19 July 2008

Bobb is back! - sort of

Say what you will about former Oakland City Administrator Robert Bobb, but he sure knows how to keep himself busy. Bobb was hired back by Oakland on a three-month consulting gig. The task? To identify where Bobb's successor, now ex-City Admin Deborah Edgerly, fudged the budget. Bobb and the consulting firm he represents will get a cool $150k for the effort.

Bobb also officially wears another hat, that of President of the DC Board of Education. It's a good way to keep his profile in the District high without burdening him with a ton of responsibility.

Now for the good/bad news. Bobb has yet one more job, one that could shape his political and financial future. He's now turned into a developer - of ballparks, no less! Could this mean a ballpark in Oakland? Not quite. He's focused his attention on a different former stomping ground, Richmond, VA (not CA). Sounds like he's literally turning his success with the Nationals Park deal into capital. That's not all. The article notes that he may have designs on Richmond's mayoral job, after longtime friend Douglas Wilder (who had a stint as Virginia governor) retires.

A little background on Richmond is in order. Richmond has been the longtime home of the Braves' AAA squad since 1966, which places the team in the city longer than the A's have been in Oakland. Last year the Braves decided to move the team closer to home in Gwinnett County, GA, so they could have easier access to those prospects (the A's moved their AAA team to Sacramento in a similar move). A large factor in the decision was also the futility in which the Braves and Richmond have tried to get a new ballpark deal in place.

Bobb's development group, Robert Bobb Group LLC, is one of several firms competing for the development deal. Bobb's plan looks like this:
The group would build in its place a multi-pronged sports and retail complex, called “The Arthur Ashe Learning and Sports Megaplex,” which includes:

• A 200,000-square-foot Arthur Ashe Center featuring a 200-meter indoor track, an indoor soccer field, a 50-meter swimming pool and a 30-foot climbing wall, among other amenities.

• An 8,000-seat minor-league ballpark and adjacent 19,000-square-foot baseball training facility.

• A 6,500-seat basketball arena that would become the new home of Virginia Union University’s basketball team.

• A 60,000-square-foot tennis center for Virginia Commonwealth University, along with several outdoor courts and a 10,000-square-foot sports medicine center.

In addition to the sports facilities, Bobb’s group also proposes building a 200-bed hotel and retail shops totaling 373,700 square feet. In his proposal to the city, Bobb also claims to have a “letter of interest” from a big box retailer for a 200,000-square-foot store on the site.
The still-TBD new baseball tenant would likely be a AA club, as there are no AAA teams looking to move at this time (except perhaps Nashville, whose future stadium situation is uncertain).

Bobb appears to be building, in essence, a sports village. It's not known how much public assistance will be required for the project, but rest assured Bobb wouldn't be involved unless there were some sizable public funds at stake. That's his specialty.

As for Oakland? Well, I suppose that Bobb could, in his peek into Oakland's broken finances, throw in a well-timed quip about how all of the city's fiscal waste could've helped pay for a ballpark. Would he take over the city's temporarily-filled head bureaucrat position? Who knows? I think he sees his political future in Richmond, not Oakland. Still, this three-month gig definitely allows him to dip a toe in the local waters again.


Zonis said...

I've been to the Ballpark in Richmond on a baseball vacation.

Its a shithole.

The Coliseum is much better compared to MLB Parks than Richmond is to Minor League parks.