26 November 2009

And now for something new

Many of you provided lots of healthy feedback when the blog underwent a reskinning several months ago. Despite the excellent response, I've felt that the Blogger platform was somehow holding the site back. The Thanksgiving weekend seemed like an good time to make another move, and so I'm moving the blog to the WordPress platform. In addition, I finally got a proper domain. The new site is It's live and it looks slightly different, but just about everything's there. I've added a discussion forum (under construction) so it'll be easier to have discussions away from the regular posts. I'll also add photo galleries and other types of content in the coming months. won't be in some extended beta period. It's where I'll be posting from now on, so update your bookmarks and favorites and get the word out. The old site will stay up indefinitely, but there won't be any new posts and I will be closing out comments on existing posts in short order. Of course, feedback is always welcome, and I appreciate all of the kind words and encouragement you have sent over the years.

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend,

- ML

25 November 2009

More media reaction

Joe Stiglich has a follow-up from yesterday's article, consisting of a sitdown with Lew Wolff. Wolff still puts out the 32,000 ballpark capacity (though I have heard otherwise). He refutes much of the criticism he has received:
"It isn't like, if we had a winning team, we would have had double the attendance," Wolff said. "If you trace it back for a long time, we're in a market that's difficult to tap. We're close to the Giants, who have a beautiful ballpark. I don't think the fact that we traded some guys "... When you look back at what we sent out, I think the balance sheet is in our favor, thanks to Billy and his guys."
Whether you buy into that line of thinking depends on your "worldview."

Gary Peterson wants an answer from the ever indecisive Bud Selig, and tries to break down the three possible outcomes.

Last but not least, Zennie Abraham never fails to pimp his software/bona fides every chance he gets, especially at his SFGate blog.

24 November 2009

San Francisco Magazine article on Wolff/Fisher

The media blitz has begun. The Trib's Joe Stiglich references a feature piece in the December issue of San Francisco Magazine (not online). In it, writer Steve Kettmann, a San Jose native who spent a few years as the A's beat writer, gets the clearest statements yet from Wolff and more surprisingly, "silent" partner John Fisher. One of the Fisher quotes takes another prominent sports media personality to task:
Fisher and Wolff are a generation apart, but Fisher told me that he considers Wolff "a tremendous partner and friend, who, while he values my input, is the final decision-maker and has been from the beginning-despite what [Chronicle columnist] Ray Ratto may write.
Later, Wolff describes how he came to be involved with (and later own) the A's:
So 40-plus years later, during the 2002 World Series, (Selig) tracked down Wolff in Paris and asked him to one of the Giants-Angels games. To get there, Wolff enjoyed the first of many police-escorted trips with the commissioner. They traveled from the Mark Hopkins Hotel to PacBell Park. Then, during the game, Selig asked Wolff if he had any interest in talking to the A's owners, Hofmann and Schott.

"Lewie, would you be interested in buying the interest of one of the partners in the A's?" Selig asked.

"I thought my role, if I bought in, might be to work on the venue and have a little fun," Wolff told me.

Soon enough, while investigating the idea, Wolff got a call from John Fisher, with whom he had been a co-investor in hotels such as the Carlyle in New York, the San Jose Fairmont, and the San Francisco Fairmont. Fisher and his father had been part owners of the Giants before largely dropping out in 1995, so Wolff asked about the idea of crossing the bay to buy out the A's owners. "I think it was around $180 million for all of it, which required about $100 million in cash," Wolff told me. That was too rich for Wolff's blood, so "I said to John, 'I'll just take a small piece, and I'll run it. Whatever you want.' So John called back and said, 'If you'll buy 10 percent now and commit to buying another 15 percent, I'll join you.'

"I said, 'You know, once you ask someone to run a team, they can't be removed easily, unless I kill someone or something. So are you sure?' And John said, 'Oh yeah, we've known you a long time.' "

Wolff told me he now has $15 million invested. "This is a significant investment for me, and it's not chump change. I think my ownership position is as large as Peter Magowan's was in the Giants."
While it may seem like the backstory is the focus of the article, it is just backstory. Still, I put it out there for emphasis. The idea that the ownership situation was ever in flux since the Wolff/Fisher group took control was and is patently absurd. The real thrust of the piece is San Jose, San Jose, San Jose. And no, the fact that it's in San Francisco magazine is not accidental.

There's a lot more, including a sadly humorous anecdote about the Coliseum from Billy Beane and Sandy Alderson commenting on territorial rights. It's definitely a worthwhile read, so head out to your local newsstand/bookstore/library to check it out.

River Cats owner Art Savage dies

Yesterday, the Sacramento Bee reported that River Cats owner Art Savage, who successfully brought pro baseball back to Sactown after a long absence, suddenly died over the weekend. Savage, who was a non-smoker who had successfully fought off lung cancer, was consistently hailed throughout the Central Valley and the baseball world for running the River Cats so well and for providing an excellent product year-in, year-out. The comments to the article bear this out, as there is nary a bad word in Savage's memory. The article traces his life, from college at Texas Tech to tax accountant to CEO of the Sharks and then the move to get the River Cats started.

In his stint in San Jose, Savage befriended many of the political players who are now aiming to bring the A's to San Jose, including Lew Wolff. Savage, who was 58, will apparently leave the team to this sons.

23 November 2009

San Jose puts out the word on new EIR

Just got this from the City of San Jose:
In February 2007, the City certified an EIR for the Baseball Stadium in the Diridon/Arena Area Project (2006 Stadium Proposal), which included a maximum seating capacity of 45,000 and a maximum height of 165 feet, with scoreboards up to approximately 200 feet and lights approximately 235 feet above finished grade. However, due to an error in the traffic data that were used in the previous traffic study for the 2006 Stadium Proposal the City has determined that it is necessary to update the traffic analysis for the modified project using corrected traffic data to disclose a new significant impact to freeways. In early 2009, the City began exploring the development of a modified stadium project. Key components of the modified project proposal that differ from the 2006 Stadium Proposal include: a smaller maximum seating capacity of 36,000; relocation of the parking structure; an option to reposition the stadium to the south; and the realignment of South Autumn Street and South Montgomery Street near their intersection with Park Avenue.
Obviously, people will quickly pick up on the new figure of 36,000. I don't know where it comes from exactly, but it probably works when gauging impacts since it's exactly 20% less capacity than before. Beyond that, the repositioning of the stadium looks interesting since we've discussed that here many times before. It's good to have options.

The Notice of Preparation has a few other gems, including the potential acquisition of other sites outside the known ballpark footprint. If the ballpark is repositioned to the south, it would be pushed to the southern edge of the property while Park Avenue would be narrowed from four to two lanes (this stretch is the only one in the immediate area where it is four lanes wide). The PG&E substation could remain intact or be reconfigured, though the former would be a really tight squeeze.

A scoping meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 16 at the usual bat-time/bat-channel.

Update 3:11 p.m.: 36,000 is not merely an estimate for EIR study purposes. It's quite possibly the new ballpark capacity. Rejoice!

20 November 2009

WNBA Monarchs fold, could be headed to Oakland

After a 12-year run as a charter franchise in the WNBA, the Maloof family suddenly closed up shop with the Sacramento Monarchs, citing financial concerns. This leaves the WNBA at least temporarily with 12 teams, and the Maloofs with one less loose end should they try to bolt from Sactown. At least one player learned of the team's ignominious fate via Twitter.

That doesn't mean that women's pro hoops are leaving the NorCal market. Apparently, Oakland city council member Rebecca Kaplan has been pushing hard to get a WNBA team at the Coliseum, and the exit of the Monarchs may provide such an opening. Similar talk has existed in the past regarding San Jose, but SVSE head honcho Greg Jamison denied any discussions. The Bay Area has been a great market for women's hoops in the past, but the lack of a WNBA franchise always seemed puzzling. Was it the NBA exacting penance for San Jose having the Lasers? Or was Chris Cohan simply disinterested in sponsoring a WNBA franchise? Whatever the case, it would be great to have a new team in Oakland to tap into the fanbase and help pay for rent at Oracle Arena to boot.

19 November 2009

A's sign 10-year deal with KTRB

In what can only be described as a major bid for stability, the A's extended their deal with upstart AM sports station KTRB through 2019. We've been crying out for some semblance of consistency since the KSFO days, so it's nice to know that we're getting it. The long-term deal should also propel KTRB towards broadcasting truly local shows, not just the pre/postgame sandwich. As I understand it, KTRB has been operating without a Bay Area studio, choosing instead to rent out other facilities as needs arise. This should get them going on a proper SF or Oakland studio with real local "talent." I'm happy.

However, not everything's wine and roses. Listeners in the Berkeley/Oakland hills were left feeling neglected, as KTRB's signal was noticeably poor throughout last season, day or night. When we last left off, KTRB was pursuing a second broadcast site in Sonoma County. Things have changed, and it's hard to say if it's for the better.

The FCC granted a new Class B transmitter construction permit to KTRB in July. As is often the case with radio stations, there's more than one transmitter location. In fact, there are three. All three won't be used at the same time, instead they'll be time-based. The nighttime transmitter location will remain at the current site near Sunol/Livermore, with no change in orientation. During the day, the transmitter will be at the eastern foot of the San Mateo Bridge. Then there's the "critical hours" phase, better known as dawn and dusk. During that period - two hours after sunrise and two before sunset - stations are often required to reduce power. In this case, that means dropping from 50,000 to 40,000 watts. That could have negative effects on A's broadcasts, since most weeknight games will have at least a portion of the game broadcast during critical hours. That's not the only critical hours change, as the transmitter in the application for that timeframe is not at either of the aforementioned sites. Instead, the critical hours transmitter is slated to be placed just west of Bethel Island. At this point, it's impossible to say if this will result in an improvement for the people of the Berkeley/Oakland hills. I'm crossing my fingers.

Note: I've looked further into the critical hours situation. The FCC defines sunrise and sunset on a monthly basis. Here's how they define sunset going forward:
Local Standard Time (Non-Advanced)
April - 6:45 PM
May - 7:15 PM
June - 7:30 PM
July - 7:30 PM
August - 7:00 PM
September - 6:15 PM
October - 5:30 PM
I'm not sure how Daylight Savings Time factors in.

18 November 2009

Raiders re-up at Coliseum through 2013

The Raiders' quarterback situation may be in flux, but their home for the next three seasons isn't. Officials from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority and the team jointly announced an extension of the Raiders' lease through 2013, which puts the team in line to leave for newer digs at the same time as the A's, wherever those digs are.

Most interesting about the announcement is the unified front being displayed by the Authority. County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who was front-and-center in the public effort to bring the A's to Fremont. Haggerty rejoined the Authority's board recently after a few years off it. It'll take all of Alameda County's political will to put together a good, responsible deal for the Raiders, and that means having power brokers from the northern and southern ends of the county. With Oakland officials perhaps focused elsewhere in their efforts to retain the A's (OFD Training site, anyone?), it's a baby step forward - albeit a major baby step.

17 November 2009

SVSE negotiating with A's over Diridon

December's Forbes magazine has a feature piece on the Sharks and Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the umbrella organization that owns the team and runs HP Pavilion. The magazine praises SVSE for keeping debt manageable while expanding its holdings, making the company not beholden to a single income source.
Of SVSE's revenue of $155 million, NHL hockey brings in $84 million. The rest comes from things like a chain of ice rinks, three professional tennis tournaments, a mixed martial arts circuit and an apparel company. Last year the team's hockey operations lost $5 million, but the profits from the other businesses cut that loss to an estimated $2 million. Gregory Jamison, a Sharks co-owner who's in charge of day-to-day operations, sees the combined businesses turning a profit in two to three years.
Much has been made over the NHL's floundering expansion ventures in the Sun Belt, especially the efforts in Phoenix, Atlanta, and the state of Florida. The Sharks/SVSE have defied the Sun Belt pattern of attendance and cash flow problems, partly by controlling its own venue. It has also stayed out of the scandal-ridden front pages, something that can't be said for ownership in Anaheim, Phoenix, and Nashville.

The article also touches briefly on SVSE's other major sports dealings:
The Sharks' owners have been pursuing a National Basketball Association franchise for years, too. San Jose Mayor Chuck R. Reed tells FORBES that the arena lease will be amended this month to outline contingencies in case their efforts are successful. The group is also in discussions with the owners of baseball's Oakland A's to find common ground on a proposed ballpark in the area and to possibly buy into their Major League Soccer team, the San Jose Earthquakes. Even without these acquisitions SVSE officials expect the nonhockey side of the business to surpass the hockey side next year.
In the past I described the "common ground" as a deal to run an A's ballpark, creating a monopoly position for SVSE with regards to large venues in the South Bay. Considering how tight many of the SVSE players and members of A's ownership have been historically, the next logical step may be for the A's to sell a minority position to SVSE, say 10-20%. Such a deal could be consummated fairly easily and would make sense in the long run, since there's a precedent given that venue monster AEG operates in a similar fashion. For now, the discussions are probably more about how to figure out parking and develop the six blocks between the ballpark site and the arena, but it's not a stretch to think that the talks may be even deeper. It's a far cry from when the original ballpark EIR came out in 2006. At the time, the Sharks expressed disapproval over the concept due to parking concerns. Now that the team is no longer "hypothetical" and includes political and business friends, SVSE is looking for ways to take advantage of the situation.

All of this can be summed up in three simple words: Follow the money.

12 November 2009

Got eight figures lying around?

Today you may have the unique opportunity to buy a piece of history. Whether you're local or of a national bent, the opportunities await you - though you may have less than two hours to take advantage.

I've been following the saga of the Fox Theatre in Redwood City (not Oakland's Fox Theater) for a few months. A pair of real estate developers, John Anagnostou and Mike Monte, bought the 1400-seat Gothic Revival moviehouse and thoroughly renovated it, turning the place into an excellent live music venue. They also created a smaller 200-seat bar/cabaret within the same complex called the Little Fox. Rumors that Redwood City would buy the theatre were largely squashed as city officials indicated that budget woes would make such a purchase imprudent. Fox Theatre has additional office space and retail spaces along its Broadway frontage, making it a multifaceted venue. According to assessors, the place is worth $2.35 million, but the current owners took on a ton of debt to renovate it. While media reports don't have an exact figure, the total debt is said to be $10 million to multiple creditors. That amount has probably caused interested parties to balk at a purchase. A twice-delayed foreclosure auction is supposed to happen today, though it could be delayed again as the developers continue to try to work out some kind of refinancing plan with their creditors.

If your horizons aren't limited to the Bay Area or the Peninsula, you might want to set your sights on Pontiac, Michigan. The once-impressive Silverdome is also up for auction, with the city trying to fetch at least $13.2 million for the 80,000-seat indoor stadium. Once home to both for the Lions and Pistons, the Silverdome has also hosted several major events, including NCAA hoops regionals (though not the Final Four). The City of Pontiac wants the $1.5 million per year maintenance bill albatross off its back, and it's hoping that some smart developer will figure out a way to spur growth in the area. One unusual idea by an area citizen would turn the dome into a massive youth sports facility. The dome currently has no tenants. City police have been investigating thefts inside the stadium.

Update: The Fox Theatre auction was delayed yet again.
Update 2 (11/17): The Silverdome was sold for $583,000. No, I am not missing zeroes on that figure. The median home price of a home in San Jose is $566,000, in Alameda County it's $357,000, and in San Francisco it's $662,000.

05 November 2009

West Oakland murmurs

I'll start off with a brief chunk from Chip Johnson's Tuesday column.
And even though she is among the first 200 residents to live at Central Station, mere rumors about A's owner Lew Wolff sniffing around Middle Harbor for a new ballpark site have her already concerned about growth.
Area residents don't need me to point out where Middle Harbor is. For those who aren't familiar, it's the westernmost end of West Oakland. Geographically it's situated between the Bay Bridge to the north and the old Alameda Naval Air Station to the south.

I'm curious to see if a ballpark proposal has Middle Harbor as the site. Ever since the military closed up shop there, a combination of business (port expansion) and environmental efforts (wetlands regeneration) has been the ongoing concern. It's hard to say where a ballpark could go or what a plan would entail. West Oakland BART is over a mile 2 miles away and around Middle Harbor the train line descends before becoming the Transbay Tube, making a new station a tall order. And there's the worry that the area is in Nancy Nadel's district, and she's well known for not putting the A's anywhere on her priority list.

Still, I'd like to see if there's anything to this, if for no other reason than to see what opportunities are out there.

03 November 2009

As the ball turns

I encourage all of you to head on over to Dodger Divorce, a new blog run by Joshua Fisher dedicated to the messy financial status of the LA Dodgers. It's not salacious. Instead, it gives incredible insight into how a particular ownership group assumed control of one of the major name brand franchises in MLB, and how the whole thing isn't going to end well.

When the McCourts acquired the Dodgers in 2003, much was made about how Frank McCourt wasn't a big-money billionaire, derisively called the "parking lot attendant." The heavy leveraging used to acquire the team would've been fine as long as the family remained status quo. Unfortunately for Mr. McCourt (and John Moores), even the best laid plans go to waste.

31 October 2009

Owner vs. Pwner

The Merc's Tracy Seipel profiled the owners of the Bay Area's two MLB franchises, noting their differing personalities and careers. For the sake of brevity, I'll get down to nitty gritty:
Asked to characterize his negotiating style, he said, "I believe the best outcome is when everybody wins a little bit of something."
But some wonder whether Wolff, at 73, will have the endurance to find yet another location for the team if he can't move to San Jose.
"He's spent a lot of time and money in Fremont and time in Oakland" looking for a stadium site, noted one person who has worked with Wolff. "He's got to be thinking, 'How long do I have to wait for this?'"
Both Wolff and Neukom may know more in a few weeks when they attend an MLB owners' meeting in Chicago. League officials said it's unknown whether the territorial topic will be on the meeting's agenda.
But there is no rule against deal-making during breaks — or afterward. Both men say they're not lobbying their fellow owners.
It's been known for some time that Bill Neukom has made his name as an adversarial figure at times, while people who have met and dealt with Lew Wolff frequently mention how affable he is. Do those contrasting styles mean anything in the long run? Probably not. If there's an overarching principle that guides the owners and Bud Selig, it's "follow the money." Whatever the numbers say will dictate how this whole thing turns out.

Speaking of turning out, I've been told that the A's/Quakes are now members of the powerhouse Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Sure enough, they are. Then again, so are the San Jose Giants.

A new pro-move site has been launched called Pro Baseball for San Jose.

Finally, an update from Thursday's Good Neighbor Meeting. It was a healthy discussion of traffic, mostly pertaining to the ballpark use. Talk of specific numbers was impossible because of the botched traffic projections identified earlier. Many committee members were concerned about the City's arena parking permit program, which could be expanded once a ballpark was built. It isn't so much the on street protection, which was welcomed, it was the cost associated with obtaining a permit. They felt that affected residents shouldn't bear any of the cost to implement or maintain the program, which is fair. If anything, revenue from parking tickets should cover the entire cost. Some residents are able to get free permits at this time. The committee also accepted a "Framework for Implementation," a set of guidelines that govern how the committee arrives at a consensus on individual discussion topics and carries them forward to the City Council.

27 October 2009

SJ ballpark EIR to slip to January

Over at the SJ/SV Business Journal, Katherine Conrad reports that flawed traffic projections in the original 2006 environmental impact report will force a revisiting of that subject. Key to this is traffic on the stretch of 280 between 10th/11th streets and Guadalupe Pkwy (CA-87), an area that frequently sees congestion on Sharks game nights.
Dennis Korabiak, the city’s program manager for transportation, said the city had planned to release an addendum to the 2006 environmental report on the stadium in November. Now, however, the city must do a “focused” report using the new and correct information. The size of the stadium being considered now is considerably smaller — 32,000 seats compared to the earlier 45,000 seats — which could could mean a wash in terms of the potential difference between the flawed traffic impact estimate and what a new report will show.
The original EIR had its critics, chiefly Marc Morris of the Shasta/Hanchett Neighborhood Association. Morris felt the methodology was flawed and didn't include a large enough survey around the site, especially of surface streets. Given that 280 is the main artery downtown and especially for fans coming from outside San Jose, the best practice might be to capture data from 101/680 all the way to 880/Valley Fair, plus data from W San Carlos, Park, and Julian.

I'm curious to hear what the other traffic critic, HP Pavilion management, thinks of this. They've been rather silent so far.

Revising the report will mean it won't be released until January. That means two things. First, don't expect much news emanating from San Jose until then. Second, ballpark news on this site might be originating from Oakland.

FWIW, I'm trying to make the next Good Neighbor meeting on Thursday, in part to see how much coverage this issue gets.

22 October 2009

LA stadium bill passes, your move teams

The barn door is officially open. Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB X3 81 today, allowing Ed Roski's stadium project to sidestep environmental laws by negating a citizen-initiated legal challenge. While the process is often tedious and wasteful, the idea of legislating a legal maneuver for a single, entirely local project doesn't sit well with me. It's emblematic of what's wrong with the state.

Majestic Realty veep John Semcken has been making the rounds with numerous media outlets in the leadup to bill passage. In doing so, he's revealed bits and pieces of Roski's demands for what a team needs to provide in order to move to the Industry stadium.

During an interview with ESPN 710 (mp3) in LA, Semcken noted that Roski would be okay with 40% of the team and non-controlling interest, which was surprising to me. Roski currently owns minority, non-controlling shares of both the Kings and Lakers, and he built Staples Center. You could infer the successful precedent as saying that he's comfortable with a particular business model, and he's fine with duplicating it. But like any incredibly rich man, Roski must have an ego. So you'd figure he'd be interested in a controlling interest in the crown jewel franchise. That he apparently doesn't is a sign of his willingness to get 'er done. It could also be interpreted as an unwillingness to put up a ton of cash for a team.

Other tidbits from the interview (which I haven't noticed in the regular media coverage):
  • A team's move to LA is being pitched as an overall revenue generator for the league, much like an A's move from Oakland to San Jose. Supposedly, this new revenue would more than offset a TV revenue loss. The NFL has spent $14 million "studying" SoCal.
  • Six teams are on the potential candidate list: Jaguars, Bills, Rams, Vikings, Chargers, and Raiders. The 49ers are off the list for the time being because they're going through the development process in Santa Clara. Only the Rams are outwardly for sale, as most of you who follow this stuff closely already know.
  • The stadium will have two home locker rooms and two visitor locker rooms. Just in case.
Should one of the non-California teams move, it could set in motion an odd set of realignment moves which will probably make several owners unhappy.
  • Jaguars: Strangely, this might create little upheaval. The Jags could conceivably stay in the AFC South while the AFC West stays intact. They'd be the only team in their division on the West Coast, but at least none of their rivals would be on the East Coast (I won't get into Indiana's completely schizophrenic time zone mess). Kansas City and the Jags could switch places as an alternative.
  • Bills: This would probably create some kind of domino effect in which multiple teams moved to different divisions. It would make the most sense for the Bills to move to the AFC West, pushing the Chiefs to the AFC South. Indianapolis, which is north of AFC North team Cincinnati, would join them in the division. The Jags would join Florida big brother Miami in the AFC East.
  • Rams: Easily the most frictionless option. The Rams already have history in LA and they have spent their entire post-merger existence in the NFC West.
  • Vikings: Moving the Vikes out of what Chris Berman affectionately calls the "NFC Norris Division" seems downright blasphemous. Could they stay there? I suppose so, since Tampa Bay was long the long distance, warm weather outsider in the old NFC Central for over two decades. It would make more sense to move the Vikes to the NFC West and the Rams to the NFC North, however.
As for the Chargers and Raiders, they've been written about plenty already. Let the mating dance begin.

20 October 2009

If a Redwood falls in the forest...

Reader Mike Headley (a.k.a. LoneStranger) was one of the privileged 6,341 to see the inaugural home game for the UFL's California Redwoods franchise at AT&T Park. Below are his observations of the experience and my feedback (in italics). Enjoy.
Hey ML,

I went to the California Redwoods vs NY Sentinels UFL game at AT&T Park on Saturday, so I was doing a little reading up on the four teams. I noticed that the Florida Tuskers were owned by the Tampa Bay Rays. Could this be a way for them to get more muscle behind their new stadium plans? It would give them more guaranteed home dates, though admittedly just four-six more. The other issue this would bring up, if they do intend the Tuskers to play in the new stadium, is how that would change the design of the stadium. I find it a little weird that a baseball team would want to build a two-sport complex, but perhaps with the lower attendance rates than the NFL, the number of seats up against the field isn’t an issue. The field at AT&T ran along the 3B line and the end zone was right up against the outfield wall. I’m not sure how close it got to the dugouts on the other side. There was nothing on the opposite side of the field, except the fireworks mortars. The main TV camera was on a movable platform between the seats and the field. I didn’t see the game on TV, but I bet it didn’t look good showing the emptiness on the other side of the field. Or maybe it looked better than showing the empty stands.

As far as the Redwoods game went, it was fun. I’ve only ever been to one other football game (49ers vs Cin a couple years ago) and we had sat in the top deck. This game we sat in the lower area near the left field foul pole. While there were only a pitiful 6341 people in attendance (almost half of the next-highest game) it was neat to be able to get close to the field. I’ll probably go to another game in November. Their problem with attendance is probably fixed with better marketing. It seems like no one knows that they even exist. If it doesn’t get better, I wonder if they’d toy with the idea of playing some of their home games in San Jose, perhaps Spartan Stadium. The league wants to expand into Los Angeles next year, so I get the impression that the Redwoods will remain the Northern California franchise.

The Tuskers are meant to play their home games at the old Citrus Bowl in Orlando. They are splitting their home games between Orlando and Tampa. Tropicana Field has occasionally held bowl games so it sort of makes sense. I doubt that scheduling 2 or 3 games per season at the Trop will have any effect on future stadium talks. Having multiple homes is purely about exposure. The field orientation you describe is exactly the same as the one they use for the Emerald Bowl and the one season of the XFL. It sounds like you're saying that they aren't laying down the temporary stands in right field that they usually have for the bowl game. I'll have to check out one of the games later in the season.

I like that they're keeping costs low. They have a broadcast deal with Versus, a network that's always looking for new sports properties. They're even streaming the games live, which is refreshing. If they follow the pre-expansionist Arena Football League business model, they could keep costs manageable and stay afloat for a few years at least. Though I'm not so sure about having a fall schedule. There's just too much competition with ESPN broadcasting major college matchups on Thursday. And locally, there's a good reason why only 6,341 was the reported attendance. With two NFL teams and two major college teams in the Bay Area, we have more football here than any other market in the country. NY has no major [college] team. Chicago has bottom-feeding Northwestern, Notre Dame nearly 100 miles away, and Illinois even further away.

Yes, you are correct; the temporary bleachers were not put up. I agree, the lower cost of the games is what will help them survive. It was evident on Saturday. They didn’t open up the place until an hour before kickoff, the concession stands were only open on the 3B side and even then the non-essentials were closed. There were definitely less usher/security staff on hand. No one had any tickets checked by an usher that I saw. I get the feeling that the NFL is waiting to see how the whole thing goes down. If it fails, there is no financial loss for them. If it ends up successful, they’ve got a ‘minor league proving ground’ that they can either buy into or otherwise sign a deal with to get guys some playing time.
With the recently announced Arena Football 1 league being arranged with the original Arena League's ethos, UFL has a small opening from which it can gain a decent-sized niche audience. My guess is that the Redwoods were charged a minimal 4 or 6-hour facility rental fee for the game, which explains why the gates only opened an hour early.

What do you think? As poor as the initial attendance was, it's not like the NFL and NBA didn't have humble beginnings. Both leagues had to do their share of barnstorming and audience cultivation. Can UFL work?

13 October 2009

HSR routing effects on Diridon

The California High Speed Rail Authority has been workshopping route details all over the state. Especially sensitive are the Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto areas and the area immediately to the south of Diridon Station, where numerous alternatives exist. In the picture below, you'll see a mix of working class residential and industrial buildings near the station. Further south is the well-heeled neighborhood of Willow Glen, and while the train wouldn't run through Willow Glen its residents are more than a bit concerned about HSR.

Unlike in the Peninsula, which the existing Caltrain corridor is the only available route, several route options exist south Diridon Station. CHSRA wants to use the most cost-effective route possible since they want to stretch the $10 billion in state bonds and whatever federal stimulus money comes their way, but every option has a cost/benefit component in both the short and long term.

The least expensive route is probably the green/white line above labeled SR87/I-280. It's an S-curve that would run in an aerial along the two area freeways. However, the S-curve makes it also the slowest option, and could adversely impact many of the express trains that would pass through San Jose without stopping at Diridon. The route also runs through the original Orchard Supply Hardware location's parking lot. Along with the other Caltrain-aligned routes, it would likely take some amount of land from the ballpark site. FWIW, that land wouldn't be for the ballpark anyway, it'd be used for parking.

The "Downtown Aerial/Tunnel" option is misleading because running an aerial isn't really an option. An aerial would require billions of dollars of eminent domain proceedings and would kill any chance of developing the six blocks between the ballpark site and the arena. A tunnel would be an enormous engineering challenge, since it would bore under both the existing light rail tunnel and the planned BART subway, plus a creek and a river. In either case, the route would have minimal impact on the ballpark site, clipping the northeast corner at worst.

However CHSRA and Diridon area residents proceed, it's good to know that the ballpark can be built without having to worry about the final route's impact.

A's TV ratings down in 2009

The move to CSN California may be good for the A's long-term financial security, but they sure have taken a major hit on TV to do it according to Sports Business Journal. Having moved from CSN Bay Area to the sister network, the A's posted a paltry 0.82 rating locally for the season, a drop from 1.72 in 2008. The Giants, having been in playoff contention until the last week of the season, scored major gains of 25,000 households, or roughly one full ratings point.

The drop can be traced to two major factors, team performance (poor for most of the season) and channel availability. Lew Wolff pointed to the lucrative dealed ink with Comcast as a source of financial stability. Both parties must have known about a possible drop in viewership and Comcast more or less subsidized the move, as it wants to beef up CSNCA in order to push other non-Comcast cable operators like Charter to add it into their systems. Comcast would then get subscriber fees from a competitor. The cable giant has been on a content grab over the last several years, potentially culminating in an acquisition of NBC-Universal (at least one game theory expert thinks it's going to happen). Comcast already has stakes in 11 regional sports networks including the aforementioned CSNBA/CSNCA, plus Versus, The Golf Channel, and an equity share of MLB Network. A merger with NBCU would give Comcast unprecedented control over content availability. Never mind that NBC has languished in last place among the four major networks for years. Content is king, and with content Comcast gets major leverage.

So if you're thinking that the A's are but a mere pawn in a much larger game, well yes they are. Comcast is in a position to seriously challenge ESPN and its networks, which bring in the heftiest subscriber fees thanks to bundling. Team performance notwithstanding, the A's need Comcast to win its battles for greater carriage. For most of you, it'll be difficult to root for a company like Comcast that's so often anti-consumer. Just don't think about it for now, and dream about IPTV being the technology that, once mature, will bring down the ridiculously archaic barriers (such as blackouts) that we deal with now.

11 October 2009

San Jose expresses interest in Sac Kings

In its quest to attract additional sports franchises to town, San Jose leaders revealed that they are pursuing a NBA team, probably the Sacramento Kings. They're far enough along to admit that they may soon have a MOU (memorandum of understanding) to guide future machinations, just as they've done regarding the A's.

As we all know, the Kings play in what has historically been a very good, loyal market for them. Only in recent years, with ARCO Arena aging noticeably and the talent level on the Kings dropping precipitously (Beno Udrih? Seriously?), has that support dropped. Political efforts to get an arena built anywhere in the area have largely failed, with the only real hope now being the Cal Expo project - which still has no developer willing to bankroll it and won't have one for years. As loud and intimate as ARCO is, it's hopelessly outdated compared to its newer peers and no amount of refurbishing is going to make up for the simple fact that it's not big enough anymore.

What would it take to bring the Kings from the Sacramento Valley to the Silicon Valley? Let's make a list.
  • Territorial "rights" - Like the Giants grip on Santa Clara County, the Warriors have control over a 75-mile radius from Oakland, which San Jose obviously falls within. Sacramento does too - just barely - but the team was grandfathered in, making the current location a non-factor. While there is very little competition for customers between the two teams as they are currently situated, a San Jose relocation would immediately create significant competition between the two teams in the Bay Area market. It would be on San Jose and the Kings to somehow prove that a two-NBA team market could be successful. There are only two such markets in existence now: New York and Los Angeles. As large as they are, they have not proven to be great successes. The Nets play in the dated, uninspiring Meadowlands, and may prove successful if their incoming ownership can actually get the Brooklyn arena built. The Clippers are the poster child for owner negligence, making money for Donald Sterling but rarely selling out unless it's for the Lakers (who treat the two scheduled games as two extra home games).
  • Improvements to HP Pavilion - In the past, I mentioned the improvement to Ford Center in Oklahoma City as a measuring stick. That may be overstating things a bit, as OKC chose to sort of "half-bake" the arena until a team committed. Once the Sonics made the announcement, OKC put in $121 million in luxury and technology improvements. That wouldn't be the case in San Jose, which has excellent club areas and plenty of suites that may only need a little spiffing up. Structurally, it's a different story. The lower seating bowl will need to be partly ripped out and rebuilt to properly accommodate basketball sight lines. LA's Staples Center, Portland's Rose Garden, and DC's Verizon Center all have dual-rise seating which makes the transition from hockey to basketball easy for staff and fans. With as many events as the arena puts on every year, this is an imperative. The deal would also have to include some number of so-called "bunker suites," groups of courtside seats with quick access to no-view suites under the lower bowl. Additionally, some of the newer arenas have also included small club lounges at event level. All of those things take up space and I'm not even including new locker rooms and other team facilities for the Kings. HP Pavilion has a very tight footprint, I don't know where where all of that stuff will go. My guess is that should they try to get all of these items addressed, it would take $100 million - all of it public funds, which would bring on a referendum. We're talking David Stern, folks. He twisted the knife in Seattle, he made demands of OKC, he'll look for a pound of flesh in SJ too.
  • New practice facility - The Kings have been using a $9.1 million practice facility jointly with the WNBA Monarchs since 2000. A new one would have to be found somewhere in the Valley, though that shouldn't be too difficult. I suspect the Maloofs won't be happy moving into a typical Class A office building meant for a tech company - that's just not their style. Still, sites for a practice facility are plentiful especially in North San Jose. In fact, I think some other local sports team may have some extra undeveloped land that would work well for this purpose. Cost: $10 million.
So that's $110 million coming from somewhere plus whatever compensation for the Warriors has to be whipped up. I have concerns that this talk will conflate with dealings regarding the A's, making efforts to bring either team down more difficult. There's also the internal ownership question: How much are the Maloofs willing to sell of the team to make this happen? Surely they aren't looking to give away controlling interest. They love owning the team way too much even in lean times. On the flip side, there is one fringe benefit. The Monarchs would likely move to San Jose as well, and this area is a much better natural fit for a WNBA franchise given the legacy of support for women's hoops in the area (Stanford, SJ Lasers).

Taking the 50,000-foot view, it appears that any of the obstacles described above are equally likely to trip up any deal to bring the Kings to San Jose. At this point, whatever the chances are of bringing the A's south, the prospects for doing the same for the Kings have to be somewhat less promising.

06 October 2009

What about Bobb?

Over at the East Bay Express, Robert Gammon reports that former Oakland City Administrator Robert Bobb will not seek the Oakland mayoral job, as he's looking to extend his gig as the emergency financial manager for the troubled Detroit Public Schools system. However, Bobb may not be as clearly off limits as he appears to be.

Bobb's carved out a little fiefdom for himself in Detroit, and an extension to his contract - which ends in March - may be what he needs to stay in Detroit. He and the DPS board have engaged in a power struggle for weeks over Bobb's hiring authority and seemingly absolute power. The two parties are expected to iron out their differences via a mediator next month.

That's not to say Bobb has only gained enemies. In August, he went door to door with Bill Cosby to promote Detroit schools and convince parents to bring their kids back to the public school system.

November's election may more fully determine Bobb's fate. He's pushing a bond measure called "Proposal S," which would provide construction bonds to rebuild Detroit's many aging schools. Today there was an interesting exchange between Bobb and the Detroit City Council:

But Councilwoman Joann Watson pressed Bobb, saying she was on a similar panel for the 1994 bond and members' input was "thrown out when they started to steal the money."

She said the state should be held accountable for today's deficit that accumulated during the state takeover, saying "they should be sent an invoice."

Councilwoman Barbara Rose Collins agreed, but said the city would be foolish not to pass the bond, dubbed Proposal S, because it is tied to federal stimulus money. She said Bobb needs to say whether he will stay on to oversee the construction bond.

"The community needs assurances you can finish what you started," she said.

"I will definitely be here until March 2," Bobb said.

Gone? Not so fast, my friends. We can connect the dots and see that if Proposal S passes and he can maintain his authority at DPS, he'll have little reason to leave. He has the backing of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (who happens to be a Bay Area native). Then again, what if Proposal S doesn't pass? He's left himself a convenient out. He could easily get a new residence in Oakland early next year while continuing to do his DPS job, allowing him to beat the election filing deadline.

01 October 2009

In other news... (End of 2009 season edition)

While the Yanks and visitors have set a team record for home runs hit in the Bronx, they have cooled off from their record-setting pace earlier in the season. As of this morning, New Yankee Stadium finished the season with 237 HR (2.93 HR/game). That's far from the 303 HR hit at Coors Field in 1999. The NY Daily News has some explanations for the dropoff, from wind changes to scared opposing pitchers going away from left-handed Yankee batters. Still, NYS hit a consistency record of sorts, being the first MLB stadium ever to have recorded at least 1 homer in 80 of 81 home dates. Attendance-wise, NYS was down 13 percent from its predecessor, averaging 45,918 per game (3.7 million for the season). New Yankee Stadium will also hold a FBS bowl game in 2010, featuring teams from the Big 12 and Big East (my extremely premature guess: West Virginia vs. Iowa State).

The Twins are only 6 months from the opening in Target Field. One of the finishing touches is a new HDTV screen deal with electronics retailer Best Buy, which happens to be a Minnesota-based company like Target. The deal will furnish the ballpark with 625 flat panel sets, including 400 of Best Buy's own Insignia brand. It's the first time in history I can think of such a deal occurring. Normally stadium operators partner directly with technology providers such as Sony, Panasonic, or Mitsubishi. In Target Field's case, much of the tech is being sourced locally or regionally. Scoreboards are being provided by heavyweight Daktronics, a firm only 4 hours away in Brookings, SD.

As speculated earlier, the Giants' AA franchise in Norwich, CT is moving to Richmond, VA. Why? Population. Richmond has a greater population base to draw from than Norwich, which is in a sort of no-man's land between the greater Hartford area (which has a team in New Britain) and Providence, RI (which has a AAA team in Pawtucket). Now Norwich is stuck with a fairly new (1995) stadium that's gone through $1 million in renovations over the past few years. The city's best chance to lure another team lies in hoping that some team in the short-season NY-Penn League has a wandering eye. You may recall that Richmond lost the AAA Braves to the Atlanta suburbs last year.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of Tiger Stadium. After a lengthy legal battle to preserve and perhaps reuse parts the old girl, all that remained of her as of a week ago was this:

A few days after that picture (Detroit Free Press) was taken, that last section was also torn down. Goodbye, old friend.

25 September 2009

A San Jose Manifesto

Since the Earthquakes stadium renderings were released, many on this blog and elsewhere have asked how the fates of the Quakes and A's are intertwined. They've asked if juggling two teams and two potential stadium deals - in the same city no less - makes things needlessly complicated. They've also asked if focusing on soccer even on a peripheral basis takes the focus off baseball. Such questions about motivation will persist for some time to come, and won't cease until shovels hit dirt.

That brings me back to Mayor Reed's ending quote from last week's press conference:
"I'd like to thank Lew Wolff and the A's. It's Lew's vision that makes it possible for us to build a ballpark in San Jose."
I was then, and remain now, thoroughly shocked. Not shocked about the quote, as I figured it was coming sooner or later. I am shocked that it elicited zero response in the comments. The past six months, there's been a lot of back-and-forth about what Wolff has been doing in San Jose, about what the nature of discussions are. I've heard outright denial that Wolff wants to move the A's to San Jose, that the MLB panel will somehow ride to Oakland's rescue, which given recent history is myopic to the extreme.

That quote above tells you everything you need to know. I shouldn't have to spell it out. It's Lew's vision that brought the Quakes back, that tantalizes Quakes fans in that he may finally cure their scarred, oft-broken, oft-ignored hearts (they're not fully healed yet). It's Lew's vision that may finally quell all of the talk of uncertainty regarding the A's and their future. It's Lew's vision that may cement his legacy in San Jose, in the Bay Area, in California.

However, this is California after all. We don't impress easily. One way or another, we force our sports teams to earn our praise and patronage (except for the Warriors I suppose). When it comes to stadium building, everyone here is a full-on bandwagoner. We're skeptical to the nth degree, and rightfully so. As a result, we collectively aren't easily swayed by nice sketches and renderings. Pols know better than to propose any publicly-financed facilities, no matter how nice they look in ads or how well they're pitched in interviews. We innovate here. We propel the world. We want results because expect no less of ourselves. It's how we survive. It's how we thrive.

It's with that mindset that I have to concur with Center Line Soccer's Jay Hipps, who argues that despite the crappy economy and limp sponsorship numbers, the Quakes should plow ahead and build their stadium. I'll take it a step further though. Not only do I think that it's necessary for the Quakes, I also think it's imperative for the A's.

We talk here endlessly about attendance, population densities, and transit availability. All that stuff makes for nice presentation slides and lengthy reports, but it's mostly academic. The thing that really matters is, as always, political will. Political will and political capital go hand-in-hand. Wolff can reach out to non-profits to get little boosts here and there, as he did in Fremont. All of those efforts combined don't hold a candle to the value of getting the Quakes stadium built. Just as with San Jose Arena (publicly built), the actual building and opening of a new facility creates a veritable supernova of political capital.

With political capital comes momentum, which will come in handy during an election cycle. Momentum doesn't just come from great ideas. Momentum comes from the execution of great ideas. An inexpensive soccer-specific stadium is a great idea, even if it's value engineered to death. It's the responsible way to move forward, and can show the citizens of San Jose that someone around here can get things done responsibly. That's important because so many aren't familiar with Wolff's development history from 30 years ago. Half the people that live in the Valley are transplants. Some are from the Midwest and East Coast, others are from across a border or an ocean. They may be completely on board with a ballpark, but they want to want to see that train moving. They may need to feel that it will leave the station without them.

Wolff talks a lot about the pain that comes with the process, about how it's an industry unto itself. The process isn't as much the killer as the inertia the process creates. If ownership thinks the numbers can work given time, then inertia is the real enemy here. That's not to discount the steady, methodical groundwork that's been laid over the last several years. It's simply no longer the time to be methodical. It's time to be decisive. It's time to break that inertia. It's time to build. In fact, to paraphrase Ernie Banks, "Let's build two."

23 September 2009

SJ makes Redev cuts, Ballpark funds safe

Long awaited but expected cuts hit San Jose as it decided to lay off 24 people of its 109-person Redevelopment Agency staff. The cuts are part of the state's raid on redevelopment funds, San Jose's take was $88 million ($62 million this year, $13 million next year, $13 million from last year).

However, there is some good news:

The state raid will not derail some of the agency's highest-profile efforts, Mavrogenes said. Land acquisitions for a proposed ballpark near the Diridon train station to lure Major League Baseball's A's is to come from land sale proceeds, a separate money pot that Mavrogenes said will not be affected by the state's move.

And the agency is contractually obligated to follow through on other pending projects, including the downtown "urban market" at San Pedro Square.

But projects still in development are likely to be delayed indefinitely, most notably the $350 million expansion of the aging McEnery Convention Center.

City has been using the practice of "land banking" for decades now, making its Redevelopment Agency one of the largest in the country. Land banking is used for development opportunities, many of them controversial. Results have been mixed at best. For every Adobe headquarters or San Jose Arena, there's the failed Tropicana Shopping Center project or the Pavilion downtown shopping mall (not related to the arena). As the Diridon area transforms, SJRA is getting ready to buy up most if not all of the land in the area for the transformation.

Diridon: The Vision

Earlier today I had a chance to speak with Andrew Watkins, a candidate for the Master’s of Architecture in Urban Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. During the spring, he worked on HUGSD's contribution in shaping the future of the Diridon Station area. He even posted his team's renderings on his own web site, renderings that eventually made it to the Skyscraper City forum. Before reading on, head over to Watkins' site project page to look at the images.

I asked about the process used during the study. Watkins said that students partnered up, with each time coming up with their own unique vision for the area. The coming high speed rail project serves as the main impetus, with additional emphasis on natural features in the area such as Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, public spaces, housing and retail, and of course, the ballpark.

Here's some of the Q&A:
  • Were the students given individual pieces and the whole stitched together, or was it a competitive vision situation? Groups of 2 created each concept. Each team had their own concept. HSR was main impetus... There was no filtering on concepts.
  • Would you say this more of an exercise master planning exercise than in architecture? We're all architecture students, but yes, I'd say this was more about master planning.
  • How much of a focus was there on connecting with downtown proper? Everyone was cognizant of the downtown area. At the same time there weren't any proposals that altered (existing) structure.
  • Was there a frequent exchange of info with City/Redev? They were good about answering questions, especially the first month. We also made a site visit to San Jose.
  • I particularly liked the bi-level circulation plan. How did that come about? It was necessitated by multilevel infrastructure. BART's underground, HSR and trains above ground, buses at ground level. There's a need to make connections with all four levels. We don't want to have a bunch of hidden ramps and stairs.
It's Watkins' hope that all of the submissions will be published soon. Apparently the City's budget woes have forced that to be delayed somewhat. As City has another Good Neighbor meeting tomorrow night (PDF), it wouldn't hurt to have these drawings and renderings available to help citizens better visualize the possibilities in the area (no, I don't expect that to happen until some months from now).

Looking at the image at the top and other renderings, I'm somewhat reminded of Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. That too has bi-level circulation, with the complex spread over several blocks and traffic running through it. In this case, high-rise offices would be replaced by midrise housing, parking, and retail/commercial.

I didn't ask much about the ballpark, because information I had received elsewhere indicated that the group didn't receive much about a future ballpark other than already publicly available information. So the stuff you may have questions about - such as the parking garage on the fire training site or the missing power substation in the image above - aren't addressed. City has already acknowledged that the parking garage on the fire training site isn't necessary, and that the substation will likely be reconfigured instead of moved.

Questions or comments? Fire away.

LA NFL stadium opponents agree to settle

It looks like this...

... is a few steps closer to happening.

The AP is reporting that the City of Walnut, a neighbor of the possible new stadium site in Industry, has chosen to settle with billionaire Ed Roski and his development arm Majestic Realty instead of pursuing further legal action against the stadium. Terms were not disclosed.

Walnut City Council's 3-1 decision comes two weeks after legislation written to help the Chargers move to the LA Basin was shelved. With the latest legal hurdles cleared, the path is much clearer for some team to move. I won't rehash the candidates again, as last year's post is still relevant.

The Bolts have a head start on all other teams (including the Raiders). They've been actively expanding marketing throughout SoCal, even hiring Wasserman Media Group to help. WMG head Casey Wasserman (himself a former Arena League team owner) believes that LA should have a team, though it may be best situated in Downtown LA, not Industry.

Wasserman even said on a recent Bill Simmons podcast (thanks MP) that there's a fairly straightforward way for NFL to work in LA again, though it would presumably preclude a move by another team. In essence, the league would rally the owners together to build a new LA stadium under the guise of it being one of the rotating Super Bowl venues. Then the NFL would grant an expansion franchise and some piece of the stadium to the highest bidder, allowing the owners to recoup the development costs. If this sounds familiar, it is - it's the Cleveland Browns plan.

Of course, having an Ed Roski-led stadium effort goes against such a plan and falls in line with a much more traditional, and as of this moment more concrete, "lure-em" model. Whatever happens over the next year, it promises to be good theater. For now, vote on which franchise (if any) you think is most likely to move to LA given the opportunity.

22 September 2009

Clarification on Kings/Sharks on CSNCA

When the Sharks-CSNCA carriage agreement was announced last week, I fired off an email to CSNCA to ask what would happen in case of scheduling conflicts. Here's the response:
Thank you for your email regarding the Kings and Sharks on Comcast SportsNet California. Your assumption about our telecasts in the Sacramento area are correct. When the Kings and Sharks games overlap we will move the sharks to the Plus Ch. If the Kings game concludes we will then join the Sharks in progress.

In the bay area the Sharks will appear on our main Ch. due to NBA blackout restrictions.

Thank you,

Richard Leeson
Director of Programming
Comcast SportsNet California
A similar arrangement will be needed in the spring when the A's season begins. We're a few months off from any schedule finalization there.

21 September 2009

The Silly Stadium Sharing Situation

There seems to be a bit of confusion about Quakes' stadium story. A Merc article covering Saturday's dinner notes at the end the "long shot" possibility of the A's and Quakes sharing a stadium. It doesn't say where, when, or how, but it's a nice piece of FUD to let hang in the air.

From a practical standpoint, it could make some sense. After all, it should be cheaper to build one stadium instead of two, right? Except it isn't in this case. The tab for the Quakes' much simpler home is estimated to be one-tenth that of the A's ballpark. Come in that cheap, and the supposed efficiencies gained by consolidation are outweighed by other issues.

To illustrate this, I took my ballpark model and laid down a soccer field on top of it. Below is just the lower level. Capacity of the lower level alone is 17,000+.

As you can see, the field itself is a snug fit from corner to corner. A Mount Davis-like set of temporary seating sections (in yellow) would be used from time to time. As would be expected, those sections would tear up the grass like nobody's business. The worst part? The Quakes' season runs concurrent with the A's, so you'd see this all season long. The seats are necessary because if they weren't there all you'd have is a massive gap all the way to the wall, yet that area is a prime seating area for soccer.

In addition, seats down the baseball right field line are angled back towards the infield instead of along the sideline. Those seats would at best have suboptimal views, at worst have obstructed views. Soccer is unlike baseball in that there's no focal point for most of the game, as there is within the 60'6" between the pitching rubber and the plate. Action can occur anywhere on a soccer pitch, and in the case of a routine corner kick or throw-in, it can be generated from the edges. Soccer stadia are designed for all seats to have complete views of the field, a practice that is immediately violated when a regulation field is placed in a baseball stadium.

The upper deck (above) isn't so compromised, mostly because it's further removed from the action. In the previous image, the temporary yellow seats were there. Use of those seats would preclude the use of baseball bleacher seats. Still, the total stadium capacity would be over 31,000, which at this point is too big for MLS.

Going back to the field, think about the logistical problems. MLS teams typically play twice a week, 30 regular season matches per year plus various "friendlies." That translates to about 17 home dates. Assuming that home dates are bunched together and timed to miss A's homestands, there would still be at least eight switchovers per year. Let's say that somehow the $250,000 cost to do the same job at the Coliseum could be cut in half, it would still cost $1 million per year. Project that out for 25 years and index for inflation. And it would still leave the players from both sports hating the field. Practical? Hardly.

20 September 2009

Quakes fans now have something to dream about

At the Soccer Silicon Valley Foundation's second annual dinner, Lew Wolff and the Quakes revealed new conceptual images and a fly-in video of the future stadium. If you haven't been following this, here's a quick refresher:
  • Location: Airport West property between SJC and SCU, near Lowe's
  • Size: 15,000 plus berm and plaza space to approach 20,000 total
  • Design: Horseshoe soccer-specific stadium, oriented northeast-to-southwest
  • Architect: 360 Architecture
  • Roof: Covers roughly half of seating area, with lights tucked underneath
  • Video board: Two-sided, like Cisco Field concept
  • Transit availability: Caltrain, future BART station
  • Projected opening: ~2012
  • Cost: $40-60 million
The design is distinctly European in flavor, as it trades in a top-mounted deck of luxury suites for three rows of premium (club) seats along the pitch/field. By all accounts, the field itself will be slightly sunken from ground level. A single concourse under the main seating serves all. The U-shape is meant to contain noise and if anything direct noise out towards the airport, which is a good idea.

It's possible that the main seating bowl will be all steel, which takes a page from Stanford Stadium. That should make the stadium less expensive to build and noisier to boot. Next up is the fly-in video.

Don't get used to having "Earthquakes" on the roof. Once a naming rights sponsor is secured, you'll see the sponsor's name there.

The big takeaway from this is that the Quakes finally have something tangible in the stadium realm to sell to fans and potential sponsors. It's been a long time coming, and hopefully getting the necessary funding won't be such an uphill battle anymore.

I'll end this post with video of Wolff at the event last night. He pretty much covered everything in this post.