possible if not altogether likely. The city could also buy the remaining land and lease it to the A's for cheap, similar to what S.F. has done with China Basin for the Giants. That would be harder to accomplish because of limited resources and budget constraints.
  • How much would it cost? Fortunately for the A's, there are a dozen landowners instead of dozens. Still, it'll cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million unless they are leased the land. Added onto that would be cost of the ballpark construction, currently $450 million and rising thanks to inflation and materials costs.
  • How would it be financed? The only thing I can think of right away is development of the eight acres immediately in between the ballpark and the arena. The Sharks have already shown their opposition to a ballpark because it could reduce available parking, especially on nights when both venues are in operation. The A's could combine multi-level parking facilities with residential development there. In the past I projected that they could only get 900 units out of the land because of height restrictions. That land already has a light rail tunnel running underneath it and a future planned BART tunnel, limiting the amount of available below-ground development. Perhaps they could funnel some of the revenues from the scaled down Fremont development if that's approved, but I don't see how the numbers would add up. There may be the possibility of the iStar development, which the A's are using to finance the Quakes' stadium, but I don't know if taking a portion of that will make a big dent either.
It's for those financial reasons immediately above that I still say San Jose's a difficult proposition. In the end, these plans have to pencil out. In Fremont, it's pretty straightforward. My money's still on Fremont to be the future home of the A's, though if that doesn't pan out, it's not hard to see what Plan B could be.

15 May 2008

A Territorial Rights Primer

Today I was looking through my 539 blog posts for something offered a proper treatment of the territorial rights issue. Alas, there was no real explanation. So I'll try to put it in fairly simple terms.

A team's territory can also be considered its sales region. Most national companies that have local branches or a remote sales staff follow a similar construct: they sell and advertise to customers within a defined area or region.

Two types of territorial rights exist, those for siting a stadium and those for broadcasting. The dynamics couldn't be more different. Site placement tends to be determined by placing a stadium in the center of a large, dense population base. Historical matters come into play, as do peripheral factors such as transportation and civic redevelopment plans.

Attendance of a team's games is active, as opposed to broadcasts, which are passive. Regular attendance is primarily limited to those within a fairly tight radius, 18-20 miles from the stadium. However, a team's territory isn't defined by this radius. Instead, it's often defined by specific counties within a team's market.

A team's broadcast territory is usually much larger due to the nature of over-the-air broadcasting. A VHF TV signal can cover at least a 50-mile radius around it. High power, clear channel AM stations (like KNBR) can reach numerous states and hundreds of miles at night. The definition has evolved to include coverage of regional sports networks, which are carried by local cable franchises and direct broadcast satellite.

Most large cities are well separated from other large cities, allowing teams to set up virtual monopolies within their markets. The notable exceptions to this are the two team markets: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington-Baltimore, and the Bay Area. Check out the circa-1999 rules noted by the late Doug Pappas:
  • The Orioles' territory includes Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland
  • The Marlins' major league territory includes Palm Beach County
  • The Dodgers' and Angels' territory includes Orange, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties
  • The Yankees' and Mets' territory includes New York City, plus Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland Counties in New York; Fairfield County south of I-84 and west of SR 58 in Connecticut; and Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union Counties in New Jersey
  • The Athletics' territory includes Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
  • The Phillies' territory includes Gloucester, Camden and Burlington Counties in New Jersey
  • The Giants' territory includes San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin Counties, plus Santa Clara County with respect to another major league team
The rules have changed to reflect the Expos' move to DC. Other than that, they haven't changed at all. Yet one oddity remains in that the A's and Giants have the only market that is split, not shared.

So by that count that gives the Giants seven counties (4.5 million population), while the A's have two (2.5 million population). The most widely circulated explanation for this is the Giants, when they pursued a stadium in Santa Clara or San Jose in the late 80's/early 90's, had no outright claim to Santa Clara County, which was effectively up for grabs. Then owner Bob Lurie asked A's owner Wally Haas for the rights to Santa Clara County. The change was granted by Haas, the commish, and the other owners. Subsequently, both stadium initiatives in the South Bay failed. Lurie held onto Santa Clara County's territorial rights even as he moved his attention to St. Petersburg. The A's were in the midst of a great run of on-field success and record attendance. Santa Clara County's rights couldn't have been further from Wally Haas's mind. The rest is well-chronicled history.

The A's, always the scruffy, overlooked team, have a decidedly adverse stadium and financial situation compared to many of their brethren. Who knew the Silicon Valley, fresh off recession and the closure of numerous defense contractors, would explode the way it did during the dot-com boom? That even after the bust, its economy would stay robust due to the continuing strength of tech stalwarts and the culling of the internet company herd? That it would become this desirable?

Territorial rights typically aren't challenged, well, because there's no need. Since most of the teams are already resident within exclusive markets, there's no competition. Only NYC has the capability to hold another team, and while some teams have considered moving there, such a move has never been a serious threat. When it comes to television, it's been more of a struggle. Potential moves to Portland, San Antonio, and the Carolinas all face challenges due to pre-existing broadcast territories. The explanation for why territorial rights haven't been challenged is quite simple. Challenges haven't been needed. That's the rub. Since they haven't been challenged whether on an individual team basis or on principle, owners haven't wanted to set that precedent. Neither has any commissioner. It strikes at one of the core tenets of baseball's antitrust exemption. It's that kind of thinking that has MLB backing the largest set of lobbyists in pro sports.

In the next post, I'll propose a clean, simple way for the Giants to give Santa Clara County to the A's. Clean and simple? Really? Yes.

Then I'll explain why it probably won't happen.

14 May 2008

Magowan out? + Aramark responds to violations report

Matier and Ross have jumped on special meeting of the Giants' ownership group scheduled for Friday, during which managing partner Peter Magowan is expected to exit stage left. The rumor, originally reported in a rather innocuous matter by former Merc and now Chicago Tribune scribe Mark Gonzales, has many wondering why. Surely the stress of the Bonds situation and the minute possibility of a world championship could have provoked the move.

The real question is: who will replace Magowan? Matier and Ross point to former Apple/Pepsi CEO John Sculley, who will always have a place in my heart for his championing the Newton. Also mentioned is William Neukom, best known as Microsoft's general counsel during their most predatory, anti-competitive days. As high-profile as both men are, it's unlikely that whoever replaces Magowan will be as prominent as the former Safeway head. Such a role is no longer necessary, considering the Giants' future financial security was guaranteed by Magowan's dealing (China Basin and CSNBA). The Giants are a turnkey franchise with a modicum of young talent. No need to pump things up right now. Also, I don't expect them to do anything in regards to territorial rights. They have a massive competitive advantage over the A's right now in the Bay Area market. Any concessions, including a payoff for territorial rights, would border on charity.

I find this interesting:
Some partners privately complained that Magowan's management style was autocratic - and, indeed, it may have contributed to some early powerhouse investors such as Walter Shorenstein, Don Fisher and Charles Schwab eventually pulling out, observers say.
Does John Fisher have the same aversion to autocratic management styles as his father? Makes one wonder how large Fisher's role is within the A's ownership group. Lew Wolff has always presented himself as a genial consensus builder. Another observation: Look at those names above. Those are some big-time heavy hitters that came in to help keep the Giants in S.F.
On the other side of the bay, there's been a dustup over a Condé Nast Portfolio report about health code violations at major league ballparks. The Coliseum, or rather its vendor, Aramark, came in second worst to Angel Stadium, home of the postgame landfill. When asked to comment, the A's passed the buck to Aramark, who responded in a typically corporate manner:

David Freireich, spokesman for the Pennsylvania-based Aramark, confirmed the company received notice of the 493 violations. He said the violations were corrected immediately and he offered the following statement:

"It's our top priority to ensure the food served at McAfee Coliseum is of the highest quality and prepared in the safest environment possible. We take all violations very seriously and take the necessary corrective action to address the issues identified by the health department."

Aramark is an enormous food service company that is no stranger to complaints about their practices. I can only say that I'm glad I normally bring in outside food and tailgate. Though some of that may have been prepared in questionable conditions as well.

12 May 2008

Brisbane: A good 49er alternative

Matier and Ross reported on Saturday some communications between 49ers CFO Larry MacNeil and Brisbane officials. Good idea for the team to hedge their bets considering the expense of the future stadium, even though the city and the team have done a good job weakening the opposition in Santa Clara (the November vote is non-binding, for instance).

Brisbane, for those not from the Bay Area, is a hilly enclave along the bay, just south of San Francisco. The site in question is called Baylands, a 660-acre area sandwiched between U.S. 101 and Bayshore Blvd. (formerly U.S. 101 decades ago). The industrially-zoned land (shaded in red below) is comprised of a large railyard to the west of the Caltrain right-of-way, landfill area to the east of Caltrain, and a tidal lagoon at its south end.

The site has a number of advantages over both Candlestick/Hunters Point and the Santa Clara site. Freeway access is pretty much a no-brainer as it can be served by two exits on Southbound 101 (Candlestick Park and Sierra Point Pkwy.) and three exits on Northbound 101 (Bayshore Blvd., Sierra Point Pkwy., and Candlestick Park). Those using I-280 can cut over using Geneva Ave. The aforementioned Caltrain runs right through the heart of the site and has its Bayshore Station at the north end. Muni's T-Third light rail line also its southern terminus at Sunnydale Ave. Both are just a short walk from the Baylands site. High-speed rail would also run through the site, though there are no plans for a station at the site.

Baylands may well be converted into its intended purpose: a green industry zone. Until then, it's a good idea to have city leaders consider a 49ers stadium there. Obviously, there will be issues involving financing of the stadium and site cleanup, but from a site availability standpoint it's as good an option as the two already under consideration.

08 May 2008

Get a cable sports network for (almost) free

Come 2010 or shortly thereafter, the A's may find themselves in a very good situation, and they won't need to do anything to make it happen.

All of the local (non-NFL) teams other than the Giants are due to have their current agreements with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (formerly FSNBA) expire around the end of the decade. That will put the Sharks, Warriors, and A's in situations that could allow for partnerships or competition. The natural awkwardness of having the Sharks and Warriors on the same network will likely end. Therefore, one will probably stay with CSNBA and one will leave. Where does that leave the A's?

An opportunity may arise that could fit perfectly for the A's. It would be a different channel, one that already exists pretty much everywhere in Northern California. That channel is...

Comcast SportsNet West

What is this channel, you ask? It's the home of the Sacramento Kings. As you can see from the table below, its availability is pretty much on par with CSNBA (except for the Bay Area, where it's on digital cable only).

CSNW's ownership situation is similar to that of CSNBA in that the marquee team (Kings as opposed to Giants) owns a share of the network. It would be easy for the A's to talk to both the Kings and Comcast about carriage on CSNW, which could make for a more comprehensive broadcast rights deal that ensures more games throughout the region. They could even severely limit over-the-air broadcasts (TV36) more than their current deal and move the vast majority of games to CSNW. That would prove beneficial to CSNW since they'd get a greater amount of programming (outside of the Kings' season it's sparse to say the least).

The future of the Kings, unfortunately, is uncertain. While the Maloof brothers have publicly stated that they want to work out a deal in Sacramento and have reportedly been talking privately with Sacramento officials about a new arena deal, it's definitely an uphill battle - especially with a mayor's race this year including former Suns and Cal point guard Kevin Johnson. The Maloofs don't appear to be willing to privately finance much of a new arena, and they didn't support the two 2006 ballot initiatives to publicly finance an arena on the railyards near downtown.

Meanwhile, last August Harrah's and AEG announced a plan to build a 20,000-seat arena just east of the Vegas Strip, behind Paris and Bally's. The arena will be built on-spec, in other words it doesn't have a marquee tenant. AEG and Harrah's say that they should be able to fill up the venue with numerous acts, but they are aiming for either a basketball or hockey team to call it home 41+ times a year starting in 2010. AEG already has another built-on-spec arena under its management, Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Both David Stern and Gary Bettman have been actively working on moving or adding a team to the Las Vegas market. Stern's done a good job putting the Tim Donaghy scandal to bed, and Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman may prefer the NBA over the NHL due to its higher profile (money, ratings). So while the Maloofs say the right things, an arena is going to rise that fits their needs (that they don't have to finance) and allows them to stop using the corporate jet to attend games in Cowtown.

Should the Kings leave for Vegas, they would have to divest themselves of CSNW. Who would be in a great position to step into the Kings' ownership stake? The A's, of course. That would put the A's in the position they've wanted for so long: their own network with few startup costs and no need to jostle for position with the Giants and the other Bay Area teams. They can create further tie-ins with the Rivercats and their broadcasts while fostering growth throughout all of NorCal. And they could create a partnership with or bid for broadcast rights from either the Warriors (who are showing signs of wanting to leave CSNBA) or the Sharks (who could also benefit from some elbow room).

Now I know what you're asking. First, wouldn't the Kings leaving be awful? Of course it would. The team has been the soul of the state capital for over two decades. ARCO Arena is a charming and intimate setting. It's also woefully outdated and was built on the cheap. If Stern and the owners are willing to allow the Sonics to be ripped out of the Seattle community, don't think they won't hesitate to do the same to a city whose team has only been present half as long. Second, what about the A's moving to Sacramento? I've already given plenty of reasons why that won't work, the least of which is: If Sacramento can't figure out a way to share the burden on a new Kings arena, how would they get it done on a larger and more expensive baseball stadium (sorry, expanding Raley Field won't cut it in the long run).

What we have right now is a waiting game. The A's are waiting out the EIR process in Fremont. They're waiting out the end of their CSNBA contract to make a move on their own. The NBA and the Maloofs are waiting out this new arena in Sin City and political dealings in Sacramento to determine the Kings' fate. AEG and Harrah's are waiting out two leagues and various teams to see if one will fill their new arena. None of this can be determined right away. Come 2010, expect to see these parties move quickly.

Update 5/10: Cal Expo and the NBA have announced a plan to build a new arena for the Kings on the Expo Fairgrounds, which would be financed by proceeds coming from the development of the Fairgrounds area. On the surface, the deal appears to be structured similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays are planning with the Tropicana Field site. On May 21, the Expo board will decide whether or not to move forward with the plan. While I like the fact that David Stern, who took over from the Maloofs in negotiating with Cal Expo, timing appears to be rather late considering the state of the economy - and especially the real estate market in Santa Clara. There's plenty of time to figure out how long it will take and the contingencies they can build in. It's definitely a more difficult plan to pull off than Cisco Field and the baseball village, but if there's one person in sports I wouldn't bet against, it's David Stern.

06 May 2008

Props 98 & 99 - Competing Eminent Domain Measures

On June 3, two propositions will be on the ballot. They are Propositions 98 and 99, a pair of competing initiatives. Both claim the same main goal: to ban state and local governments from using eminent domain to acquire land for private uses.

The differences are in "protections." Prop 98 also seeks to phase out rent controls in California. Prop 99 does not, but it also bans only eminent domain seizures of owner-occupied homes, not apartments or rental homes, or other private property. Prop 99 also contains a provision in which it would supersede Prop 98 if both passed but 99 had a greater number of votes. There have been a large number of attacks from both sides. Prop 98 supporters point out that the state's Legislative Analyst says that passage of Prop 99 will have little fiscal impact on state and local governments, which means they'd continue to operate status quo. Prop 99 supporters say that Prop 98 is a sneaky way to include anti-consumer rent control changes into legislation.

Does either proposition accomplish what you think should be done to protect property owners from eminent domain? Read for yourself and decide. For more info on these confusing propositions, check out the following links:
The use of eminent domain has been and always will be controversial. It has been used to create massive redevelopment districts in many cities. Eminent domain has allowed many stadia and arenas to be built, as well as numerous private developments. It was used to acquire land for the Oakland Uptown project, HP Pavilion (née San Jose Arena), and for the new ballparks in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

The campaigns have been overshadowed by national coverage of the Democratic Presidential Primaries, but the issue still resonates. Thankfully, Cisco Field and the baseball village are to be built on land that wasn't acquired via eminent domain, but rather through normal negotiations.

01 May 2008

May Day = FAQ Day

It's only occurred to me recently that I'd do well to have a Frequently Asked Questions file here, considering that this site is now three years (!) old. So without further ado, here's the very unofficial New A's Ballpark FAQ:

1. What is the current state of the ballpark project?
The project is currently undergoing environmental review, which started in December 2007. The process is expected to take 12-18 months. It was thought that the period could be shortened due to portions of a previous EIR (environmental impact report) being available, but that is no longer the case.
When initially conceived, the ballpark was projected to open in 2010. That has slipped twice, with the projected opening in 2012 or later.
2. What is the project called?
The ballpark will be named Cisco Field, after the naming rights sponsor, Cisco Systems. The residential and retail portions of the development are as yet unnamed and are referred to generically as the “baseball village.”
3. What happens after the EIR is completed?
A draft version will be distributed to Fremont’s city council and the public, upon which there will be an official comment period. Changes may be made during this period. A final EIR with public comments will be presented to council for approval/ratification. The council’s vote probably won’t occur before December 2008.
4. Will a public vote be required?
A referendum is not required, nor is it supported by the majority of the current council.
5. How much will the ballpark cost?
Current estimates have construction at $450 million.
6. What’s Fremont paying for the ballpark?
As it stands, nothing. Fremont’s role is to approve land rezoning that the A’s want (industrial-to-residential/commercial) to build 3,000+ homes on land previously owned by Cisco and ProLogis. The increase of property value for the land (225 acres) would mean increased profits from the sales of housing rights. A portion of those profits would be used to pay for the ballpark.
There is some amount of additional infrastructure that needs to be built to support the project: a school, public park(s), possible pedestrian paths, trails, or bridges. It is uncertain what the cost of such facilities will be or who will bear the cost. The cost of building streets, sewers, and running utilities is typically borne by the developer.
Cisco also has a 30-year, $120 million naming rights and technology deal with the A’s for Cisco Field.
7. How big will the ballpark be?
32-35,000 seats, not including standing room. The design calls for only two seating decks, with the press box on top of the second deck, a la PNC Park.
8. What features does the ballpark have?
The ballpark is expected to have all of the modern amenities that other new stadia and arenas have, including luxury suites, club seats, separate concourses, and a large variety of food options. One of the claims made by the A’s is that Cisco Field will be the most intimate ballpark in MLB, which stands to reason because it is so small.
The video/scoreboard in centerfield will be two-sided, which will provide views of the action from a small park just beyond centerfield.
The original project announcement mentioned a baseball museum of some sort, but this hasn’t been mentioned since.
The ballpark’s spec contains 40 luxury suites and 40 mini suites, which four or six-person boxes which are grouped three or so and share a common area behind the seats. Mini suites are being offered as an option for smaller firms or companies who can’t justify leasing a large suite yet want more privacy than a club seating section offers.
9. Who are the architects?
360 Architecture, a Kansas City-based architecture firm that opened an office in San Francisco largely for the Cisco Field project. 360 previously designed several multipurpose indoor arenas. Gensler, a large San Francisco-based firm, is the master planner for the whole development.

10. What is the “baseball village?”
The baseball village is an adjacent, 37-acre lifestyle center with high-end retail, additional restaurants, and 600 condos and lofts, plus additional residential development to the south and west of the ballpark. A movie theater is expected. The list of retailers has not been released, but it is expected to be along similar lines to those located at San Jose’s Santana Row or Palo Alto’s Stanford Shopping Center.
11. How many housing units will be built?
2,900+ units are planned for the residential neighborhood south and west of the ballpark. Most of these units would be townhomes or flats of varying sizes. Expected average price of a unit: $675,000. They are expected to be phased in over a ten-year span.
12. Will it be a gated community?
No, but it will be more private than public. The plan’s pocket parks are expected to be owned by the community, with their maintenance paid for by HOA dues.
13. How is the housing crisis affecting the project?
At least one section of land is may have more flexible zoning than the rest. That’s because more commercial uses may be expected there: office space, an extension to the Auto Mall, other shopping centers, etc.
14. What about the school?
The A’s and Fremont Unified School District are hammering out the details of what will likely be a public elementary school within the residential section. This has proven to be necessary as district officials have projected at least 600 students. To accommodate growth, FUSD is looking for a school that can handle up to 1,000 students with future expansion. The A’s have provided their vision: a compact, multi-level urban school similar to Horace Mann School, located in downtown San Jose.

Transportation/Public Transit
15. Will BART run to the ballpark as it does to the Coliseum?
No. The closest current station is the Fremont station, which is the southern terminus of the system. It is approximately 5 miles from the ballpark site. There is a planned station, Warm Springs, near the NUMMI plant, approximately 1.25 miles east of the ballpark site. Buses or shuttles would have to run from either station to the ballpark.
16. What is the Warm Springs BART extension?
It is a 5.4-mile extension that would run south from the Fremont station to Warm Springs. It was initially part of the BART-to-Santa Clara County extension, but was decoupled due for funding and political reasons. The Warm Springs extension is not expected to be built unless the BART-to-Santa Clara County extension is also built. The latter extension faces a funding shortfall at the moment, and it is not clear how that will be made up.
17. Will other rail options be available?
Amtrak and ACE currently run on the Union Pacific line approximately 1.25 miles west of the ballpark site. There is no current station there, but a station was previously planned and would likely be built should the ballpark project move forward. A tram-style shuttle would bring train riders and fans who park in the planned adjacent parking lot to a drop-off point near the ballpark.
The state’s High Speed Rail project, if approved, would not have Fremont along its initial planned route. A Regional Rail option is possible after the first phase if funding is available. That may allow for a station at Warm Springs, alongside/in place of the planned BART station.
18. Could VTA light rail service the ballpark?
Such a line or extension is not in VTA’s plans.
19. Could a private rail solution be built between Warm Springs BART and the ballpark site?
Cost for such a solution would be at least $100 million not including land acquisition. It’s not likely.


20. How will existing traffic problems be affected by the ballpark?
On days the ballpark is used, expect up to 10,000 cars in addition to the expected new traffic generated by the retail and residential developments. Those cars would be coming from four different freeway segments and Fremont/Newark surface streets. The most heavily impact segments would be northbound 880 and 680 leading up to the ballpark. Southbound 880 and 680 near the ballpark are not heavily impacted in the weeknight rush hour period. A percentage of fans may also come from the Peninsula over the Dumbarton Bridge. They would be dealing with commute traffic as well.
Considering the wide geographical spread of A’s fans, it’s safe to assume traffic will be spread fairly evenly among the freeway segments, with the less congested southbound 880 getting the most. The traffic/transportation study hasn’t been released, but it’s reasonable to roughly project the following:
880 South: 3,500 cars (may include some Dumbarton traffic)
680 South: 2,500
880 North: 2,500
680 North: 500
Fremont/Newark/Milpitas surface streets: 1,000 (may include some Dumbarton traffic)
Note that these would be peak figures (sellouts), and would drop proportionally with actual attendance at the ballpark.
21. What’s being done to improve 880?
A series of interchange improvements were done in the last decade or so in South Fremont in order to help area manufacturing and warehousing/distribution companies. The last piece of this is the Mission/880 interchange, which is expected to be completed in 2009. Previously, all north and southbound traffic ran into this bottleneck, which only had three lanes in each direction and no carpool lanes. When completed, the interchange will have better separated traffic from 880 to Mission/680, plus a continuous carpool lane down to Milpitas and up through San Leandro. Additionally, traffic from one side of 880 to the other will be better managed by the addition of the new Warren Avenue exit/interchange. Previously, traffic from west of 880 had to mix with commute traffic get to the area east of 880. Lastly, the new Kato Road bridge was built to better route truck traffic bound for NUMMI.
22. That won’t completely alleviate congestion, will it?
No it won’t, but A’s fans traveling in groups will find things easier with the fully extended carpool lanes. The commute nightmare is also largely a one-way affair for those on 880 and 680 north headed towards the Tri-Valley area and exurbs Tracy and Stockton.
23. What about those coming from north of 92?
Work on the biggest bottleneck, the 880/92 interchange, has begun. The project will replace two of the “cloverleaf” sections (92 West-880 South and 92 East-880 North) with flyover ramps. When completed, the interchange’s capacity will be much greater, easing the transition for affected drivers. The interchange is expected to be finished in late 2011. Unfortunately, carpool lanes aren’t expected to be built through Oakland anytime soon as 880 in the area needs seismic retrofitting and widening before carpool lanes can be built.
24. What about surface streets?
Fremont doesn’t have a typical straight grid layout among its north-south corridors. Fremont Blvd and Paseo Padre Pkwy are four-to-six lane drags that are meant to handle city traffic. Auto Mall Pkwy, the main exit near the ballpark site, was widened as part of the 880 interchange projects. It may be widened again if it’s chosen as a carpool alternate route between 880 and 680. Mowry Avenue east of 880 just got a new long lasting asphalt overlay, while Stevenson Boulevard was widened to six lanes. Boyce Road (Fremont)/Cherry Street (Newark), which together are used as an alternate route to/from the Dumbarton (84), is a four-lane road that is meant largely for industrial traffic. Cushing Pkwy, which is Boyce Road south of Auto Mall, was extended over the newly created wetlands preserve as part of the previous development agreement between ProLogis and the government. Cushing runs south to Fremont Blvd and empties into 880 south. Fremont Blvd will be extended from its southern dead end to Warm Springs Blvd and the county line, providing a complete alternate route west of 880.
Mowry, Stevenson, and Fremont will be taxed as a result of shuttles running between Fremont BART and the ballpark site. What is unknown is exactly how many shuttles will be in service pre/post-game.
25. Will there be enough parking?
The A’s project at least 10,000 spaces when the ballpark opens and have pledged to replenish spaces lost due to other construction. This will likely be part of agreement between the team and the city. An additional 10,000 spaces will be constructed for residential and non-baseball commercial use. In addition, the team will encourage fans to come early by offering validation in conjunction with patronage at one of the village’s restaurants, which would mean parking in non-ballpark spots.
In addition, spaces at other nearby office parks may be available at each company’s discretion. It is unknown how much of this parking may become available. The A's, ProLogis, and tenants at retail and office developments are working on a gameday parking plan that preserves each group's respective parking areas.
The Coliseum’s 10,000-space lot handles A’s crowds well, although up to 20% of fans may use BART and several hundred cars park at the Coliseum BART lot during games.

Environmental Concerns
26. What is the wetlands preserve?
As part of the deal to develop over 800 acres of land at Pacific Commons in Fremont, Catellus (once the real estate arm of Southern Pacific) agreed to create a new, 440-acre wetlands preserve at the south end. To foster its growth, a large amount of earth was moved from the preserve section to the commercially developed portions. The moved earth elevated the Auto Mall and nearby business district, while the preserve was intentionally created lower to make it prone to tidal flows. The aforementioned Cushing Pkwy was extended in the form of a causeway to encourage tidal flow.
The preserve appears to be thriving. Migratory and native birds are present, as are rare plants. The tidal flow system is working as intended. As part of the EIR, long term effects of the preserve’s creation will be measured and compared against initially projected effects. From this, a strategy will be created that will help preserve the wetlands. Opponents including the Sierra Club have come out against the Cisco Field project, saying that residential development next to the preserve will irreparably damage the wetlands.
27. I heard the ballpark site is in an area that is prone to future rising sea levels due to global warming/climate change. Is this true?
No. The site is very close to a large estuary within the bay and flood control channels, which could make it prone to flooding if exceedingly heavy rains are combined with rising sea level. However, the predictive model assumes a uniform one meter rise all over the world, when it is more likely that there will be a greater rise at the equator and less rise as one gets further away from the equator. The ballpark is at least 1 mile away from the projected shoreline created by the sea level rise.

Economic Impact
28. How much will the ballpark improve the A’s financial situation?
Depending on how well the ballpark sells out, I’ve conservatively projected they could net an extra $24 million per year in revenue over their current situation at the Coliseum. A recent article on the new Twins’ ballpark has a comment from a Twins official indicating that the team will gain $40 million per year once their stadium opens.
29. Will the financial boost allow the team to compete with the Red Sox or Yankees?
Not by itself. The big market teams have huge amounts of TV and radio revenue along with their revenue-producing ballparks. Unless the A’s were to move towards buying or building their own media properties, there will continue to be a major disparity in revenue between the big market teams and everyone else.
30. Will the project be as beneficial for the city/county as is being claimed by its proponents?
Claims of economic benefit have to be taken with several grains of salt. Let’s be clear. The party that clearly wins in this type of deal is the team. They get a brand new stadium without having to use much of their stadium-generated revenue to pay for it. The city wins because it doesn’t have to raise or levy new taxes in order to get it done, plus it gets a fancy new source of sales tax revenue in the process plus the prestige that comes with having a team call it home. That said it removes a major piece of valuable industrial-zoned land from availability within Silicon Valley. It also adds residents and visitors, which adds strain to an already stretched-thin city.
Jobs will come most immediately in the form of concrete construction and are not permanent. 300 housing starts a year will be a boon for homebuilders. After construction is completed, there will be a number of retail and hospitality jobs, plus stadium operations and concessions. Many of the ballpark-based, non-construction jobs will be low paying. The situation there will be close to zero sum, since those job will simply be moving from Oakland to Fremont. A number of public sector jobs – police, fire – will be added due to the development’s impact on existing city resources.


31. Has the team released any documentation about the plan?
They’ve released an economic impact report and the preliminary site plan. A traffic and transportation study will be released as part of the EIR.
32. How long is the A’s lease at McAfee Coliseum?
In 2006, the A’s and the Coliseum Authority converted three option years (2008-10) into a hard lease, adding 2011-13 as option years. The Raiders' lease ends with the 2010 season.
33. What kind(s) of architecture will be featured?
The A's have made frequent reference to older East Coast neighborhoods, especially those with brownstones. They have not released information or pictures about the ballpark's façade, though it is likely the façade will be well-integrated into the neighborhood's overall theme. One particular type of exterior material is not expected to be used: stucco.
34. What will be the team's name after the move?
The A's have held this close to the vest, only saying that the team will be the "_____ Athletics at Fremont" or something to that effect. Principal owner Lew Wolff has hinted that the name in front of "Athletics" may be leveraged for additional investment. Considering the amount of Silicon Valley power and money behind this, it's not a great leap in logic to think the team may eventually be named "Silicon Valley Athletics at Fremont."