29 April 2009

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

And so the recriminations begin.

A letter from Oakland City Attorney John Russo gave a Rajon Rondo-on-Brad Miller style slap to Lew Wolff. Zennie Abraham quickly jumped on it, as did Robert Gammon. I'm sure the comments section will be full of people going back and forth yet again on the subject, so I won't bother rehashing history for the umpteenth time.

Abraham somehow managed to bury the lead in his blog post by not acknowledging in text what he said in his vlog - discussions with the A's and the Blue Ribbon Committee are not going well. That development is anything but surprising, given the committee's makeup. Matier and Ross reported on yesterday's meeting between Wolff and Dellums. Fittingly, the meeting was derailed by a planned fire drill, forcing the parties to move the proceedings elsewhere.

Russo isn't going to pen a legal brief on his own, he has orders. He may have done it at the behest of the Mayor or City Council. Abraham speculates that it's a step towards pitting Oakland and the Giants against the A's and MLB. He even trots out old Rule 52, which as I'll explain later, is not applicable these days.

Let's take the confrontation angle first. As noted previously, the Giants don't have a legal option to exercise regarding territorial rights. It's in the ML Agreement, and Maury Brown spelled this out in his reading of the ML Constitution in a 2005 Hardball Times series:
If there are any disputes or controversies between the clubs, or between club(s) and any of MLB’s entities, and if the resolution isn’t expressed elsewhere in the Constitution, the Major League Rules, the Basic Agreement with the MLBPA, or the collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Umpires, the Commissioner serves as the sole arbitrator. (Article VI Sec.1)
What recourse do the Giants have, then? They can try to go to bat for Oakland, even though they have no history of doing that previously. Even though, in moving to China Basin, they've actively siphoned East Bay fans away from the A's. Even though they've held a regional hegemony for decades. It wouldn't be hard to posture themselves as saviors of baseball in Oakland - no matter how strange that sounds - as it wouldn't require much effort and could be done in a sort of stealth mode. It wouldn't be difficult to get a few letters from prominent pols in order, so no problem there either. The best part is for the Giants is that it works. It paints Wolff as a villain and Oakland as a victim, despite the backstory's greater complexity.

Problem is, behind all of the sizzle there isn't much, if any, steak. For Oakland to be successful, there still needs to be an actual ballpark deal in place. The Giants know firsthand what it means to fail to get a stadium built, they've understood it many times over. All of this posturing is fantastic if you're trying to win a war in the media, it's not good for getting anything done. Could the Giants be brazen enough to goad Oakland into a lawsuit against the A's and MLB? The A's and Oakland are only tied together via a lease deal at the Coliseum. As valued as history and tradition are, they are largely intangible. Collusion? R-i-i-i-ght. Does Oakland really want to go down the path of trying to prove that? They're not the only ones with documents.

Would the Giants try to bring Bob Piccinini out of the woodwork to do the same? Ironically, Vincent Piazza sued MLB over the Giants' aborted move to Tampa-St. Pete, and eventually got $6 million to go away. Unlike Piazza's almost immediate action, a move to sue now would likely be beyond any statute of limitations. The fact is that suing to keep a team in town, even if you have a good case, isn't much of a winner. It certainly didn't work for Seattle.

Make no mistake, the Giants aren't taking the T-rights matter lying down. It isn't simply a matter of them being quickly and/or cheaply paid off. They want to defend their territory as vigorously as possible, and I don't blame them. It's really a matter of whether or not their whining will get more than a token acknowledgment as MLB looks towards further stabilizing the league as a whole.

As for Rule 52, even if it were in place (which isn't verifiable at this point), it isn't applicable to an A's move to San Jose. It applies to moves near an established territory, not an invasion of a territory. It would've been applicable to an A's move to Fremont, since either ballpark site was only 5 miles from the Santa Clara County line. Yet, did Peter Magowan raise a big fuss about it? Nope. Contrary to popular belief, it would've been applicable to the Expos' move because portions of DC are within the 15-mile O's territory buffer. Yet while Peter Angelos objected in the end, Rule 52 was nowhere to be found.

How bizarre would a lawsuit look? Oakland, backed by the Giants, would allege collusion between the A's ownership and MLB. The A's would probably counter that the antitrust exemption is keeping them from moving to San Jose. San Jose/Santa Clara County, not the A's, would sue MLB and the Giants, thereby threatening the antitrust exemption. I'm sure that Bud Selig's stockpiled a ton of antacid just in case.

28 April 2009

Thinking out of the (sky) box

They are a necessary evil. They make new stadiums possible even as they detract from many fans' experiences. They even go by different aliases. In the U.K. they are often called executive boxes. Here in America they usually go by the term luxury suites. Jon Miller has seen fit to call them condominiums. They used to be called skyboxes, before current stadium and arena architecture started to put them as close to event level as possible. Whatever you want to call them, they aren't going away. The question is, what can we do to make them work better for all fans, not just the suite folks?

Before I get into a solution, a little history is required. During the post-Camden Yards building boom, ballparks were designed to enhance premium revenue generating possibilities. This meant building lots of suites and club seats. In the 90's, architecture firms like HOK (now Populous) experimented with different configurations to accommodate team requirements. For the ChiSox, 2 suite levels sandwiched a club level. In Cleveland, 3 suite levels ran along the third base line while a club seating area was placed on the first base side. However, HOK wasn't alone with its crimes against upper deck fans. NBBJ designed Safeco Field and Miller Park, both of which had conservative seating layouts. Same goes for Ellerbe Becket, whose Chase Field feels like a huge airplane hangar. HKS did the football stadium-like Rangers Ballpark.

By the turn of the millenium, a standard recipe had been found. Teams wanted 40-42,000 seats, 50+ suites, and several thousand club seats. Various other niceties were added in to achieve some sense of uniqueness, but the fundamental recipe was the same. Like a pop song's structure, it wasn't something to be trifled with. The recipe looked like this:
  • 40 rows at field level
  • 8-12 row club mezzanine
  • Suite level either above or below club mezzanine
  • Split upper deck containing 24-26 rows above suites, with or without an open concourse
  • 35-40 foot concourses
However the mezzanine is sliced up, the club/suite facilities add around 36 feet to the height of the stadium, and more importantly, the upper deck. This also causes the upper deck to be more steep, even though it usually isn't cantilevered much over the lower deck. In these new ballparks, these choices create a more open, sunny environment. Unfortunately, in striking that bargain, intimacy is lost in the process.

Obviously, it isn't possible to lose the suites and club seats. They need to be there, and they need to be attractive to the premium market. That means suites can't be placed above and behind a third deck. They should be reasonably close to the field. Again, how to do this without hurting the upper deck fans?

Bring back the skybox
The great thing about building a 32-35,000 seat stadium is that the layout can be really compact. Each additional row adds about 500 fans. To get from 32k to 40k, 16 extra rows have to be built. That equates to an extra deck from foul pole to foul pole. For now, thankfully, we don't have to worry about that pesky third deck.

In the third deck's place, why not put the luxury suites there? To make them attractive, cantilever them over the second deck. Here's a cross section:

It's a very simple, compact, fan-friendly, intimate layout. An extended club seating area is at field level. Suites are elevated a bit, but they're only 24 rows from the field (Second level is the press box). This placement accomplishes two goals that are seemingly at odds: bring suite holders close to the action while not adversely affecting the upper deck. As you'll see from the next table, both would be closer than their counterparts at any modern ballpark.

The skybox location's distance to home plate is on par with other ballparks whose suites are tucked under a second deck. It's around 30 feet closer than in ballparks whose suites are under a third deck. The best part is that the upper deck in this model is nice and close. Its last row of the upper deck is 173' from home plate. Most recent ballparks have a large, tall, swept back upper deck. The first row is 150' from home plate, last row 250' away.

Having trouble envisioning it? Take a look at these comparisons. First, this model vs. Target Field (AT&T Park is similar):

Next, the model vs. Citi Field (with Shea Stadium as well):

Finally, the model vs. New Yankee Stadium:

The model has one major drawback. Major expansion (8-10,000 seats) would be prohibitively expensive due to the suite level(s) in place. It could be constructed with the flexible seating system I described over the weekend to add up to 2,000 seats as needed. Also, the model shown has both the upper deck and the suites cantilevered. A column could be used, probably to cut costs.

Do you think this is a model the A's should consider? How do you think it stacks up with 360's Cisco Field model?

25 April 2009

Expanding from within

Somehow, amidst all of the NBA and NHL playoff games, A's and Giants baseball, and incessant NFL Draft coverage, I managed to carve out an hour of time to satisfy my stadium jones. This was thanks to the Science Channel, whose series, Build it Bigger, covered the construction of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

The series gives solid profiles to major engineering and construction projects around the world. Two years ago, one of the subjects was University of Phoenix Stadium, the most similar existing design to what Jerry Jones is building. This week's ep covered all of the major stuff, from the massive roof and arch system to the enormous center-hung video boards and the largest sliding glass doors in the world.

On a smaller albeit similarly impactful scale, a segment was devoted to what I feel is the most innovative thing about the stadium: the seats. Made by Australian manufacturer Camatic, the seating system is notable for the way it's mounted. Most seating manufacturers mount seats directly to concrete risers. Over time, the only major innovations have been the switch from wood to plastic and the places of the mountain standards on the vertical part of the riser to facilitate easier postgame cleaning. Once seats are mounted, they can't be moved or modified except to change out hardware when it breaks. One baseball-specific innovation has been the angling of seats towards a focal point, usually home plate.

Camatic's Quantum series introduces an all new method: seats mounted on a beam. The beam is attached to the riser and seats snap into place along the beam. This allows for incredible flexibility, as seats of varying types and widths can be used, even on the same beam. They can be installed or removed quickly, creating more free space or additional capacity at a moment's notice. Watch the video below to see the system in action.

Here's an example of how this would work for the A's. Let's take a single section of seats, a matrix consisting of 18 rows of 24 19-inch seats. Each row would have to be at least 38 feet wide. To accommodate expansion, each row would be widened to 40 feet, which would allow for those 19-inch seats to take up 20-inch spaces. At the back of the section is an ADA-compliant row containing wheelchair spaces and companion seats.

Now let's consider the possibility of a playoff series or All Star game. As the stadium operator, you're obligated to keep a percentage of wheelchair spaces available for each price range. This time, unlike other stadia, you've designed the space to accommodate either wheelchair spaces or additional spaces easily. The wheelchair spaces are on a portable steel platform that can be removed and stowed out of sight. That would uncover two rows with unused beams. Ops can then bring in seats and mount them in minutes. In addition, those 20-inch seats can be turned into 19-inch seats with space remaining for an additional 25th seat per row.

The change nets an additional 51 seats per section. Projected out, that's 1,000 more seats per level or 2,000 more seats in the ballpark. That means going from 32,000 to 34,000 with little fuss, and with room remaining for standing room admissions.

Camatic, which has experience in the US (Turner Field, Qwest Field), is onto something with its new seating system. If Lew really wants to manage seat capacity and inventory on a similar micro level as he does his hotels, it's hard to ignore what Camatic brings to the table.

23 April 2009

Forbes: A's worth $319 million (-$4M)

This year's Forbes valuations are out, and the A's are down 1% from last year, which to me is surprising. I expected a bigger drop due to lower local revenue, but total team revenue actually rose from $154 to $160 million. This season's the big test, as MLB is expected to take a broad hit, including the possibility of lower TV revenues if not redone TV contracts. If a drop in valuation is going to occur, it'll be a year from now.

Bobb for Oakland mayor?

Former Oakland city manager Robert Bobb is doing more than just dipping a toe in city politics. He has expressed interest in the 2010 mayoral race, in which he would be running against Don Perata. It should at least shape up to be an epic race, with both candidates having campaign dollars and established political support at their disposal.

For those who haven't kept up with Bobb's doings since he left Oakland, here's a summary:
  • Sept. 2003 - Dec. 2006: City Administrator for the District of Columbia. From all outward appearances, Bobb was brought in mostly to do the DC ballpark deal. Bringing MLB back to the District is no small feat, though it can be argued that the District got ripped off in the process. Regardless, it's a feather in his cap.
  • Jan. 2007 - Dec. 2008: DC Board of Education President. I can't comment on his tenure there, read this and this for more details.
  • Jan. 2009 - present: Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools. Bobb was brought in to make drastic cuts in the school district's budget. This will include closing up to 50 schools.
  • Bobb's consulting firm has specialized in fixing bad fiscal situations in municipalities. Recently, this included cleaning up the budget mess left by his successor in Oakland, Deborah Edgerly.
It's a bit early to predict what could happen ballpark-wise with Bobb, since we still have many steps to go, including the Blue Ribbon committee's report. Should Bobb run and should Oakland elect Bobb, he'd be the guy to get a ballpark deal (site and political wrangling) done.

Previous posts on Robert Bobb:
It would be interesting to find out if Bobb's interest in the job would wane if the A's were fated to go to San Jose.

19 April 2009

Jet Stream Stadium

If you're a Canadian goose who happens to be a baseball fan, you might enjoy an easy wind-aided jaunt from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field to enjoy literal bird's eye views of the new ballyard palaces. The distance, shortest among crosstown rivalries, is only 6.6 miles. Of course, you might get sucked into a jet engine, but that's another story.

Like most baseball fans, I watched in wonder as the New Yankee Stadium opened and immediately turned into... a hitter's park? Small sample sizes be damned, the place has already recorded 20 home runs in 4 games. With the Oakland Anemics Athletics coming to town, that average will likely drop. Still, it'd be nice for Giambi to rekindle that old short porch aim for this series, and for Holliday to connect down the LF line for his first in an A's uniform.

Green-and-gold performance aside, there are probably hundreds of engineering students and professionals champing at the bit to determine the cause for the Bronx power spike. The Yankees have undoubtedly had their own studies done as well prior to construction, but it's so curious that the ball just flies to right even though the old and new stadiums have the same orientation, and are only several hundred feet apart. Players and coaches are already blaming the phenomenon on prevailing winds, which appear to be a bigger factor in the new digs than the old digs. From an amateur perspective, there's an explanation for the wind problem. It's the Stadium's open layout.

Old Yankee Stadium has a small footprint, and was designed by Osborn Engineering to make the most of very limited space. That meant putting in the massive overhanging upper deck, narrow concourses and ramps, and walls everywhere. New Yankee Stadium was designed by HOK Populous in response to Old Yankee's deficiencies. Where walls once stood, there are now open concourses. All three concourses are open to the field. The upper deck, which is where most winds will come in before swirling around the seating bowl, has two sets of openings. Besides the concourse, the back of the upper deck has the now familiar fence instead of Old Yankee's slits-in-concrete. The upper deck itself is not as steep as before. The roof is more extensive in New Yankee, but it's hard to say how much of an effect it has on the wind as a whole.

Over in Queens, Citi Field has racked up 10 HR's in 6 games. Its new orientation (NE instead of Shea's ENE) and cavernous RF makes Citi Field a pitcher's park more in the mold of PETCO or AT&T than any other East Coast ballpark. Side note: The Mets' roster has no major lefty bats other than Carlos Delgado, who will soon be a free agent.

To understand the big difference between the two parks, I've constructed a quick overlay of New Yankee Stadium's field over Citi Field.

Even without the weird notch (pointless affectation) in Citi's RF, it can nearly envelop New Yankee's field.

I haven't had a chance to see every homer hit at New Yankee so far, but from what I could gather at least 3 landed in the RF first row, including Jorge Posada's controversial pinch hit job earlier today. None of those would've gone out at Citi Field, and it could be argued that Old Yankee would've contained those flies as well. The Yankees claim that New and Old have the same dimensions, so what gives? It'll be some time before we know. One other thing about the environment: In only one of the four games so far has the temperature been above 70 degrees at first pitch.

Historically, teams have averaged a 1 HR/game, with the trend fluttering above 1 during the steroid era. If this trend doesn't settle down during the season, the Yanks will have major problems grooming and signing pitchers. Big parks like Safeco and Comerica had their fences brought in over time, just like Old Yankee Stadium. It's much harder to expand a bandbox. For now, some of us can delight in the horrified looks on the Yankees' brass as they realize their new home has just become Arlington or Denver.

18 April 2009

Diridon's Neighbors

Merc reporter Denis C. Theriault just penned an article capturing the state of affairs in and around the San Jose ballpark site. Reaction by neighbors is mixed as would be expected. Some demolition is expected to begin this summer, probably the old Amtrak/Butcher Electric building in the northeast corner, as well as the old KNTV studio. As these buildings are torn down, much needed parking goes up in place. On a weekday, daily parking in one of the area lots is $2-3, event parking $15-20.

One curious quote came from a resident of Delmas Park, the neighborhood between Diridon South and CA-87:

Just ask Chuck Bean, 60, who lives on Gifford Avenue in Delmas Park, where nearly all parking is by permit only — a concession granted after HP Pavilion was erected.

"People will park here anyway, despite the fact that there's a $50 ticket. It doesn't faze them," he said from the house his wife's grandparents bought in 1942.

All the more reason for more parking to be built in the area, in conjunction with additional event use and future transit hub use. Then again, maybe the city is "okay" with the situation since those $50 tickets help San Jose's general fund?

14 April 2009

Dellums, IDLF, Reid meet with MLB committee

The first of what promises to be several meetings between the City of Oakland and MLB's "Blue Ribbon" committee took place earlier today. On hand for the City were Mayor Ron Dellums and City Council members Ignacio De La Fuente and Larry Reid. Their counterparts were Bob Starkey, Corey Busch and Irwin Raij.
"It was an excellent meeting," Dellums said afterward. "We've begun an excellent dialogue. We've agreed to meet on a regular basis and our hope is that we will come to some fruition at some point down the line. ... Obviously, on our side, we want to keep the Oakland A's."
Obviously, it's premature to expect anything truly substantive to come out of an opening session. Recriminations have to happen first, I suppose. What struck me was this:
Dellums has not yet finalized the local A's stadium committee, said Paul Rose, the mayor's spokesman.
I'm not sure how to react to this.

13 April 2009

Oakland FD Training Site

In the last few weeks, I've gotten several requests to add a particular Oakland site for review on the blog. The site in question is a veritable wedge formed by the mouth of Lake Merritt channel to the east, 880 to the north, Fallon Street to the west, and the combination of Union Pacific railroad tracks and The Embarcadero to the south.

The site is often referred to as the OFD training site, and while that's correct, the city only owns 6 acres in the area, 4 of which are actually usable for the ballpark (the rest is either underneath the elevated freeway or a buffer for the channel). Another key section is owned by Peralta Community College District, though it by all appearances is cleared out. The area was once home to a sizable homeless encampment, which was cleared out about 2 years ago.

In between the two parcels is the remains of an old rail right-of-way. A bridge spanning the channel still exists, AFAIK. According to OaklandExplorer, the ROW is not on any parcel maps, so it is also probably owned by the city. As you'll see from the next image, the combination of these parcels is not enough to contain the ballpark.

The ballpark encroaches upon a few industrial properties in the area. At least one of these is either vacant or available for lease, which means it could be ripe for purchase. However, as V Smoothe pointed out in the previous thread, this is where it gets complicated. The entire site is split between Central City (Downtown) and Central City East (Fruitvale/San Antonio/O29). I don't have specifics about how this makes the situation more difficult, but I can imagine that either some kind of RDA annexation would have to occur or bonds may have to be raised separately to acquire parcels in either section. Each district has its own distinct RDA budget and bonding cap. Here's a breakdown of the district separation:
  • Central City East - OFD, Peralta/Laney, East Bay Restaurant Supply and adjacent warehouses
  • Central City - Self Storage facility, residential triplex, additional warehouse
The other industrial properties in the area wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't for an additional requirement - 1,200 parking spaces near the ballpark. Yes, there are parking garages being built near JLS, but a new, 1,200-space garage will be the minimum for team employees, VIP's, and premium seat holders.

As I mentioned in the previous post comments thread, freeway infrastructure in the area is severely lacking. The Oak St offramp from 880 north is less than 1/4 mile long, and it will need to be lengthened and widened to handle new traffic. The 5th Ave overpass and exit project is currently out for bid, and was not designed to handle traffic from something like a ballpark. The Embarcadero is slated for widening and new traffic signals as part of the O29 project. The recently certified EIR for O29 shows that traffic at Embarcadero/5th Ave will reach unacceptable levels by 2025. A ballpark will not enhance the situation, and if something gets built there a major revamp of on/offramps will be needed to make things livable for all who live and work in the area, not just the A's.

Fortunately, the site is only 1/4 mile from the Lake Merritt BART station. It's also 1/4 mile from the JLS Amtrak station. A shuttle is planned to take new O29 residents around Downtown. There was talk earlier in the decade about a trolley, but there's no chance of that happening in anytime soon.

If the outfield view doesn't look too terribly impressive, that's because the distance to the Oakland Hills through center field is twice as far as the distance from the Coliseum to Leona Quarry.

Now's the time for some back-of-the-envelope numbers.
  • Ballpark: $500 million (assuming 2014 or later opening)
  • Land acquisition for ballpark: $30 million
  • Relocation costs for OFD training site: $5 million plus land acquisition
  • 1,200 space garage: $30 million including land
  • Freeway access improvements: $50 million or more depending on how extensive already planned 880 project is going to be
  • Surface street traffic improvements: Unknown
That's $115 million in infrastructure improvements with additional mitigation work on the horizon.

Keep in mind that a ballpark project would have to undergo its own EIR/CEQA process. Judging by the difficulty encountered in the O29 project, a ballpark EIR could be just as lengthy. The same environmentalists who decried O29 would only have to shift their vision slightly to the west. Why? The key piece of land, the fire training site, has already been designated as open space. When I asked this same group a few years back about whether or not a ballpark could be used on open space, I got two reactions: quizzical stares and chuckles.

There's also the question of whether or not area landowners are willing to sell. Thankfully, there aren't that many here. Should one or two balk, it would be difficult to get a ballpark deal done. The one I'm curious about is East Bay Restaurant Supply, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary in Oakland. Eminent domain has to be out of the picture, unless one lives in Fantasyland.

Economically, the site would be better for the A's than the downtrodden Coliseum area. Still, there's probably a sizable gap in available corporate dollars between this site and San Jose, given that the ballpark is moving further away from Silicon Valley. The cost of needed infrastructure has to give one pause. The City of Oakland has requested $2.6 billion in stimulus funds. I'm not going to present a false dichotomy here, but if the City really felt it had to request more in stimulus funds than the rest of the Bay Area cities combined, it's pretty difficult to justify adding another project whose value outside its limited purpose is questionable at best.

Gotta admit, though, it looks pretty good in the screenshots.

10 April 2009

Oh Happy Charade!

Tonight was the first Opening Night I've missed since college, going back 15 years. Instead, I was with family and friends across the plaza at the Roaracle, watching a surprisingly entertaining game between the W's and the Yao-less, T-Mac-less Rockets. Thanks to all who offered a drink tonight at the A's game, I most assuredly would've taken you up on the offer if I was there. I'll take a rain check.

To beat the traffic on 880 tonight, I missed the Friday episode of Chronicle Live, which had an interview with Lew Wolff and other guests. Greg Papa had Scott Ostler and SacBee columnist Paul Gutierrez in studio, more on that later.

Papa, who's done a bangup job as host so far in the show's brief history, did his level best to corner Wolff on several quotes and tough questions to get the A's managing partner to make admissions about San Jose. Wolff wasn't biting, however, and Papa realized this perhaps halfway through the interview. Hopefully there'll be a rematch in the future and we can see Wolff dodge Papa's thrusts again.

Papa's best questions involved Wolff's motivation for abandoning the Fremont plan so quickly. Here's the exchange:
Papa: We were at a luncheon, if you recall, in late February... and I asked you about Fremont and where that was, and at the time you gave me some encouraging feedback that the Fremont ballpark option was there. In less than a week later I read in the paper that the Fremont option is no longer there. So what happened in a week's time, what happened to Fremont?

Wolff: The only two sites that were available - we were hoping that at least one would work out - in one case we had adjacent property owners, retailers, who had a liability clause that we couldn't accept. In the other case we had really well organized homeowners - we weren't trying to hurt their neighborhood - but they were indicating that they were prepared, under CA law, to file a CEQA lawsuit which could go on a couple of years. We just didn't want to continue under that circumstance. The City was fine, as was the staff.

Papa: Was the financing in place to get the ballpark built?

Wolff: We're not as concerned about the financing as getting a place to build it. Because of certain income streams we have including your organization (CSN), I think we can do what we can do - our great ballpark. Remember we're only talking about 32,000 seats. We're not trying to emulate Yankee Stadium or the Mets.
CSN's Chronicle Live site currently has truncated video segments. Here's one of four:

Jumping forward a bit during the in-studio followup:
Papa: Listening to Mr. Wolff talk, I'm a little surprised why they gave up so early on Fremont. Because people were protesting outside? ... if the financing is there, and you've got land to go ahead and do it, are you gonna back off? Anytime you build anything in this world you're gonna have protesters. I think baseball would say, "Let's go back and look at this Fremont deal a little closer."

Ostler: Somebody on the Giants told me - I think they're within their rights - when we were planning our ballpark if we had given up every time 50 neighbors got together to complain we would have never...

Papa: I can't build a fence up in my yard without my neighbors protesting!

Gutierrez: The thing with Fremont to me, it never made sense because it was 5 miles from the nearest BART station.

Papa: You want them to go to Sacramento.

Gutierrez: I said it was a 10,000-seat stadium, it's actually a 15,000-seat stadium that's easily expandable.
Well, Gutierrez is right about Raley Field being expandable. Easy? Not so much. Can't blame the guy for trying. It's a civic duty of some sort, I suppose.

The most anticipated segment was to have San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Doug Boxer, head of the committee to keep the A's in Oakland and recently part of Oakland's Planning Commission. Boxer happens to be the son of Stuart Boxer, longtime Oakland attorney, and Senator Barbara Boxer, she of the lovely letter to Selig from last week. Selig and the A's stepped in to put the kibosh on that segment, probably in light of the recent tragedies. As noted by Papa, it would've been inappropriate to debate this now. It's also an indicator that Selig is indeed tightening the leash and controlling the narrative.

Elsewhere, a commenter purporting to be Doug Boxer went on V Smoothe's A Better Oakland blog to press the case for keeping the A's in town. A comment that he might want to take back no matter how true it may be is this:
Have you watched Bud Selig as the Commissioner. He’s a dolt who doesn’t get it. I doubt he did any homework. He’s a college frat brother of Lew’s and I’m sure it has more to do w/ that than anything else.
I'm guessing that if you want to keep the A's in Oakland, it'd be a good idea not to refer to the guy who holds the team's fate in his hands as a dolt who doesn't get it. Otherwise, the exchange between Boxer and V Smoothe is a good one. Definitely worth reading.

08 April 2009

In other news (4/8/09 edition)

New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field may be getting all the press, but let's not forget the $250 million in renovations being done to Kauffman Stadium. The big stuff has been completed, which includes the following enhancements:
  • Widened concourses from 24 to 37 feet
  • The ability to walk around the entire stadium, including the outfield
  • Hall of Fame in left field with party suites/meeting rooms underneath
  • Restaurant in right field that opens 2 hours before the gates open, party deck on top
  • Miniature playing field for kids way out beyond the LF wall
  • Royals team administration offices with modern exterior
  • Increased and improved landscaping
  • The crown-topped new video/scoreboard in center, a fitting replacement for the original
  • Standing room area below the fountains in right
Check out the Kansas City Star's open house photos and a PDF explaining the new features. It'll be interesting to see if the changes produce a significant increase in attendance. The team may be coming of age at the right time to give KC a double boost.
Miami-Dade County approved the issue of $563 million in bonds for the Marlins' Orange Bowl ballpark. Questions remain about the general fund being raided to pay for it if hotel tax revenue doesn't come in as expected, and the interest rate(s) the county will be able to secure in the market. The market's weak enough that it eventually could be dangerous for both the county and the team:
The county bonds are designed as interest-only instruments at the start, with large payments due at the end. The plan to pay off the bonds relies on steady growth in sports and tourism tax revenue.
Is it me or does that seem a little too subprime? If the bond deal can't be struck by July 1, the whole thing is off.
Down south, the cities of Diamond Bar and Industry settled over traffic concerns spurred by the LA Football Stadium project. Diamond Bar will get $20 million to cover traffic mitigation work. Neighboring city Walnut has filed a lawsuit, claiming that Industry's EIR for the project was insufficient. As far as the stadium goes, it looks like a Staples Center for football. Ed Roski must have an obsession with purple seats.
Frank Deford thinks architects should pipe down in their critiques of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. His argument is that ballparks are for nostalgic fans, not architects. I don't know about that, it seems that ballparks are as much about making money as they are about fan experience.
Check out the piece that Deford criticizes, by NYT architecture writer Nicolai Ouroussoff. Citi Field's first regular season game comes April 13. Yankee Stadium's first game is scheduled for April 16. Last but not least, Reno's ballpark is scheduled to open April 17.
A man died after getting into a fight at the A's-Angels game last night. Apparently the guy was cheap-shotted. I'm sure a manslaughter charge is coming...
Giants and A's ownership are making the rounds in the media. Bill Neukom and Larry Baer were on CSN's Chronicle Live yesterday, Lew Wolff and SJ Mayor Chuck Reed (their first joint appearance?) will be on Friday. Baer was also on KQED-FM's Forum this morning. His stance? "A rule is a rule." When pressed on T-rights later, Baer admitted that the issue would be "hashed out by Major League Baseball." What happened to the litigation threats? Hmmm???

19 San Jose Giants games will be on the Comcast Hometown network, channel 104 for South Bay Comcast subscribers. There's something so utterly patronizing about what the SF Giants are doing, I have to chuckle a bit.

A Field Poll shows that 82% of California residents are opposed to splitting the state into Eastern and Western California. 71% are opposed to splitting the state into Northern and Southern California. But you wouldn't know that from the comments at the bottom of the SacBee article, and after all, aren't comments sections truly reflective of the populace? Randomly sampled surveys by reputable firms? Pish posh.

The "I" word

I spoke briefly to John Pastier after the vote was made, explaining how much of a fan I am of his work (Historic Ballparks/Slate article "Diamonds in the Rough"). I hope to pick his brain on the architectural aspects of a future ballpark. You guys think I geek out about the political stuff, no way - not nearly as much as the buildings themselves.

While pretty much everyone from the mayor on down agrees that public funds for a ballpark are a nonstarter, the real debate will involve whatever amount of public money is required for infrastructure improvements in the area. Opponents are starting to pitch their argument as transit hub vs. ballpark, claiming that the site is valuable land that would be better used to flesh out the hub or foster additional transit-oriented development.

This argument is a trap. It's not an either-or scenario, as both facilities can be accommodated with related development that can properly complement both. To understand why, it's important to establish how we got to this point.

In 2005, when plans coalesced around a San Jose Ballpark effort, the CAHSR project was also formally getting started. Both were considered mere glimmers in the eyes of their respective supporters. Only when certain measures passed in the November 2008 election did they gain real traction.

From there everything diverges. CAHSR is projected to start service in 2020, 6 years after a ballpark could open. Amazingly, that's 5 years before BART is slated to come to downtown SJ despite its vastly greater system length, expense and complexity. City fathers are looking to build a great rail facility, already drawing comparisons to Grand Central Terminal.

Let's stop right there. Grand Central? Are you kidding me? There's one unusual fact that everyone should understand before dreaming about Beaux Arts rail stations: You could fit the original Diridon Station building inside Grand Central's Main Concourse 12 times and still have space to walk around. Grand Central Terminal was built during an era that emphasized trains in a city that is built for them. While we should look to the old lady as a prime example of how to efficiently move large numbers of people around, it is wholly impractical for San Jose to build anything approaching GCT's scale. Besides, as romantic as people view GCT, it's Penn Station, GCT's unloved brother, that moves more people on a daily basis.

CHSRA head Quentin Kopp has been clear in his battles with the Transbay Terminal folks that he is most concerned about getting the SF-LA main line built as quickly and cheaply as possible, not so much about fancy passenger terminals. If you're a city that wants to build one anyway? Fund it yourself. Want to run all of the tracks underground, as Menlo Park and Palo Alto are planning? Put your money where your NIMBY mouth is. San Jose has asked for $100 million in stimulus funds to help build the hub, a good start if it comes through but not enough even with whatever is available from the Authority's budget to build anything truly "grand." Harvard University's Graduate School of Design recently won a contest to design the new hub. Hopefully they can put it together in a way that provides efficiency and real aesthetic value while not costing an arm and a leg. On a related note, SJ's redevelopment agency just moved one step closer to raising its debt ceiling to $1.5 billion.

To make it a fully multi-modal transit center, bus facilities will have to be relocated. They may go underground, they may inhabit the space where the PG&E substation sits. Parking will sit on top, with street level retail and perhaps some office/commercial development on the 8 acres bounded by HP Pavilion, Diridon Station, and the ballpark site. I've mentioned before that parking is a potential win-win for all parties, as the expensive garages that will go up here don't have to be single-use (transit only, arena/ballpark only). That said, what kind of parking will be needed for HSR use? Day parking, as we find with Caltrain users, or something else? The last thing anyone wants is for any new garages in the area to turn into an incredibly expensive version of long term parking.

Any vision of a sleek, effective transit hub has to be done in a public/private partnership. In this case, that could mean that like Transbay Terminal in SF, the hub facilities will be funded by development on the street and above. Once the area is cleared out, transit could only have two immediate neighbors, the Sharks and A's. The Sharks already have their own parking requirements with the city and will be affected by the construction process. The A's will have even greater parking requirements, but at least with the A's accommodations can be baked into the plan.

Why not partner with both teams to make it work? Certainly all parties can work out a deal that can send the right amount back to pay for the transit hub's eventual debt service while also covering the A's and Sharks for the cost to develop the area. Build in a method to pay for parking enforcement in nearby neighborhoods, and everyone's on the same page. The projected opening dates for the ballpark, CAHSR and BART are staggered enough that not everything needs to be built at once.

07 April 2009

Liveblog from City Council Session

Media is present. Local movers and shakers present. Lots of people wearing A's gear in the house. There will be many comments made. I will only cover notable comments, positive, negative, and in between. Mayor Reed takes care of a ceremonial item, and we're off.

7:20 - Reed prefaces this by going over the circumstances that got San Jose to this point, repeats the mantra that San Jose is in MLB's hands re: T-rights. "Let's get to work again," he says.

Harry Mavrogenes (Redevelopment) does short presentation. "With proper management a project like this could be an asset to the area." He brings out map. Need revision: AT&T parcels include San Fernando parking lot next to old Stevens plant.

EIR indicated improved access necessary by connecting Autumn Street between Coleman and Julian. Engineering plans are 35% complete. Acquisition process of property for Autumn Street/Parkway has begun.

7:28 - Comments start now. Michael Mulcahy starts (Baseball San Jose/Pro Baseball for San Jose, Inc.) off. Cites Cisco as even more motivated. Thanks the mayor.

Former mayor Janet Gray Hayes chimes in. Notes that she was originally opposed to the Arena, now says she was wrong and that the situation was managed beautifully. Supports ballpark. Representatives of the San Jose Arena Authority, Soccer Silicon Valley, and County Assessor Larry Stone come out in support.

First child speaks in favor about 10 speakers in, Matt Ross of Los Gatos. So far, two residents of the site-adjacent Georgetown neighborhood have spoken in favor.

First different viewpoint, a family including a small child. Is mostly concerned about the San Jose Giants' future and the family friendly nature of Single-A baseball.

First opposing viewpoint, slams Mulcahy for coming in 5th in mayoral election.

Transit planning advocate wants ballpark to be designed with HSR in mind. Wants City to do a comprehensive EIR update that includes all public facilities including transit and parks.

7:54 - Senior VP of McAfee (yes, that McAfee) represents the Chamber. Supports ballpark.

A partner at Deloitte & Touche (which has an office downtown) supports ballpark as a quality of life/recruitment plus.

Member of the Market-Almaden neighborhood (Convention Center) support a ballpark, but want City to give area residents a strong vote. One of them showed my 2-D model on the projector.

John Pastier, former architectural critic for LA Times speaks and ballpark historian (lives in Naglee Park neighborhood). Notes how horrible the Coliseum was for the World Series. Supports ballpark.

Parks & Rec commissioner or District 6 asks for partnerships to build/maintain sports fields.

8:09 - Someone finally talks about T-rights!

Shasta/Hanchett resident speaks out about fiscal responsibility. Two other area residents say that Diridon South is needed for transit facilities, not a ballpark. Both would like to see The Alameda transformed into a pedestrian friendly, tree lined boulevard. The back end of the comments period has more cautionary commenters, most of whom are asking for a full rewrite of the EIR.

Ross Signorino has a sign saying "Be a good neighbor dume (sic) stadium." Every city has at least one of him. He's wearing a Baseball San Jose shirt, given out at the famous rally at which former council member Forrest Williams cried, "San Jose has a constitutional right to have a baseball team!" Or something to that effect.

Marc Morris, who challenged the traffic study in the EIR, also feels that the land would be better used for development of the transit hub.

Carl Guardino (SVLG) speaks second to last. Talks survey. 285 members were sent survey. 120 responses were received in a week. Survey consists of 3 questions with 2 sub-questions.
  • Do you agree that the CIty of San Jose should be the home a MLB team? - 70% Yes, 10% No, 19% No opinion
  • Companies currently sponsoring/advertising with the Giants who would support the A's - 68% Yes
  • Companies hold season tickets or luxury boxes - 70% Yes, 13% No, 17% No opinion
SVLG will post results shortly on its website. SVLG will take issue to board before taking a formal position.

Former mayor Susan Hammer speaks last. Thinks the ballpark can be done, unlike 1992. Supports ballpark.

8:49 - Comments ended. Council members speak before a motion on the floor. Ash Kaira defends the previous EIR process, saying that it was thorough. Nancy Pyle mentions that the Arena has brought $1.28 billion to San Jose since its opening. Reed wants guidelines for a public/private partnership, and emphasizes a net positive impact to the general fund. (I wonder what that means?)

9:14 - Motion approved, on to the next step.

Survey: 70% of South Bay corporations support move to SJ

A survey done by tech industry lobbying firm SVLG shows that of its constituent members, 70% would support the A's in San Jose. Surprisingly, many of those companies already support the Giants yet would support both the Giants and A's if the A's relocated south. The timing makes it almost certain that the survey's results will be mentioned in tonight's City Council session. It's quite reassuring for San Jose partisans, who appear to be building a case for the move, the first tenet being the South Bay's "independence" from T-rights.

A list of SVLG's 293 members can be found here. Note that it isn't restricted to Silicon Valley, though most of the roster is based there.

San Jose and Santa Clara County actions tonight

In the wake of media reports about San Jose and Santa Clara County looking to free themselves from the Giants' territorial clutches, both will take up the matter tonight at their respective governing body sessions.

I will be attending the San Jose session, which is scheduled to start at 7 PM, in the Council Chambers inside San Jose City Hall. The agenda item is as follows:
9.1 A’s Stadium in San José.
Attachment – Memo from Mayor Reed
Recommendation: As referred by the Rules and Open Government Committee on March 11, 2009, consider the following actions:
(a) Discuss actions that San José can take to prepare for the possibility that Major League Baseball (MLB) makes a decision allowing the Athletics (A’s) to consider relocating to San José
(b) Direct staff to prepare and return to Council with a Resolution indicating the desire of the City of San José to support the A’s if MLB favors a relocation of the A’s to San José; and, indicating that the City is willing to accommodate the A’s on the site at Park Avenue and Autumn/Montgomery Streets.
(c) Direct a team of City and Redevelopment Agency staff to assess what steps may need to be taken to prepare the site at Park Avenue and Autumn/Montgomery Streets for potential consideration, and develop an outreach program to neighboring residents and businesses.
(d) Direct staff to provide a status report and recommendations for additional actions that may need Council authorization to the Community and Economic Development Committee within two months of the April 7th Council hearing followed by a discussion at the City Council.
[Rules Committee referral 3/11/09 – Item 10.1(b)]
You'll be able to find the stream here. On a related note, San Jose approved chopping 30% off last year's sale price of the Airport West land. That's a cool $40 million. Airport West is going to be used for the Quakes' 15,000-seat stadium, plus future office/retail development.

Santa Clara County's involvement is less direct, and their issue is more a matter of supporting San Jose than anything else.

Consider recommendations relating to Major League Baseball's Territorial Rights for Santa Clara County.

Possible action:

1. Adopt Resolution requesting that Major League Baseball act on the territorial rights in the County of Santa Clara. (Roll Call Vote)

2. Approve letter regarding Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Santa Clara County Territorial Rights and direct Clerk of the Board to forward letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

Transmittal BOSD308 040709
Resolution (Resolution)
Letter to Commissioner Bud Selig (A - Multiple Recommendations)
Baseball San Jose is scheduled to have a pre-session event at Billy Berks, a few blocks away from City Hall on 1st and San Fernando.

New post on SJ City Council session later tonight. I may liveblog again.

06 April 2009

If Hollywood can do it, so can I

Hope springs eternal on Opening Day. A month ago I took the wraps off a site redesign. Now it's time for another new feature I've been working on - 3D modeling. That's right, all those mockups I've been doing are going to be in 3D. Several films are coming out in 3D, so it makes sense for the progression to happen here as well. The model featured here and all future models will be available for you to download and play around with if you so choose.

Above: Google Earth skyline view behind home plate. Below: View from southeast, HP Pavilion in background

Download links:
Both Google Sketchup and Google Earth are free apps, so get cracking!

Now for some notes on the model:
  • Depending on whether or not you have the Terrain feature selected in Google Earth, the stadium and field may appear to be raised above street level. This is intentional, as the field is meant to be sunken and if it were the terrain would obscure it.
  • There are no concourses, suites, scoreboards, or visual effects in the model. This was done mostly to get it out the door. Eventually all of that stuff will be added. Update: Added concourses, batter's eye.
  • I am working on a site-nonspecific model that could be planted in the Coliseum and elsewhere.
  • Press box is above and behind the upper deck.
  • The building to the left of dead center is a restaurant/club. Presumably a scoreboard would be affixed on top.
  • The LF and CF walls are 9 feet high, RF is 21 feet high. Dimensions are 325' down the LF line, 322' down the RF line, 408' to center, 373' and 368' to the left and right power alleys.
  • It may look like the ballpark has four decks, but it does not. It has two decks that are each split.
  • Outlines for the bullpens are in left and left-center. Yes, the bleachers are elevated several feet above the pens. Several hundred seats are situated between the bullpens as well.
  • The red area is the PG&E substation.
  • I'm 99.9% certain of scale and size thanks to Sketchup. Previously, the mockups were drawn on Freehand/Illustrator and I had to use blown up aerial photos and parcel maps to line everything up properly.

03 April 2009

Players dump on Coliseum

CBS Sports baseball scribe Scott Miller writes from a national perspective, so you can't expect a lot of breaking local news from him. Still, he dug up some interesting quotes from players about the Coliseum, especially snakebit franchise cornerstone Eric Chavez.
"A couple of years ago, a new ballpark was of huge interest to me," said Chavez, 31. "Now, I don't see myself being around whenever we get a new stadium. So I don't pay much attention anymore.

"It's literally a Coliseum, where we play now. As a fan, it makes sense to go to a beautiful park like Pac Bell (in San Francisco), or whatever they call it now."
Now that is the sound of a beaten man. Why do I sense that Chavy will end his career as a Giant if he can't go to his childhood home San Diego? I'm going off on a tangent. Anyway, fan fave A.J. Pierzynski will no doubt endear himself even more to the Coliseum faithful with this gem:
"The dugouts aren't really dugouts. They're just benches they stuck in front of the fans."
Hey A-hole Jerkoff Pierzyzewkyszerbiak, most benches I've seen don't have a restroom at the end. Or bat racks for that matter.

Prodigal son Jason Giambi chimed in with his observations on the House that Boss Tweed George Steinbrenner built.
"It's unbelievable," said Giambi, who toured the new Yankee Stadium toward the end of last season when he still played for the Yankees. "It's a billion dollars. You can't even fathom that type of money. It has every amenity you could possibly want from a players' perspective and from a fans' perspective."

Each Yankee's locker will be equipped with a computer. There is a large video room just behind the Yankees' dugout, in which the players can watch videos of their at-bats -- or study the opposing pitcher -- just before heading to the batter's box.
I like the idea of all 25 players running into the clubhouse between at bats on April 13 just to send tweets via their locker-mounted computers.

Reed updates agenda for next week, issues resolution

SF Business Times' David Goll highlights a new memo by San Jose mayor Chuck Reed to the City Council. In the memo (PDF download) is the first mention of a request to MLB to "be freed of restrictive territorial rights." Verbatim:
3. Resolution of Support
Authorize the Mayor to send a letter to Major League Baseball with the October 5, 2004 Resolution of the City Council of the City of San José, (Resolution 72344), which includes a request to be freed of territorial rights.

Direct staff to prepare and return to Council with a Resolution indicating the desire of the City of San José to support the A's if MLB favors a relocation of the A's to San José along the lines of the attached draft.
There are other instructions outlining how related issues should be addressed, such as the EIR, site and area development plans, community outreach efforts, etc. But the meat is in the new Resolution, which is on the third page of the memo.

Again, just like with the Dellums letter to Selig, I have to ask if this is the most effective way to deal with the T-rights problem. It could be said that Dellums got some traction by getting the blue ribbon committee to evaluate Oakland (cynics like me would say that traction is very slight). A city resolution doesn't carry much weight unless it comes with a plan, or least a proper leadup to a plan. That's definitely what the City is putting together, but we're still around two months from seeing it.

This might be more of an indicator that it's time for MLB to take the negotiating reins from Lew Wolff, who would take more of Samson/Loria-in-the-background role.

Here's the full resolution for those who are interested:

WHEREAS, the local and regional economies would benefit from the relocation of the A's to San José; and,

WHEREAS, the San Francisco Giants currently have territorial rights to the County of Santa Clara, which were granted in 1992, during its consideration of a move to the County of Santa Clara; and,

WHEREAS, the A's have identified San José as its principal choice for its new location; and,

WHEREAS, the proposed site is immediately accessible by multiple transportation networks, including bus, light rail transit, Caltrain, and High Speed Rail and BART in the future; and,

WHEREAS, the City of San José's rights of self-determination, autonomy and independence are being compromised through a decision over which it has no control; and,

WHEREAS, the A's were gracious and cooperative in 1992 when asked to agree with the assignment of the territory; and,

WHEREAS, the County of Santa Clara is one of two primary economic markets in Northern California, and includes San José which is third largest city in California.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council does hereby respectfullly request that Major League Baseball allow the A's a fair opportunity to move to San José.
Next week's gonna be very interesting. One more thing: Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors is on board too.

02 April 2009

Wolff on short leash? IDLF as savior?

Two Oakland-related items for this afternoon. The Trib thinks someone needs to pinch hit for Mayor Dellums if the A's are to stay in town, and I agree. Dellums isn't exactly the most proactive guy out there, and the City needs some who can work the system and has some passion for the cause. Naturally, the Trib drops the name of Ignacio De La Fuente. I'm certain that De La Fuente can broker a deal. Can he broker a good deal? That's the question. It's not an indictment of IDLF, rather it's a matter of whether or not the resources will be there to see it through.

Fresh from the rumor mill (via Scott Sabatini's Examiner article) is Zennie Abraham's suggestion that Lew Wolff was almost fired when the Fremont plan failed, and that he's now on a short leash. I agree with the second part more than the first, as many of Wolff's wounds from the past several weeks have been entirely self-inflicted. Enough to fire him? I doubt it. What's certain is that Lew will have to tighten things up to get through the San Jose labyrinth. And if he can't, I'm pretty sure he's gone. He was brought in to get a ballpark deal done, and if it can't get done there's not much purpose in having him around, is there? College frat buddy friendships only go so far. In the rest of Zennie's post he mentions redevelopment and stimulus funds. Please Zennie - don't go there! That's not change we can believe in.

If you have 20 minutes or so, check out Zennie's recently posted video on the Coliseum ballpark plan. The plan itself had to be "dusted off" as it hasn't been touched in a few years, but the concepts haven't changed. You'll notice the name Chris De Benedetti, the former ANG reporter who's now on the Mayor's Stadium Task Force. I find that fascinating, as former Merc reporter Barry Witt, who worked the San Jose/Santa Clara stadium beat, now works for the City of San Jose.

The last years of the Haas era revisited

I'm paraphrasing here, but here's a common refrain I've read lately:
Why can't we have owners like the Haas family, who respect the tradition of the Oakland A's and are willing to spend money?
Why not indeed? These damned money grubbing owners, all they want to do is (insert conspiracy theory here - apparently the theorists can't even come to a consensus this), they don't care about baseball! We need to exhume Wally Haas, reanimate him, sue MLB and the A's to invalidate the last two ownership groups, and put the soon-to-be canonized man back where he belongs, as owner of the A's.

Nostalgia's great, isn't it? We can choose to ignore certain facts that we feel are inconvenient. We can bask in the glory of the great triumphs while whistling in the dark about the more unsavory aspects.

When Rickey Henderson came back to the A's during the '89 season, it was a signal to fans from Haas and Sandy Alderson that the team was serious, that it was going to make its run. We all know about the great payoff for that season, but what happened the following years? As you can see from the chart below (data from the old Business of Baseball website), it was a tremendous struggle to stay competitive in the wake of baseball's economic upheaval. Some call it charity on Haas's part, I see it more as a very shrewd strategy. Haas saw that the Giants were struggling to get a new stadium in San Francisco, and there was a distinct opportunity for the A's to have the Bay Area all to themselves if the Giants left for Tampa Bay, or most of the Bay Area if they moved to San Jose.

The light blue line is the leading indicator. 1990, the team's last World Series appearance, was the last profitable season during the Haas era. From then on, the team lost a combined $30 million in 5 seasons. That's the equivalent of an entire season's payroll back then. Currently, the average payroll is around $90 million. Can you imagine the A's losing $90 million during a 5-year span? Fortunately, revenue sharing is around to help the bottom line, though even with the annual revenue sharing receipt, the A's would still lose money since their receipt would drop proportionally as their revenues rose.

It's good to remember the on field successes and the work done to get them. Throughout my childhood, I listened to Bill and Lon on my parents' 70's-era Sears console stereo in the living room while I did my homework. I still remember KSFO often using Madonna's "Borderline" as bumper music between innings. As great as these memories are, the successes did not occur in a vacuum. Incredible amounts of money were spent, from the core of the team to the annual rent-a-slugger and solid veteran 4th starter to having both legends King and Simmons in the booth. It's not only impractical to expect that of Lew Wolff, it's patently unfair.

Every owner does what he can with the cards he's dealt. Wolff signed off on a $79 million payroll in 2007, only to have the team beset with injuries. Hope springs eternal this season, but already we're seeing the injury bug decimate the pitching staff. (Side note: let's not get too excited about Anderson or Cahill yet. For every Big Three, there's also a Generation K - knock on wood.) If the team manages to stay competitive during the first half, it's likely that we'll see a big arm rental along with Matt Holliday stay through the end of the season. If not, guys will be sold off and we'll go back solely to grooming young guys who can hopefully stay healthy. We know that Billy's going to try to get value whenever and wherever he can. The cycle will repeat itself continually until a new stadium is built. It's sobering, but those are the Wolff/Fisher group's - and our - cards.

01 April 2009

49ers, Santa Clara close to terms

Not to be left behind, the Yorks and Santa Clara are back pumping up the 49ers stadium plan. While the basic structure of the arrangement is the same, the numbers have changed a bit. The vote was to be either binding or advisory based on the availability of a completed EIR. By pushing the referendum back to June 2010, all EIR/CEQA should be completed by then. The projected subsidy, which has been estimated at anywhere from $109 million to $180 million depending on certain options, has now been trimmed to less than $90 million. The total price tag is projected to be $900 million.

Why wouldn't the 49ers simply foot the bill for the remaining $90 million, since it's only 10% of the budget? True to form, Jed York says that's the NFL's requirement. Ever since the stadium building boom, the NFL has required some level of public investment if the league tapped into its G-3 fund. The league's rationale is that it's the way for a municipality to get skin in the game. Even though G-3 is gone, it will be replaced by something else and apparently, similar rules will be applied.

It's been over 20 years since the last publicly financed, voter approved sports venue in the Bay Area. That venue was San Jose Arena. Since then, all publicly financed stadium initiatives have largely failed. Let's recap:
  • 1989: San Francisco's Prop P (China Basin GIants ballpark) lost by 2,000 votes
  • 1990: Santa Clara County Giants ballpark measure (1% utility tax) failed
  • 1992: San Jose Giants ballpark measure (2% utility tax) loses in a landslide
  • 1995: Oakland Coliseum renovation to bring back Raiders - done without a vote, notoriously unsuccessful
  • 1996: Coliseum Arena renovation for Warriors - probably the most successful to date, high costs to operate venue make it less attractive for non-NBA events compared to HP Pavilion
  • 1997: Proposition D passes in SF, providing $100 million towards a new Hunters Point stadium for the 49ers. Development was scaled back, project became stillborn
  • 2001: A's efforts to work out a publicly-financed ballpark deal in Santa Clara die due to mistrust of team among City Council members
It's hard to fight that kind of track record, isn't it? Regardless, the Niners will forge ahead anyway. I'd like to think that the A's have learned from this, but I wouldn't put it past them to put out a publicly financed ballpark deal in San Jose. If that happens, I'll be first in line at the ballot box to vote it down. Given the state of the economy, I'd do the same if I were a Santa Clara resident come June 2010.

Note: I omitted Pac Bell Park because the public money involved went towards infrastructure, not the stadium proper.

"I claim this city for Mother SF!"

The gloves are out. The line in the sand has been drawn. Honestly, I'm hoping for a Hamilton-Burr duel. Then again, maybe not. Andrew Baggarly reported today that the San Francisco Giants have just purchased a 25% stake in their high-A little brothers, the San Jose Giants.

The Giants will claim one of four seats on the San Jose club's board; if they agree to purchase a controlling interest, they would occupy three of five board seats.

Industry sources pegged the value of San Jose's franchise at $7-10 million, making the Giants' investment worth an estimated $2-3 million.

San Jose officials are not amused with the Johnny-come-lately appearance of the mothership's

Reaction from San Jose city leaders was not warm. Mayor Chuck Reed will not participate in Thursday's event at Municipal Stadium, according to an aide.

Councilman Sam Liccardo, a big-league-ballpark booster who has been meeting with community leaders to draft a pitch for the A's, was blunt about the Giants' move, calling the timing "notable."

"The only time I see pitchers from the Giants in San Jose is when they're on a rehab assignment," he said. "And this pitch looks like an attempt to rehabilitate a San Francisco ballclub's image in San Jose.

"Everyone's assumption is that this is a plea to the commissioner, and I don't think it changes anyone's mind in the end."

San Jose is a bit upset because the Muni renovations, which the City and the SJ Giants have been arguing about for years, could've been made more complete had the mothership lended a hand.

This move is not about reinforcing the Giants' major league territorial rights. It is about C-A-S-H. It looks like the baseball equivalent of flipping a house. Look at it this way. When a public company, like
recent example Genentech, faces a takeover, the interested buyer (Roche) has to pay a premium over the prevailing market share price. In Genentech's case, the premium was 16%.

I've mentioned this in passing, but I'll say it again: Both the SF and SJ Giants would need to be compensated if the A's moved to San Jose. Obviously the terms would be different for each team. The parent team's $2-3 million investment could yield $1 million or more if they played their cards right, not including the costs associated with moving the team to a smaller market - say the North Bay, for instance. Should they raise their stake to the 55% controlling interest, they'd get even more.

Who'd figure out the compensation? I'm guessing the blue ribbon committee that's sorting out the East Bay situation. Smart move, Neukom. Smart move.