06 March 2009

How to expand a minor league ballpark

I'll start off with an excerpt of a post on the SkyscraperPage forum:

In response to your question regarding Raley Field, it was not built expressly to be easily expanded in the future. The stadium was designed specifically for its current tenant, Triple-A Baseball, and all of the comfort and intimacy that makes Triple-A Baseball so successful. That said, in the unlikely case that we would want to expand the ballpark to accommodate a larger capacity, the stadium would need significant adjustments but likely not need to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch.

I hope this helps. Take care, have a great holiday season and go River Cats!

Gabe Ross
Assistant GM, Director of Media Relations
Sacramento River Cats Baseball Club
"...not built expressly to be easily expanded in the future." So you can't simply slap an upper deck on top of Raley Field and then call it a day? Imagine that.

The operative question regarding Raley Field isn't, "Can it be expanded?" but rather "How expensive will it be to expand?" Any stadium, as long as there is space, can be expanded, whether it's a ballpark, football or soccer stadium (this means you, Quakes fans). The issue is whether or not it's cost effective to do so. In the last post about a Mt. Davis-oriented Coliseum remodel, I mentioned that $250 million has to be the baseline or minimum cost because that's how much is being spent on renovations to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Expansion could cost more, it most certainly won't cost less.

Raley Field was planned with the idea that it could eventually hold a major league team, and in an arguably easy manner to boot. What happened from conception to construction to change this?

Blame it on the rain

In Fall 1999/Winter 2000, Northern California was deluged with incredible amounts of rainfall. Raley Field had a short 9-month construction period, and the rain put the schedule severely in jeopardy. In addition, the team and West Sacramento wanted to adhere to a $40 million budget, which doesn't sound like much in terms of ballparks but at the time made Raley Field one of the most expensive minor league ballparks in history. Eventually, the ballpark opened over a month into the 2000 season. Coincidentally, the River Cats were forced to play home games at the Coliseum to high school basketball game sized crowds.

Rain made the construction period longer, which incurs additional labor cost. Precipitation also caused a rethink in the construction methods. Changes were made almost on the fly, including a major structural modification:
Because of the time restraints the initial design was changed from steel H-columns to poured-in-place reinforced concrete columns, and supporting the suite level with prefabricated steel trusses.
The structure ended up looking like this:

Up top is the view from the concourse, with the suites above. Below that is a picture of the underside of the Solon Club down the rightfield line, though the image is curiously flipped.

It's pretty clear to this untrained eye that the beams and girders above the concourse were not designed to handle to load of a level of suites and a massive upper deck, especially in earthquake country. The change is an important piece of value engineering that will make expansion more expensive, should a MLB team be interested in Sacramento. Assuming that the concrete columns are built to handle both suites and an upper deck (I have no reason to believe otherwise), new structural work would probably have to be in place above the columns. That means the entire existing upper level, which contains the Solon Club, suites and the press box, would have to be demolished. That's just as well, since these amenities probably aren't up to modern MLB standards, especially the small press box.

But wait there's more!

Every new ballpark has some 3,000 or more club seats. Seats are often disbursed between two different club levels: one at a mezzanine level, one at field level behind the plate. Nationals Park has taken this a step further by having three separate club areas, while designating all lower level seats behind the plate as club seats. If you want to sit behind the plate without paying through the nose, be prepared to have your nose bleed. I digress.

The Solon Club has 450 club seats, which is not sufficient. In a renovation they're going away, to be replaced by more luxury suites. There's also the Founders Club, the primo seats behind the plate which have at-your-seat food service but no club concourse of their own. Let's say that the area behind the plate gets ripped apart to accommodate such a transformation, a la the Scout seats at US Cellular Field. That's probably good for 500 seats.

Where do the other 2,500 go? The only place would be the front of the upper deck, above the luxury suites. It's not a premier spot for such seats, but it was done successfully at PNC Park, so there is a precedent. Go this route and you have to build two new concourses - one for the club and one for the regular upper deck. To understand the impact, take a look at some cross-sections. Before:


We're talking about triple, quadruple the amount of concrete that was used for the original ballpark. The new structure also requires greater amounts of high-strength steel, with enough concern for seismic safety that it's not out of reason to overbuild the structure (PETCO Park).

Getting to the minimum

Adding up the expansion looks like this:
  • Existing seating capacity: 11,093
  • New right field seating to replace berm: 5,000 (berm held 3,000)
  • New upper club: 2,500
  • New upper deck reserved: 12,000
  • New left field bleachers: 2,000
That brings the estimated new capacity to 32,500. Plus there are some not-so-miscellaneous items:
  • Additional construction work would be required, mainly the move of the clubhouses from left field to under the lower seating bowl.
  • Can't have a wraparound double deck grandstand in right because that would block the view of Tower Bridge and the Sacramento skyline.
  • The railroad track (inactive?) that wraps around the outfield limits space a bit.
  • New ramps, elevators, and escalators would be required and would be expensive.
  • Planners might have to figure out a way to include a third gate somewhere. Two gates as currently constructed aren't enough to handle nearly triple the crowd size.
  • New scoreboards and ribbon boards would be required. As a reference point, compare Kauffman Stadium's new "crown" HD video board in center, which was installed last year for $8.3 million.
Given all of that, I'm pretty sure that the whole thing would cost a lot more than $250 million. No, they wouldn't have to demolish Raley Field and start from scratch. But they'd have to demolish a lot of it.


Brian said...

Raley Field cost $30 million to build (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it would've cost $50 million today). A new A's stadium is usually tabbed at around $400 million. So if we're saying that Raley cost $50 million in today's dollars originally, and could be expanded for $250 million, that adds up to just $300 million. If you could build a park in two stages for $300 million, but a new one-stage park would cost $400 million, why wouldn't every new park just be built the Raley way?

Jeffrey said...

Because you didn't read the whole article. It would cost way more than $250 million.

Mike Headley said...

Off topic, but important to the potential A's stadium in San Jose:

Sharks and HP Pavilion's Impact on San Jose

"Over the life of the facility, it has provided a total of $1.7 billion in cumulative economic impact.

The facility has also provided San Jose annually with direct fiscal impacts of $5.4 million and with an ongoing economic impact of $254 million and the creation of approximately 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs."

Granted, it's a press release from the Sharks, but it was commissioned by the City of San Jose and prepared by SportsEconomics.

Anonymous said...

I said it before and I'll say it again. Using the Sharks as a comparison to MLB is pretty irrelevant. Sure Sharks games might sell out which is great for San Jose, but we're talking about baseball.

No one in the Bay Area cares about the Sharks except for the "South Bay" and maybe a bunch of Canadians.

Pushing for San Jose to get a baseball team would most likely effect MLB in a negative way which is why I don't think it will work. Sure it will probably be a great thing for the city (San Jose) itself, but it would impact the Giants revenue so much which in the long run would not be good for MLB. At the same time, the A's would surely lose a lot of fans from the East Bay as well which would also impact MLB in a very bad way.

Marine Layer said...

I, for one, would like to see the Giants prove their losses. So does Mark Purdy and a lot of South Bay folks. If you're going to deny the South Bay MLB arbitrarily, prove it.

BTW, the Giants took a lot of A's fans from the East Bay by moving downtown. Turnabout, it would seem, is fair play.

Anothing thing, the Giants haven't done as good a job working the South Bay as you might think. There's plenty of fallow ground down here.

Mike Headley said...

Anon 4:11

I'm not sure what you mean by "we're talking about baseball." If hockey doesn't mean as much as baseball [No one in the Bay Area cares about the Sharks except for the "South Bay"], then wouldn't it be desirable to have a baseball park in the neighborhood to draw people from outside of SJ? If that's your argument, then yes, the comaprison would be mostly irrelevant because the park would dump more money into the local economy than the Pavilion.

I don't really think a move to SJ would negatively affect MLB or the Giants. I don't think fans switch allegiance at the drop of a hat with a local move such as this. Now, new fans from SJ might pick the A's as opposed to the Giants, however, you would also have fans in the East Bay who can more easily drive over the bridge or take BART to the Giants. I'd think it would be close to a wash. Those stuck near the middle will probably also go toward whoever was more successful at the time.

No, I don't think the matter really revolves around losing or gaining fans. The fans will come if you give them a good product (successful on-field play, a fun stadium, easy access, nearby activities, etc). MLB knows that the real money is going to come from the companies around the area who buy the boxes and provide sponsorship. The San Jose area has more of that than any other location in the Bay Area. The economy won't stay down forever, and once it rebounds MLB would love to be in position to take advantage of it.

Anonymous said...

In support of Mike's point it is estimated that nearly 70% of revenues for a MLB team come from corporate sponsorship, naming rights, sales of luxury suites, and media. MLB would be foolish to turn their backs on one of the most lucrative sports markets in the country.

This by itself makes the San Jose metropolitan area much more attractive. . . but bottom line--their will be more than enough San Jose A's fans to fill a stadium of 32,000-34,000. I for one go to a handful of A's games...but too far to drive to buy season tix--stadium in San Jose---I'll buy 4 season tickets--even if I have to pay charter seat license fees to help support getting it built--

Will it hurt the Giants?---I doubt it...moving further away from AT&T should more than balance any losses and as ML said--the Giants have done little to nothing to promote their team to the south bay

Anonymous said...

Yes, you said it before and we all laughed at the total illogic of your post. Now we're doing it again.

Sharks are irrelevant because no one outside SJ cares (a total and complete fallacy, but let's play along). That somehow means the A's will not be successful. Because SJ has purportedly shown it can support a team without any help from the rest of the area? OK...

In addition to this, somehow in your "thinking", SJ is also bad for baseball because it will take so much money from the Giants. But, I thought an SJ team can't be successful? Which is it? (Don't try to answer; it's a trick question.)

I have an idea. Why don't you come back when you can type a coherent thought about the A's stadium situation.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:11

Inanity at its best. By your logic San Jose shouldn't have a Major League Team because if that happens the San Jose Giants
will have to move to Salinas and they can't possibly support a Single A team and that wouldn't be fair would it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:11

Your twisted, warped logic is the same kind of thinking that praises felons like Orlando Cepeda and soon to be felons like Barry Bonds.

Anonymous said...

This is obviously a San Jose partisan dominated blog site. I said it before and I'll say it again...they've been playing in Oakland for 40 years and they'll continue to play in Oakland for many more years to come. I also said that Fremont was never going to work. Until they ever broke ground, I knew it was never going to happen. I also said that MLB would not remove the T-Rights for the Giants because San Jose was too valuable to give up.

It's funny how you guys all still sound so hopeful, "We'll get you sooner or later'll see!!" What else is so funny is that the more you San Jose folks talk about how bad you guys would love to "lure" the A's into the MOST GREEDIEST CITY IN THE COUNTRY (Forbes Magazine ranks San Jose #1), the more likely SF won't want to ever give up those rights without a struggle, which would lead to more delays and yada yada which during that time the A's will have eventually built the new stadium in Oakland, at home where they belong. The End

Anonymous said...

Amen to that Anon 10:20!! That and the fact that by then Lew Wolff will most likely be pushing 90 years old and will probably want to sell the team to someone else.

Anonymous said...

Ok, can we please get back to the subject of the "Oakland" A's. Is it just me or am I the only one on this blog who actually cares about how exciting the actual team will be this season??? Maybe we can turn our attention to the start of what should be a great season like LW is actually trying to do and talk about baseball.

Kyu said...

OK, any thoughts or predictions on the starting lineup??

1. R. Sweeney (CF)
2. O. Cabrera (SS)
3. M. Holliday (LF)
4. J. Cust (DH)
5. J. Giambi (1B)
6. J. E. Chavez (3B)
7. K. Suzuki (C)
8. M. Ellis (2B)
9. T. Buck (RF)

Marine Layer said...

I'm not going to stop anyone from talking about the on-field stuff, but there are better places for it - see sidebar for links.

But since you asked:

Buck RF
Ellis 2B
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Giambi/Barton 1B
Cust/Giambi DH
Chavez/Nomar 3B
Suzuki C
Cabrera SS

Zonis said...

CF Sweeney
RF Buck
LF Holliday
1B Giambi
DH Cust
3B Chavez
C1 Suzuki
2B Ellis
SS Cabrera

Tony D. said...

Since everyone went way off topic, let me continue.

Many who are against the A's moving to SJ say the same ole thing when it comes to the Giants:

1) "It will hurt the Giants bottom line"

2) "It will hurt the Giants revenue sooo much."

3) "South Bay/Silicon Valley to valuable for the Giants to loose."

All of these statements are stated without any sources indicated, facts presented, study's, etc. Perhaps R.M. you can do a post in the future to debunk all of this "it will hurt the Giants" nonsense.

My take: a possible move of the A's to SJ won't hurt the Giants financially and will in fact HELP via compensation deal.*

*see Orioles/Expos to D.C. deal.

Zonis said...

Would the Giants even get compensation for loss of the territory? Did the A's get any compensation? If the A's did not get any, why should the Giants?

Anonymous said...

That's highly unlikely for some very specific reasons.

The Giants situation is different from Baltimore on several key issues. The Orioles' territorial hold on DC has always had little substance, so it was no surprise that when the Montreal Expos moved, the two teams were able to work out a revenue sharing deal. By contrast, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has affirmed the Giants' absolute rights over San Jose.

Mike Headley said...

What baseball givith, baseball can taketh away.

Tony D. said...

anon 3:26,

Your post/reply is soooooo 2006. "The Orioles/Giants situation is completely different because" ya ya ya...heard the story a million times.

Let's remember one thing: the Giants territorial rights aren't absolute, nor are they etched in stone as the 11th Commandment. And as Mike H. alluded to perfectly, the Giants T-Rights were expanded in 1992 to accomodate their move to San Jose (pss...didn't happen), and they can be contracted to allow an A's to move to San Jose ( could happen).

You obviously haven't been paying attention to anything being said by Wolff, Selig (via letter), San Jose officials over the past 3 months. Bottom line: T-Rights aren't absolute and can be dealt with.*

*see Giants proposed move to San Jose in 1992; territory expanded to accomodate move southward.

Anonymous said...

"A regional solution to sports teams' woes"

Why not have the Raiders and Niners build a shared football stadium in Santa Clara County? That way both teams could gain even more fans from the wealthy South Bay residents and at the same time, I would think most San Jose folks would like the idea of being the "glue" for the two franchises like the Warriors are for San Francisco and Oakland.

The A's could then renovate the Coliseum to re-create the once very nice baseball only stadium for less than half the price of the original Fremont plan.

Everyone would get a new stadium out of this win/win situation...


Anonymous said...

Another interesting article from the sfgate...

Possible??? I think so if the Raiders and Niners can come up with a solid game plan!!

Anonymous said...

While it is an interesting concept to re-do the Colisieum, assuming that you could get the Raiders to move elsewhere, it still has two fundamental challenges---one is location and second is increasing the value of the franchise.

From the location perspective it doesn't do alot to spur economic activity in Oakland because of its location. Fans go directly to the games, either by driving or transit, and than leave right after the games---in either case they are not going early to have dinner and drinks or staying late to enjoy the atmosphere of the area.

Second,from a franchise value perspective, I have a hard time believing that Wolff would privately finance the re-do of the Colisieum---maybe if the city/county paid for it than it would be an acceptable interim solution but if I am going to invest in a remodel I want to make sure that the ballpark will increase the value of my team (like AT&T, Fenway, Wrigley etc), and second that it will be a permanent solution...and not one where in 10-15 years this process will be going on again....just like it is for the Raiders.

Jeffrey said...

You know... I kind fo find is appaling that anyone would come to this blog, one with years of information and detailed analysis, and pastes in a link to an article where some jack ass at the San Francisco Chronicle just writes his opinion and does little to back it up with the slightest whiff of numbers or any details on the "plan" other than to say "think regionally."

Personally, I am a fan fo the A's staying in Oakland or moving to San Jose. Either is fine with me.

But just because some guy says "A dude in Novato emailed me that it would be cool to tear down Mt. Davis and return the coliseum to it's original state" doesn't make it true. It flies in the face of reality.

When the Coliseum was in it's original state, it was not frequently sold out. If you think I am a San Jose partisan liar then just look at this link and realize that this is from the holy enclave of "Oakland Only." From 1968-2001 the A's had 7 seasons of 2 million plus attendance. That's it... even in the glory days of Haas ownership, the A's were never a huge draw as compared to the rest of the league, never did they even lead the American League in attendance.

Also, it requires very little analysis to realize that the landscape of Major Legaue attendance has changed completely since the pre 1996 remodel. Ther eis now, about 10 miles away a state fo the art baseball stadium that draws 3 million people annually. I know, I know... most of those people who are at AT&T aren't real baseball fans. So what... neither were the people who created the swell in attendance in the late 80's when they came to Oakland to see the Bash Brothers.

Restoring the Coliseum to the pre 1996 form is not the long term answer. I am tired of hearing people spit it out like it is.

Anonymous said...

Dude...speak for yourself. There are some of us who do think that renovating the Coliseum makes the most sense and could be a good thing considering all the facts and what is going on right now with the economy and the A's.

If you got some other great ideas, then bring it. If not, then stop complaining because there are those who find interesting articles and would like to share with the everyone else. It looks to me like Anon posted the article(s) as an opinion only so what's the big deal??? If ML didn't want to post it because he found it "appaling," then I'm sure he wouldn't have.

And in case you haven't been following even though I'm sure Jefferey that you probably have been, but ML has also imputed his own version of what it would be like to renovate the Coliseum to a baseball only stadium. Which I must say looked great!!

Marine Layer said...

I will put up a post on this kind of Coliseum remodel soon.

Jeffrey said...

First, Anon Guy (and whoever the rest of the "us" you are talking about is)... the remodel that ML posted is not a "return to pre 1996 coliseum."

Second, I did speak only for myself.

Third, I agree the Coliseum complex is a fine location from a lot of perspectives (land cost, transit, etc.), but one that I think it lacks in is finding coin to pay for it. The financing model used in San Francisco would be a stretch.

Fourth, where are your great ideas? Better yet, where is your information that shows you even understand what it takes to build a ballpark? Or how about your evaluation of the market(s) that could possibly host an A's stadium and what factors are important ot evaluate a market?

Mine are here:

and here

Anonymous said...

I will say it again--a remodel of the Colisieum would be an interim solution..and a rather expensive interim solution. It would never fit the category of a "classic" ballpark that will endure for a lifetime like AT&T, Wrigley, Fenway etc. Rather than an incremental solution (like they did for the Raiders when they returned) that will need to be re-done figure out the long term solution--whether it be in Oakland or San Jose--but don't waste money on trying to make the Colisieum live up to today's ballpark standards--

Anonymous said...

Sacramento would work. Many valley baseball fans travel to A's games all the time. Move them to San Jose, and the A's may indeed lose the Sacramento Valley and others north of the Bay Bridge to the Giants, who will all of a sudden be the closest MLB team. Come to think of it, just as the Giants claim Silicon Valley as their territory, I better they are slightly concerned that Fresno being closer to a San Jose team might affect ticket sales positively.

Move the A's to Sacramento. San Jose can have the Rivercats. (Baycats?) I'm betting San Jose wouldn't support an AAA team like Sac has.

Yes, I know you'll likely all be snobby about this Valley centric post. We're used to it. Console yourself with tofu, and let us ring our cowbells for the A's!