29 May 2009

New 49ers price tag: $937 million

The Merc's Mike Swift has a good overview of the 27-page term sheet released by the City of Santa Clara earlier tonight (more here). New cost is $937 million, which includes the PG&E substation relocation and the parking garage across Tasman from the stadium. I gave the term sheet a quick look. Here are the raw notes I made on the document(s):
1. City contributions: RDA is pledged to give $42 million, including a $12 million loan from the team. Reimbursement can occur through additional pledged source revenues (hotel taxes). Hotel taxes - $35 million. $20 million from Silicon Valley Power. $17 million for new garage.

2. Facility rent is $5 million/year. Ground rent is $180k first year, add'l $35k per year after that up to $1 million/year. Revenue goes to SA.

3. All parking and concession revenues are to be controlled by the SA.

4. Team revenue is defined as::
  • Ticket revenue (excluding ticket fee/tax)
  • Premium seat revenue
  • Team service revenue (equipment/technology rental)
  • Ad/sponsorship revenue

5. Second team provisions
a. $28 million of RDA money is refunded
b. Add'l $1 million ground rent, goes up $100k every 5 years starting in year 11
c. 49ers responsible for all costs to bring a second team in - except in temporary (2 year max) situations

Stadium Authority
A. City claims that it is not responsible for financial condition of the SA.
B. Yet SA's board will include City Council members
C. SA revenue sources
  1. Stadium Builders Licenses. There are references to "an entity experienced in the marketing and sales of SBLs." Oakland Football Marketing Association, anyone?
  2. Naming Rights - A portion of construction bonds may be secured solely from Naming Rights sort. They will obviously have some kind of annual revenue target. If, through investigation, potential deals fall short of the target? What will they do: wait for the targeted number (Cowboys), or approve a lower revenue deal?
  3. Ticket fee/tax
  4. Upfront Vendor Payments - concessions and pouring rights
Construction of SA-designated part of project can only continue as long as SA is properly funded. That makes the dilemma in #2 above something of a showstopper. It's hard to get a loan secured by naming rights done if there's no naming rights sponsor. Which makes me wonder: Do they already have the naming rights sponsor in hand? When the idea first came up in 2005, I was led to believe that the likely candidate was Yahoo, which is no longer in the kind of fiscal shape to make such a deal. Then again, maybe it's Intel, who's no stranger to major advertising and sponsorship pushes.

Again, there is no mention of what occurs in case of an SA revenue shortfall.
The inclusion of the "Second Team" terms is interesting, but there isn't any significant accompanying information to appraise it. Councilman Dominic Caserta asserts that bringing the Raiders (the document goes out of its way not to mention the team by name) in will make the project a slam dunk. It's a bit premature to say that, though there's no doubt that having the Raiders on board will definitely help pay the bills.

I'll save the extensive review for after the City Council meeting.

Nothing better than a doubleheader

Of course, I'm referring to the rare bird that is the natural doubleheader (one admission, two games), not the commerce-driven bastardization known as day-night. The old fashioned double dip was often reserved for lazy midsummer Sunday afternoons. For A's games it usually meant a matchup with a low-draw Midwestern team. Those were the days of balanced scheduling, when fans didn't have to worry about seeing a certain team for only a single three-game set at home per year.

My only experience with a doubleheader came on July 5, 1988. I was transitioning between junior high and high school. The summer was spent at an advanced learning program for kids at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. I took Introductory Pascal and Algebra, plus an open gym session. The lengthy bus rides were filled with A's games on the radio when available, or tapes procured via a newly opened Columbia Record Club subscription.

July 5th fell on a Tuesday, which meant it followed a lengthy holiday weekend. You could probably forgive a teenager's disinterest in voluntary summer school due to the weekend. That morning, while awaiting the transfer at San Antonio Shopping Center, I decided to cut class and head to Oakland. Mind you, it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision. I figured it was a good time to do it, so I took another long set of bus trips to Fremont, then took BART to the Coliseum.

As satisfying as the original $1 Double Play Wednesdays were in their heyday, nothing beat the $3 bleacher seat for that A's-Indians doubleheader. Despite the A's being swept by Cleveland, I have a hard time recalling a better experience at the ballpark than that day. The sky was as clear blue as any I've ever seen, and it was quite warm. Perfect conditions, and the young A's were playing well, July 5th notwithstanding.

I watch today's rain-caused doubleheader with a little sadness for today's kids. As a child of immigrants who couldn't care less about baseball, I didn't have the extensive baseball rearing system inherent in a typical nuclear American family. My immersion came through friends, little league, and radio/TV. Maybe there's a child of immigrants in the DFW area whose passion for baseball might get an everlasting boost from attending today's doubleheader in Arlington. But to know that institutionally the doubleheader is dead for most MLB fans around the country, I despair just a tiny bit. Frankly, it sucks.

Also: Tommy Craggs has the first in a series of articles on Deadspin called "Why Your Stadium Sucks." The first target? AT&T Park.

28 May 2009

Whither the SJ Giants?

When discussing an A's move south, it can be easy to ignore the fact that a professional baseball team already lives down there. Plenty of people from outside the region don't know the team exists, yet the San Jose Giants have been an institution at venerable Municipal Stadium that goes back over two decades. They have been undoubtedly the most stable franchise in the patchwork history of pro baseball in San Jose.

MLB and MiLB rules dictate that when a major league team enters a territory occupied by a minor league team, the MLB franchise has the right to kick the little guy out, with the proviso that the little guy is duly compensated. Imagine my surprise when Lew Wolff indicated to me that his ownership group would have to buy the SJ Giants. Should this be an eventuality, the SF Giants will have made an incredibly shrewd investment in the High-A club, one that could pay off big when taken in combination with MLB territorial rights compensation.

What then, is to be done with the San Jose Giants? The A's can't exactly buy them and operate them as the SJ Giants. Let's take a look at a few possibilities, and you can chime in with your own ideas as well.

A's swap Stockton for San Jose, sell SJ franchise to a new owner
This would keep the High-A's a short drive from the MLB A's. While this could be compelling for certain local fans who are really into tracking player development, it's not without issues. Both teams could play to the finite - yes, I said finite - South Bay baseball market to some extent, causing cannibalization. The 21-year relationship forged by the SJ Giants and local fans would be broken and not easily mended, especially by the archrival organization. Long term, there remain questions about Municipal Stadium, which for all its charm lags severely behind its much newer Stockton counterpart in terms of amenities. The ballpark situation combined with the market saturation dilemma could contribute to a dilution of the future value of the minor league franchise, which means Wolff/Fisher could fetch only a fraction of the a price they paid to facilitate the swap.

A's swap Stockton for San Jose, move SJ franchise to North/East Bay and sell
Market saturation is not an issue in this situation, but finding a viable new market for Single-A baseball is. Assuming that the other existing Cal League markets are well served by their existing franchises, there are few places to turn to in the end. The best and perhaps only options are markets that are either unproven or have failed to significantly back teams in the past. The North Bay appears to be ripe for a franchise, but there are no clear options. Petaluma has been talked up especially since the demise of the Sonoma County Crushers, but it would require public money that simply isn't there. Same goes for Napa. Vacaville's stadium at the old Nut Tree was dismantled and shipped up to Redding, where it will be used by Simpson University. (Trivia: former A's reliever Greg Cadaret was recently an assistant coach on the Simpson University baseball team, and he helped broker the move. He's now the manager of the GBL's Chico Outlaws.) There may be options in the East Bay, though it's hard to say where. Oakland? Richmond? Concord?

A's swap Stockton for San Jose, move SJ franchise south or east and sell
The Quakes have for the moment halted plans to build a training center near the Morgan Hill Sports Center, citing economic concerns. There is ample space for both the Quakes' facility and a small ballpark, though the latter is not in Morgan Hill's immediate plans. Population for the combined Morgan Hill-San Martin-Gilroy area is less than 100,000, making it way too small to support Single-A baseball on its own. A better option may be to explore Salinas, which still has the bones of an old ballpark which used to be home to the Single-A Salinas Spurs. Central Valley communities are largely spoken for, and cities further south along 101 are too spread out to yield sufficient population to support a team. Reno is having fun with its new AAA franchise and ballpark.

San Jose allows Giants' lease to expire, forcing them to move elsewhere
The SJ Giants are signed to play at Muni through the 2013 season, which makes for interesting timing considering 2013/2014 is a likely start date for A's. Could the City of San Jose, whose pols (some of them at least) have expressed displeasure at the SF Giants "investment" in the SJ team, simply allow the lease to expire and then leave the Giants to fend for themselves? While that would work from a legal standpoint, I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't preclude the A's from having to compensate the SJ Giants. The Giants would still be a legacy team and its business would be harmed by the move. The San Jose Arena Authority may be faced with conflicting interests, since it oversees Muni and would presumably do the same with an A's ballpark.

Whatever ends up happening, it promises not to be clean or simple. However, it's not big enough to derail the deal. Minor league franchises move with far greater frequency than we're used to with MLB teams. As I write this post, Richmond, VA interests are looking to buy the SF Giants' AA affiliate in Connecticut, with the intent to move them south to Richmond and a future ballpark. They're doing this to replace the recently departed AAA Braves, who moved to Gwinnett County, GA to be closer to the parent club. (More trivia: Robert Bobb was recently involved in a Richmond ballpark plan.) Moving, at least in the minor league world, is very much the rule, not the exception.

Note: The poll was removed/revised to reflect an edit to the post. The "North Bay" option is now "North/East Bay."

27 May 2009

Econ time

It's been a quiet couple of weeks on the A's ballpark front. That doesn't mean there hasn't been news elsewhere. The good news as that MLB's economic status isn't as bad as originally feared, and there's even a chance of eclipsing the $6 billion revenue threshold (first done in 2007). Bad news? Owners tabled the long overdue broadcast territory discussion. Plenty more on this and other topics at The Biz of Baseball.

Bond ratings agencies have given the Marlins ballpark plan a proverbial thumbs up, assigning medium investment grade ratings of varying stripes to the different financing types that will cover the plan. Meanwhile, bonds for Citi Field are in danger of being downgraded to junk status. Both projects may still end up with similar respective interest rates despite the ratings gap.

The "Is Yankee Stadium a bandbox?" question has been tackled by more than just the sports media. The issue was front and center on NPR's Talk of the Nation/Science Friday two weeks ago.

Matier & Ross report that erstwhile SF Mayor Gavin Newsom is sticking to his pledge of $100 million for a 49ers stadium at Hunters Point, and not a penny more. Personally, I'd love to be Carmen Policy at this point, getting paid by the City to do - what is it that he does?

Don Perata was officially cleared in his federal corruption investigation. There's no better way to celebrate than to run for Mayor of Oakland, I suppose.

In case you're wondering, I figure the MLB committee report ("blue ribbon" is a misnomer) will be released sometime around the All Star Break.

20 May 2009

Santa Clara stadium terms set

They worked well into the night, but they got the deal done. Terms are now defined for a stadium that could permanently bring the 49ers to Santa Clara.

Ah, but there's a catch! The City isn't going to release details of the deal until May 29, only 3 days in advance of the City Council's June 2nd session during which they could vote to approve the deal. If approved, the deal would go to the voters, probably in March 2010.

Based on the limited information we have about the deal, here's how it's put together:
  • $900 million total cost
  • ~$90 million upfront contribution from Santa Clara (Redevelopment funds)
  • ~$330 million from Stadium Authority (quasi-public, using naming rights, PSL's, ticket taxes for revenue)
  • ~$363 million from 49ers/NFL (G3-style fund covering premium seating)
  • $62 million to relocate PG&E substation and build garage
Don't bother adding up the numbers because they don't add up yet. We'll see in 2 weeks. Depending on who you interpret the contributions, Santa Clara's outlay could be either $150 million or $550 million if the Stadium Authority's loan/bonds are included.

One thing not mentioned in either the Merc or SFGate article is yet another important item to be addressed on June 9: Negotiations among the City, 49ers, and Cedar Fair over the fate of Great America. As far as we know, the stadium deal can get done with or without the 49ers acquiring Great America. Or can it?

If Cedar Fair isn't satisfactorily placated, they're likely to whine as long as they own Great America. They're already bitching about lost parking and the football stadium threatening the theme park operator's business. It could very well be that the 49ers and the City are dealing with two different scenarios: one in which the 49ers take over Cedar Fair's lease, and one in which they don't. If the 49ers or a related party take over Great America, they'd also be responsible for buying up the theme park's rides, equipment, and intellectual property. Personally, I think it's not a bad investment, especially if some NFL branding is tightly integrated. A football or sports-oriented theme park next to a stadium? Sounds like a good recipe for multiple Super Bowls, domeless stadium notwithstanding.

Regardless of what happens with Great America, there's something fishy about allowing only 72 hours for the public to review the deal.

19 May 2009

News of the week 5/19

There's a special election today, in case you haven't heard.

Rosie Rios, who Robert Bobb hired to work on the Uptown Ballpark plan, may be the next U.S. Treasurer. Both Rios and Bobb were fired by Jerry Brown. Brown was termed out, Bobb became D.C.'s hired gun to get its ballpark deal done, and Rios went on to manage $11 billion in assets for an investment firm. Rios also did economic development work for Fremont, San Leandro, and Union City prior to her Oakland stint.

Santa Clara's City Council is expected to vote on the 49ers stadium proposal today. A public vote could occur in next spring, not this November. When the full proposal is available, I'll be here to pick it apart.

Comcast and the NFL Network have been able to come to a carriage agreement. At $0.45 per subscriber per month, it's a major drop from the network's requested $0.70.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad the Pohlad family has agreed to up the team's contribution for Target Field from $130 million to $185 million in order to fund design enhancements. How magnanimous.

The Phoenix Coyotes will have its bankruptcy case heard in court today. The team and the NHL will have the support of the other three major sports leagues, as they will put up a unified front in the face of antitrust threats. If you haven't been following the case, start now. It's by far the most fascinating sports business drama this year. It has competing ownership bids, possible accounting fraud, and bad intentions everywhere you look. I mean, how can you not love this?
While we completely respect the punk rock way (Jim) Balsillie's tried to jam his foot in the door, he's doing so with the warped objectives of a self-righteous comic book villain: He views his intentions as noble, so he's willing to destroy worlds to achieve them.
Makes the A's-Oakland-San Jose saga look like a suburban bridge night.

One last thing: Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals faces a conflict with a WWE event booked 9 months ago. WWE CEO Vince McMahon has taken to playing the heel (as usual), talking trash about Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke. My guess? WWE gets compensated and the event is moved outdoors to Invesco Field at Mile High or a smaller indoor venue like the arena at the University of Denver.

18 May 2009

KTRB-860 is all sports (Open Thread)

Baby steps, everyone. Baby steps.

It's officially Day 1 of the A's life on an all-sports radio station. The move to KTRB-860 had the promise of additional sports-related programming, and that promise is starting to be fulfilled. For the time being, all of the non-A's programming is syndicated and not from Bay Area-specific. That makes it difficult to compete with very SF-centric KNBR-680, but it's a ton better than the awkward marriage that was A's and "hot talk." Interestingly, the new brand image is XTRA SPORTS 860.

Programming is cobbled together from various networks. I can't comment on the "Todd N Tyler Radio Empire" as I tend to stay away from morning shows. "2 Live Stews" is the popular ATL-based show with brothers Ryan and Doug Stewart, who also do a weekly stint of ESPN2's "First Take" TV show opposite one-time Merc columnist Skip Bayless.

The afternoon stints are populated by Fox Sports Radio shows. "Myers & Hartman" (featuring Vic the Brick) is the more nationally-oriented show, and as you might expect, Chris Myers makes it a snoozefest. That's followed by PMS or the "Petros and Money Show." PMS has often been more LA-focused, though that may have had more to do with the show's home being longtime Lakers flagship KLAC. I'm afraid that it only works for fans of the Lakers, Dodgers, or USC football.

Rob Barr hosts Sports Byline at 7 on non-game weeknights. It's a throwback to an era that wasn't dominated by yelling. The late night spot goes to KNBR castaway Chris Townsend.

The afternoon slots are ripe for local programming, especially to challenge KNBR's drive time duo of Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert. I still like the show but it's getting stale. It's been awhile since KNBR launched The Ticket 1050 as an alternative to 680 with an East Bay bent, including Raiders games. That experiment failed within a couple years, it'll be interesting to see how KTRB tries to re-establish the alternative.

This is also an open thread for those who want to talk about ballpark stuff.

16 May 2009

Oakland hinting at Howard Terminal

True to form, Mayor Dellums' office is talking up Howard Terminal as a ballpark site. Only they're not. Sorta kinda.

A KRON report reveals that the Waterfront near Market Street and Embarcadero West is a preferred site.
While officials could not confirm the exact location, Mayor Dellums’ spokesperson David Chai says a recent meeting between city officials and representatives for Major League Baseball proved hopeful, “They left that meeting very impressed by our overall efforts and we’re going to be in a process over the next month, making sure that our presentation and all of the details that go into it are sound.”
Before you run off to your favorite mapping site, here's the pic (again) from the HOK study.

The thoroughfare between the convention center and the ballpark is Market Street extended to the waterfront.

Quick refresher (again): Howard Terminal (aerial view) was reopened in 2004, with shipping giant Matson signing a 25-year lease. A related deal, finalized only last year, has SSA Marine operating the terminal on behalf of Matson. You may also be interested in the photo overview (PDF).

The challenges? Let's start a list:
  • Relocating Matson
  • Lack of proximity to BART (requiring a new BART infill station? 12th St station is 3/4 mile away, West Oakland is 1 mile away)
  • Environmental cleanup at site
  • Making the deal worthwhile financially for the Port
  • Street circulation improvements (Embarcadero specifically)

14 May 2009

Reed moving swiftly

While I was walking an always enthusiastic JoJo on Tuesday morning prior to the Wolff chat, Wolff was having breakfast with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. (So that explains why he wasn't hungry...) Perhaps they were exchanging info, perhaps not. It was a busy day for Lew, as he mentioned that he was headed up to Oakland as our discussion ended.

Anyway, Reed is playing this like he's running a two minute drill. He wants the City to be prepared to put some kind of ballpark measure on the ballot in November. There's all sorts of speculation about what language such a measure might contain. Let's take a look at the options:
  • Vote to approve site prep and land to be sold at market price
  • Vote to approve site prep and land to be sold below market price
  • Vote to approve site prep and land to be leased at or below market price
  • Vote to approve site prep, land, and TBD off-site infrastructure work (PG&E substation, Fire Training site relocations)
The site is not ready to build. Buildings will need to be demolished, utilities will have to be relocated, and some site remediation may be required IIRC. Option #1 might not trigger a referendum since those steps would be taken for any big development. Options #2 & #4 definitely would trigger. #3 is conditional.

There's also some question as to whether or not such a measure would be truly binding or not. The City of Santa Clara wrestled with this very matter before deciding to make its still-delayed 49ers vote non-binding. Obviously, the structure of the deal (money outlay) would be the big determinant. There may be legal wiggle room if one of the less costly options above were chosen.

If we can project, it becomes apparent which steps are likely along with the endgame. (Color coding: orange = 60-90 days, blue = 90-120 days, green = 120-150 days, red = 150-180 days)
  • Continued land acquisitions throughout the summer
  • Release of "blue ribbon committee" report
  • Release of updated draft EIR, start of review period
  • Release of ballpark economic impact report
  • Determination of required site changes
  • Shaping of November ballot measure and official placement on ballot
  • Release of final EIR and certification
  • Pro-ballpark advertising blitz (may/may not include official participation by the A's?)
  • Election
  • Baseball winter meetings, action on T-rights/relocation
  • A's and San Jose are allowed to officially start negotiating business terms
I suppose this could be interpreted as both San Jose and MLB meeting each other halfway. San Jose sets the table, lines up public and private support, preps a site, and shows its hand financially. MLB gets to wait to decide until all of these issues are addressed. Can San Jose really work this quickly? It'll be a major feather in Reed's cap if he can pull it off. Fortunately for him, a lot of important San Jose people, including the City Council, are right behind him.

Speaking of the Niners, there's a chance that the Santa Clara stadium will be on that city's November ballot. That would create a situation in which both measures
inevitably would be compared in the media. One of them will come out looking worse, and while they wouldn't compete with each other at the ballot box, some voters undoubtedly will consider the other city's measure as a point of comparison.

12 May 2009

Tuesday with Lew

A few hours ago I met with Lew Wolff at one of the restaurants inside the Fairmont San Jose. It was a fairly casual meeting, and I didn't take notes. For the purpose of focusing on a single post, I'll only discuss a certain topic that came to my attention.

Guy Saperstein's letter to Barbara Boxer mentioned a feasibility study at the Coliseum, which I had not heard of until that point. The cost of the study was around $500k, which the A's wanted to split with the Coliseum Authority. The JPA claimed they didn't have the budget to take care of their half, and the idea died right there.

But what was the feasibility study for?

It turns out that Wolff was interested in the Coliseum South site, which I had discussed here several years ago. The site includes the "Malibu" gravel parking lot and the now demolished HomeBase site. Lew mentioned that Schott didn't initially want to pay the $250k for the study but was convinced it was necessary.

Lew showed me something similar to the above picture, only it had the Coliseum superimposed and no ancillary buildings. The proposal was that the JPA would acquire the additional land (HomeBase), and the A's would contribute 50% towards the cost of the land. The Coliseum South concept was the proverbial A's hitter looking at a called third strike.

There's plenty more that we discussed during our nearly 90 minutes. We talked about on field stuff, the Quakes (it looks like you're getting a roof), and of course, the process of building anything in California. I thanked him for getting the CSNCA deal done and mentioned how I've gone to fewer games because of expanded HD (he replied "you're not alone"). On a side note, I was recently laid off, so I have to be more budget conscious. I gave Lew a good line he'll use in his discussions going forward, and I found out how much the A's received in revenue sharing recently: $32 million.

One more thing: Lew addressed the whole "firing the managing partner" rumor by saying, "I have my annual review due tomorrow. I'm writing it myself."

Notes on SJ Redevelopment session 5/12

Running in liveblog mode for this one, though I am not there - I am watching the live stream.

SJRA/Council are voting to approve 5 principles to use going forward in discussions with MLB and/or the A's regarding a ballpark. The 5th principle reaffirms that any money or land contribution made by the City for a ballpark would require a vote. I say "reaffirm" because that's already in the City Charter, it's nothing new.

Public comment period is happening now.

A new ballpark information website is going to be up soon, perhaps by next week.

Motions approved.

11 May 2009

CA Sports teams support Prop 1A

Numerous California sports franchises, including the Giants, A's, Sharks, and Warriors, have contributed $25,000 each to the Yes on 1A campaign, according to Matier & Ross. Lew Wolff, who gave a few quotes to M&R, also gave $25k of his own money to the cause. Also on board are Anheuser Busch and Philip Morris.

It's clear that in supporting 1A, they are looking out for their own interests. To bridge the budget gap, the state may look towards taxing tickets, food and beverage, parking, anything related to running a franchise. Anchutz Entertainment Group, the giant stadium and arena operator, could become a big time loser if such taxes pass.

While it makes sense that these contributors would back 1A over taxes on their own operations, these two issues aren't mutually exclusive. 1A isn't guaranteed to fix the budget, especially if future state revenue falls short of projections. If that occurs, guess who's next?

I'm curious about the potential revenue the state could raise through a "fun tax." I suspect that while it would affect teams and fans, the proceeds would be a drop in the bucket for the state.

1A and its companion propositions are losing big time, according to Field Poll results from the beginning of the month.

KQED Interview up

Earlier today I was interviewed by KQED Radio's Cy Musiker regarding the A's and San Jose. Check out my dulcet nasal tones in the podcast. I talk about the money that Mayor Reed wants the city to make, NIMBYs, chicken-and-egg scenarios, and yes, hope for Oakland.

Listeners will get an easter egg for their time: the correct pronunciation of my real name! Discuss away.

One more thing: the economic impact report I cited in the interview can be found here (PDF).

Reed, Council to shape ballpark discussions

Tuesday night will mark yet another procedural step in San Jose's effort to lure the A's, as they will push forward again with rules for working with MLB, the A's, and affected communities. More interesting is what the Mayor and City Council are saying, which is what Denis C. Theriault picks up in his article today.
The council Tuesday also will take up its most comprehensive plans yet for ensuring that business owners and other residents remain part of the city's evolving ballpark conversation. The mayor's previously announced "Diridon Station Area Good Neighbor Committee," citywide town hall meetings and frank chats with neighborhood leaders are part of the prescription.

The Diridon committee would include 27 members, including transit officials, neighborhood leaders and representatives from the group that runs HP Pavilion and from nearby businesses such as Adobe Systems. Its work could start as soon as June, Reed said, with a review of the 2007 report clearing use of the Diridon area for a stadium.

I'm a little wary of having 27 members in this committee, but at least no one will be able to say they are being underrepresented. Perhaps it takes a village to build a ballpark.

Mayor Reed also indicates that he wants the project to make money for San Jose, but doesn't indicate how. The model I drew up in the last post indicates that San Jose wouldn't make money. They could through a more expensive lease. More likely is some kind of revenue sharing agreement, especially if it involves the redevelopment zone just created out of the Diridon/Arena area.

Credit goes to the Mayor/Council for being steadfast on looking for a public vote. Even if it is only advisory, at least it goes to the point of directly asking citizens if it's a good deal. I'm not for ballot box planning, especially if no public money is going towards the ballpark itself. However, with the Mayor's promises of open government, this is an appropriate step.

09 May 2009

Blueprint for a deal

While I've mentioned the Quakes' stadium deal from time to time, I haven't really gone in depth as to how the deal works. Now's as good a time as any, since the Quakes deal provides some excellent clues into how a San Jose-A's deal might be structured.

66 of the 75 acres were sold to the Quakes for $89 million, a cost of $1.35 million per acre or $31 per square foot. The remaining 9 acres will be sold to VTA for the BART Extension, as there are plans for a train yard there. Within the 66 acres for the Quakes, 13.5 have been set aside for the stadium.

The idea is for the Quakes to build the stadium, funding the construction on its own. Once completed, the Quakes would donate the stadium to San Jose. In doing this, they would avoid paying property taxes on the stadium, which could amount to $500k per year or more. The "donation" could also provide additional tax breaks for ownership, though I'm not clear on what those would be.

San Jose would own the stadium, the Quakes would own the land. Next, they would set up leases with each other which would probably have a counterbalancing or zero net effect. The business arrangement is the opposite of the Giants-San Francisco deal, in which the Giants owned the stadium and the City owned the land. This is important because the Giants currently pay a sizable property tax bill in the neighborhood of $2 million per year (on top of their AT&T Park mortgage and the ground lease with the Port of SF). Don't feel too bad for the Giants, though, all of these expenses translate into a $6 million reduction in their annual revenue sharing payment (it's probably more when other stadium expenses are accounted for).

For the A's, $2 million a year in property taxes is nothing to sneeze at. It would be much higher if they owned the stadium in San Jose, since a ballpark will run $500 million to build, resulting in a $5 million bill. Surely, longtime ballpark proponent and County Assessor Larry Stone would be willing to reassess the ballpark at a lower value, but the A's would still be out a few million a year. The avoidance of property taxes would be an integral part of the deal wherever it is built (SJ, Oakland, Fremont, etc.). Why? Let's say the A's go out into the market for a $300 million loan for the ballpark. Their interest rate is guaranteed to be 1 full point higher than a comparable loan/bond issue for a public entity such as a city or county. That 1% translates to $2.5 million per year, the same amount as the forgone property taxes.

If we were to apply the principles of the Quakes-SJ deal to the A's at Diridon South, it might look like this:
  • San Jose completes acquisition of all Diridon South land for ~$60 million.
  • In the deal, the ballpark land only is sold to the A's for the same amount, $60 million. That translates to $600k in annual property taxes.
  • The A's build the stadium for $500 million, then donate it to the City.
  • A triple net stadium lease is arranged which covers basic operations costs (insurance, utilities, police and traffic management). That could be worth $4-5 million a year and would escalate annually. The A's would also be charged with paying into some sort of capital improvements fund.
  • City leases the land from the A's for the stadium for a nominal amount. This would not completely offset the stadium lease. I'm guessing it'd be around $1 million a year, similar to the Giants-Port of SF arrangement.
  • City applies part of the $60 million towards the PG&E substation relocation and the creation of a park on the fire training site (I hope). The rest of the money goes towards other RDA projects or acquisitions.
  • SVS+E operates stadium on behalf of the A's. The two parties split concessions and parking revenue.
  • The San Jose Arena Authority would provide oversight, as it already does for HP Pavilion, Municipal Stadium, Sharks Ice, and in all likelihood, the new Quakes stadium.
  • (An alternative would have the City simply lease the land to the A's, which could run another $2 million a year instead of the upfront $70 million.)
The net annual outlay for the A's would be $3-5 million, plus the amount paid into the capital improvements fund. These costs would be the same whether the ballpark were publicly or privately owned. In this scenario, the ballpark itself would not be a net revenue generator for the City. However, they could get significant tax increment from the defined TIF zone, and the ballpark would undoubtedly be good for downtown businesses.

Sidebar: A comment in a previous thread asked about the exclusion of the ballpark site from the newly designated TIF zone. I think this is because, as the deal is constructed above, there would be no tax increment to collect. If the land and stadium were City owned they'd be exempt from property taxes. If the land were owned by the A's the stadium would exempt, but the land would also be frozen in its assessment because the improvements to the land, from which tax increment is derived, would all be tied up in the stadium. Either way, there's no point in adding them to the zone when they wouldn't generate significant TIF revenue.

07 May 2009

Saperstein's other letter

Zennie Abraham just posted a second letter from A's minority partner Guy Saperstein. This time, the message was addressed to Senator Barbara Boxer. He posted it in its entirety, and so will I. The tone is markedly different from the public rebuttal to John Russo.
April 2, 2009
Senator Barbara Boxer
1700 Montgomery St. Suite 240
San Francisco, CA 94111

Dear Barbara:

As you know, Jeanine and I have long supported you and we plan to continue doing so. However, we were very disappointed about the letter you sent to Commissioner Selig. I realize you have a lot on your plate in the United States Senate, but if you are going to weigh in with such resolute conclusions about the A's, I wish you had made a greater effort to determine the facts. You made no inquiries to the Oakland Athletics about efforts they have made to find a stadium site in Oakland and your letter cites almost no relevant facts. Doug has known for a long time that I am part of the Wolff ownership group, so if you didn't want to call the A's directly, you easily could have called me with your concerns. Perhaps after hearing more of the facts, you would have offered a more balanced assessment to the Commissioner.

Your letter cites some of the past history of the A's in Oakland, but it glosses over and ignores many important facts. It is true the A's had great baseball teams in the 1970s---experts say some of the best teams in baseball history---but you neglect to mention how Oakland fans responded to these great teams. Not very well. These teams drew less than a million fans per year and that number dwindled to 306,000 in 1979. The A's couldn't even sell out the World Series! I remember this because I could walk up on the day of each game and buy a ticket. I'm willing to bet this never has happened before or since in MLB history in any other city. The second thing that should be noted about 1970s is that it preceded free agency. Thus, the A's owner, Charles Finley, didn't have to compete with other teams for players by paying them competitive salaries; they were bound to the team by the so-called "reserve clause." Because of this form of indentured servitude, even small-market teams like Oakland could remain competitive for years. Today, with free agency, the economics of baseball are fundamentally different and small-market teams have fundamentally different challenges.

Your letter also cites the Haas Family era, another period of excellent teams, and even good attendance. But you neglect to note that the Haas' were losing $10-$15 million per year with those teams in an effort to pay competitive salaries. They were a winning, attractive team which paid big salaries to big stars, but that was because the Haas family was willing to lose millions every year. While we can all thank the Haas family for their beneficence, their model of ownership was and is unsustainable and you cannot expect the Wolff ownership, or any ownership, to operate as a community sports charity.

Not only do the A's draw far fewer fans than the Giants, but the A's average ticket price paid is one of the lowest in MLB---approximately half of what Giants fans pay for tickets. The A's have 8,000 full and partial season ticket holders, compared to the Giants' 24,000 full season ticket-holders. This is even worse than it appears, because when you rely mainly on game-day walk-up sales, you never know how fans are going to show up that day and, consequently, you don't know how many vendors to hire, ticket takers, food workers, etc. So you overstaff and overpay, due to uncertainty. By contrast, if you are the Giants and know that 35,000 fans are going to attend every game, you staff properly. Added to these major economic disadvantages, the A's income from the sale of luxury boxes is one of the lowest in MLB and just a small fraction of what Giants fans pay. This is largely the product of the unpleasant but inescapable fact that Oakland lacks a vibrant business community. When you add all this up, it would be hard to find any MLB owner who would characterize this as strong fan support.

Let me present a few more relevant facts---facts that any ownership must contend with. When Charles Finley brought the A's to Oakland from Kansas City, Oakland had a population of 367,000 [1960 census] and San Jose a population of 204,000. Forty-one years later, San Jose's population is 989,000---now the 10th largest city in America---and Oakland's is 401,000. Which is the more vibrant, growing city? And, while you are promoting Oakland as the only possible site of a new stadium, please note that only 19% of A's fans come from Oakland.

As currently situated, the San Francisco Giants control 2/3 of the Bay Area market and are located just 12 miles away from the A's. If the new baseball stadium were to be built in Oakland, it would replicate this imbalance; if it were built in San Jose, 50 miles away from the Giants stadium, the market imbalance would be adjusted and the A's could be more competitive.

While it is easy to scapegoat the A's for the ills of Oakland, a fairer assessment of what ails Oakland would start with its inept political leadership---some of whom you prominently endorsed, supported and rarely criticize. Without naming names, let me recall just a few more salient facts.

The long-range planning and leadership of the Oakland Coliseum Authority has been almost non-existent. This group made mistakes of judgment which would be almost beyond imagination except for the fact that they actually happened. They spent $140 million to build Mount Davis at the Oakland Coliseum, then entered into a contract which not only costs the taxpayers of Oakland nearly $20 million per year, but which term is only ten years. So, ten years later, Al Davis and the Raiders are whining about a new stadium---which, predictably, they want the taxpayers to pay for. And what do the taxpayers of Oakland get for this almost unbelievable beneficence? Eight home games a year! Then the Coliseum Authority dropped $100+ million into the laps of the Golden State Warriors, who also play far fewer games than the A's and have far less economic impacts on the city. Along came the Oakland A's in 2005, under its new ownership, and in recognition that the A's were playing in what is basically a football stadium, and now a decrepit one at that, and requested that the Coliseum Authority split the cost for a $500,000 feasibility study for a new stadium. The Coliseum Authority couldn't even scrape together $250,000 to try to keep its biggest asset! The Authority has allowed the Raiders and Warriors to bankrupt it and there is nothing left for the A's, despite the fact that the A's, unlike the Raiders, Warriors and 49'ers, always have been willing to pay for building their own stadium. To put it another way, the A's may be the only sports franchise left in the Bay Area, and perhaps America, willing to pay for their own stadium, but the Coliseum Authority hasn't lifted a finger to help the A's and now politicians like you and Doug [and there probably will be others] are quick to pillory the A's for even thinking of moving.

Nor has the Oakland political structure helped. Despite the many business reasons to move to San Jose, the A's explored all options to stay in Oakland. Lew and the A's can give you the full picture if and when you want to hear it, but I can tell you I have been involved since Day One and when Lew first asked me to become part of the ownership, I said I would love to do it, but I didn't want to be part of an ownership which just bought and moved the team. Lew assured me that he would make a full effort to stay in Oakland and I don't think he and his son, Keith, have left a single stone unturned in their efforts to make Oakland work for the A's. I recall specifically Lew proposing to build a 3,000+ unit housing project and several hundred thousand feet of retail space near the Coliseum and taking the profits from this development to finance a stadium at little or no cost to the taxpayers of Oakland. This would have been the biggest economic development in Oakland since Liberty ships were built during World War II, but the only Oakland City Council Member who showed any enthusiasm was Larry Reid. Give Larry a call and ask him why no one else got behind this plan. And in case anyone might suggest forward thinking and planning was not possible, while Oakland was doing nothing, San Jose bought land in downtown and put together a 50-acre parcel, zoned it for a sports stadium and completed an Environmental Impact Report for the stadium. If they want a baseball team, they are ready for it. You were elected to represent all the cities and citizens of California, not act as surrogate Mayor of Oakland. You have a responsibility to try to determine what is best for the state, for the Bay Area, and, yes, for Oakland AND San Jose. Your letter to the Commissioner plays into the hands of the San Francisco Giants, who have long contended the Bay Area is a one-team region and whose game plan is nothing less than driving the A's out of the Bay Area. I think you need to rethink your strategy and begin by making sure the A's are able to stay in the Bay Area.

Like you and Doug, I find it convenient to have a team located 20 minutes from my house and, like you, I will be inconvenienced if the A's move to San Jose. But should an investment of half a billion dollars for a new stadium to meet the needs of present and future Bay Area baseball fans be based on your, my and/or Doug's convenience or on a sound economic foundation? I think the answer is obvious and I hope you will begin to review the facts and evidence before making more pronouncements which operate to undermine the A's opportunities to build a sustainable future.

Lastly, despite serious reservations about the ability of Oakland to provide help in the quest for a new stadium, Lew and I will be meeting with Mayor Dellums in two weeks in an effort to make certain that we have not overlooked any viable site. And, of course, Lew, Keith and I remain available at any time to provide you with additional information about all options.

Best Regards,
Guy T. Saperstein GTS/ht
The immediate observation to be made is that this is the first time anyone from the ownership group has come close to "connecting the dots" regarding the A's and San Jose. Maybe that was intentional, maybe not. I'm surprised to be reading it. I thought San Jose was like Fight Club. For those who still don't think San Jose's the next step I have to ask, Really? Come on, now.

Next up is the issue of the feasibility study the A's asked for when Wolff took over. According to Saperstein, the $500k cost was to be split between the two parties, but the Coliseum Authority was too tapped out to help. All the while the Authority was finalizing the deal to get rid of Raider PSL's forever and hiring multiple consultants to get a naming rights deal for the Arena. If this feasibility study assertion is true, you can be sure that it will end up in the Blue Ribbon report.

What I don't get is Zennie's response. He rants about Saperstein's pointing out the 70's attendance woes. It's no secret that the A's weren't a big draw then, just as they aren't now. The facts are these:
  • The A's averaged 764,660 per season during the decade
  • The A's were as high as 5th in AL attendance once (1972)
  • The A's topped 1 million twice during the era
  • The A's were last in AL attendance twice and second-to-last twice
  • Average annual attendance for all AL teams during the 70's was 1,194,395
When your biggest argument is semantic, you don't have much of an argument.

I'm also not sure what Saperstein has to apologize to the Haas family about. Nothing he wrote denigrated Wally Haas. He held up Haas as a paragon to which no future ownership group can be favorably compared. At the same time, yes, Haas was losing money. That can't be disputed. Why so sensitive then?

Now, there are things to quibble about. Russo mentioned in his letter that the Coliseum North proposal would've required eminent domain, which is right. Wolff was willing to pay no more than $1 million an acre, a ludicrous amount at the time. When the plan collapsed, Wolff then resubmitted Schott's old Coliseum parking lot plan, in which the A's would contribute $100 million. Does anyone remember that?

One of the big keys for any political campaign, even the kind we're witnessing here, is message discipline. It doesn't matter if you're Karl Rove or David Axelrod, Doug Boxer or Lew Wolff. I sense a serious lack of message discipline on both fronts, and it isn't very becoming for either side.

06 May 2009

Zennie and I agree

Before you check out Zennie Abraham's newest contribution to the his SFGate blog, let me warn you that both the text form and his vlog are lo-o-o-o-ong. Have a seat. Maybe get a beverage.

Zennie comes out guns blazing on everyone, from Mayor Dellums to A's ownership. Interestingly, he reveals a couple of things that sound absolutely terrible from Oakland's perspective. One, there are four - count 'em, four - groups working on the ballpark issue. Zoinks!
So it's that wealth of experience at seeing Oakland stumble all over itself with secret meetings between people who think they know when they can't even crunch fiscal data let alone craft a decent set of planning scenarios that's got me riled up. And it's the fact that we have as of this writing four committees and groups - The Oakland Mayor's Sports and Entertainment Task Force, Doug Boxer's MLB Task Force, and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's Land Use Committee, and the Oakland Alameda County Joint Powers Authority - looking at the A's stadium issue and yet never having met as one to talk about this matter and trade information in the objective of presenting a united front that really has been the last straw for me.
Two, Zennie quit the Mayor's Sports and Entertainment Task Force last week. Zennie asks, "Would you believe...?" and all I can say is "Yes, I believe it." I'm not surprised. I don't think any A's fan or Oakland observer is surprised. I don't have to touch on the litany of missteps, the situation is practically self-evident.

I ended an interview with a reporter earlier this week with an opinion I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while: Owning a major league team, and having it in your city, are privileges, not rights. It is incumbent upon both parties to approach any negotiations with that attitude. No matter how long you've owned a team (Marge Schott) or held it in your city (Brooklyn), the fates can be cruel and your privilege can be taken away in an instant. If both parties treated the team as something more than a possession to argue over, more progress could be made.

It can be argued that Wolff/Fisher can treat the team as a possession since, well, they bought the team. Still, owners have a social contract with fans that goes beyond tickets, television, and promotions. There is an unspoken bond between the owners, team, and fans. All have a shared responsibility to protect and grow the franchise. That stewardship begins at the top.

The city, on the other hand, has a much more tenuous grip on the team. It may have a lease agreement as the only legal bond. It also has a responsibility to uphold the relationship with the team. If the city is looking to provide a stadium solution, it behooves them to put aside the political oneupsmanship and games, in order to work together to reach that common goal. This is where Zennie and I are on the same page. The fact that one of Oakland's staunchest advocates quit over his frustration with the process is perhaps the most disheartening development I've heard yet. Zennie's more a numbers guy than a work-the-channels type, so I'm not going to oversell his value. Regardless, it's anything but good, and smacks of running to the lifeboats.

I'll end this post with a quote from the 99-year young John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood:
Never mistake activity for achievement.
(placing palm on face now)

AN Wolff interview

Blez interviews Lew Wolff. No excerpts this time, read and comment there. Or here if you like. It's long and almost all stadium.

Jingletown Stadium @ Fruitvale

Faithful New Ballpark readers: Marine Layer made the very foolish decision to let me, Chris Kidd, stand in for him for this post. I come, hat in hand, to offer you something you all thought you would never see. It is a favorite sticking point for San Jose partisans (and something in Oakland which we prefer to ignore) that none of the proposed sites in Oakland have a level of preparedness equal to Diridon. There's no EIR, they say. The needed infrastructure improvements are too great, they insist. Well, I believe I might have found a site in Oakland that will not only have both of those issues fully addressed within 18 months, but it will be done without costing the Oakland A's ownership a single penny (and if I might editorialize for a moment: In your face).

What is even more amazing is this site is far superior to both of the rehashed waterfront sites so far proposed in Oakland, specifically the site at Oak to 9th and the site at the Howard Terminal in the port of Oakland. Far superior. Have I whetted your appetite enough yet? Can you not stand the suspense anymore? Well, wait no longer: the site I'm talking about is on the Oakland Estuary at the base of the Fruitvale Avenue Bridge. A site I like to call Jingletown Stadium.

So, let's first talk about the site itself. It's 26 acres currently inhabited by the Owens Brockway Glass Container company. It is bounded by Fruitvale Ave to the north/west, Alameda Ave to the south/west, Home Depot to the south/east, and Boehmer and Elmwood Ave's to the north/east. I call it “Jingletown Stadium” because the site is across the street from the vibrant artist community of Jingletown (photo blog).

Now, let's compare this site with the two other Oakland waterfront sites: Oak to 9th and the Howard Terminal. When comparing sites, there are some yardsticks to go by: the size of the parcel(s), the ease of acquiring said parcel(s) and dealing with the displacement of the current occupants, the current infrastructure, the current public transit options, and the feasibility of adding infrastructure and parking.

Let's go point by point, though I'm going to save a little bit for dessert.
  • Size of Parcel: Jingletown Stadium is 26 acres, compared to 029's 40 acres and Howard Terminal's 46 acres.
  • Acquisition: Though 029 would be the easiest parcel to acquire, the A's would be taking on a ginormous NIMBY fight that has stalled out the development of 029 to this day. You don't want that. Howard Terminal is equally squishy: the port of Oakland just signed a 25 year contract with Matson Shipping and they would be required to relocate them to an equally large site for their exclusive operation. Space like that on the waterfront is neither easily attained nor is it cheap. While Jingletown Stadium would need to relocate the glass factory to elsewhere in Oakland, this is a much easier prospect than moving Matson Shipping. Oakland currently has an over-abundance of available industrial space, and finding another site for them to inhabit should not be difficult. One solution I particularly love is to put them on the Oakland Army Base. It offers the same proximity to a major freeway and the city would be able to offer them the land for free as incentive. Additionally, it would remove a large industrial polluter to an area of the city that isn't nearly as densely populated. But I digress...
  • Infrastructure: To put it succinctly, they suck for the other two sites. The Howard Terminal is near only 1 freeway exit southbound and 2 exits northbound. 029 doesn't fare much better with 2 exits northbound and 1 exit southbound. Compare that with Jingletown Junction having 3 exits reasonably close southbound (23rd, Fruitvale & High) and 2 northbound (High & 29th/Fruitvale).
  • Public transit: Here's where Jingletown Stadium cleans the clocks of the other two sites. Fruitvale BART is only a third of a mile away from Jingletown Stadium. Even better, Fruitvale BART is a regional hub for AC Transit. 029 is over a mile from Lake Merritt BART and Howard Terminal would require an infill station for BART. Screw that mess.
So, you guys have had to slog through quite a bit of article so far, but are you ready for dessert? I saved the best part for last, contained in the question of feasibility for upgrading infrastructure and parking. This is the lynchpin for what makes Jingletown Stadium far superior to all other sites in Oakland: The Central Estuary Specific Plan. Now, I could go through a whole explanation about what the Central Estuary Specific Plan is, or I could use the wonder that is The Internets and show you. I wrote some guest articles about the CESP for Vsmoothe's phenomenal blog A Better Oakland. They're here, here, and here. You can also read more by my blogger-crush DJ Crimson at his blog Oakland Streets here and here.

If you're link-averse, I'll spare you the work and give you the quick and dirty right here. The city is developing a “specific plan” for the area of Oakland's waterfront bound by 19th Ave, 54th Ave, 880 and the estuary. An EIR is created which will cover the entire specific plan area, and developers who want to build anything that is contained within the range of this EIR can use it to gain approval to build instead of having to create their own. The process for the approved types of new development will have a much faster time getting approval and getting construction started. For the significant amount of time and money saved by the developer using this EIR, they have to pay a “user fee” which will only be used within the specific plan area. These fees will do things like build sidewalks, create open space, modernize the sewer system, underground utilities, etc.

This is where the A's come in. If the staff drafting the specific plan include a stadium plan within the EIR, it's conceivable that the A's could use it for the stadium. What's more, the pretty hefty user fee the specific plan area would extract from the A's could go towards all the types of infrastructural improvements that the A's would need at a new stadium. Streets can be reconfigured, freeway exits can be modified. The area around Jingletown Stadium is still relatively underdeveloped: it can accommodate a lot of the upgrades needed to the roads and there are many underdeveloped lots that could serve as additional off-site parking to make up for the insufficient amount of space the 26 acres of Jingletown Stadium would provide for parking.

Plus, I bet Jingletown Stadium would have some mean burritos.
Editor's notes:
Like any site, Jingletown has its positives and negatives. I don't have any familiarity with this area other than driving through there several years ago while looking for waterfront sites.
  • Of the 26 acres, half would be devoted to the ballpark and the other half to parking in all likelihood. That translates to about 1,600 on-site spaces if only a surface lot were built to save costs. That could grow to 3,000 (two levels) or 4,500 (three levels) if a garage were built, but someone would have to foot the bill for that. The more parking is immediately available, the greater traffic impact. 10,000 spaces for any ballpark would be for any site, regardless of the site's proximity to transit. A worst case scenario has to be assumed to properly identify problems and create mitigation plans.
  • A 2002 report by environmental watchdog site Scorecard indicates that the Owens Brockway plant has a less than glowing report card in terms of toxic chemical/waste generation. If the site were acquired, it's likely that some amount of site cleanup would be required. The flipside is that wherever the plant is moved, it's possible that a cleaner replacement could be built. Owens Brockway's parent company is one of the largest glass container manufacturers in the world.
  • If Owens Brockway isn't interested in selling, the plan is dead in the water. Unlike the other two waterfront sites, this one is privately owned. As usual, eminent domain is assumed to be out of the question.
  • The picture intentionally orients the field east instead of creating a "Splash Hit" situation. A street acts as a buffer between the ballpark site and the waterfront.
  • Impact to Alameda is unknown, which means NIMBY reaction to such a concept is unknown.

05 May 2009

Quakes get land discount + TIF approved for Diridon/Arena area

Following up on an item from last month, San Jose's Redevelopment Agency (City Council wearing different hats) unanimously approved the price cut for the Airport West site, from $132 million to $89 million. The land will be used for the Quakes' new stadium, plus some future commercial development. The discounted price is $8 million more than what the City paid in 2005.

On a more A's-related note, SJRA also approved creating a tax increment zone just north of the Diridon South ballpark site. The area includes Diridon Station and the 8 blocks between HP Pavilion and the ballpark site, with Guadalupe Parkway/CA-87 on the east border. Virtually all of this area is zoned either industrial or commercial. At least one site, the old SJ Water Company land bought by Adobe, has development plans underway.

TIF funds could be used for the new infrastructure stuff we've discussed previously, from the new multimodal transit hub to additional parking to open space. It's hard to say what yields they are expecting, but it stands to reason that whatever gets built, TIF will be stretched out enough for the corresponding projects to be paid for.

Tying the two news items together, it'll be interesting to see how quickly construction begins on the Quakes stadium. As I understand it, the land there is already graded and ready to build. Should a new stadium have it groundbreaking in the summer or fall with visible progress over the next several months, it would be a major achievement politically for the City and A's/Quakes ownership. It's expected that the ballpark will have its own ballot measure, and there's no better political capital than showing that you're getting something done - with your own money, nonetheless.

Minority partner Saperstein fires back at Russo

While I would just as soon prefer the A's saga not get played out so publicly in the media, it makes sense for members of the ownership group to circle the wagons when they get attacked. And so minority partner Guy Saperstein wrote into the Trib with a strongly worded rebuttal of City Attorney John Russo's letter last week. Saperstein, a retired Oakland lawyer who contributes to several left-leaning websites, doesn't quite fit the profile of collusive carpetbagger many have bestowed upon Lew Wolff. I will be curious to see if, oh, Zennie Abraham and Rich Lieberman devote as much blog space to Saperstein's letter as to Russo's.

Saperstein ends with a sentiment echoed by this blogger and many others (though not all) throughout A's fandom:
What is most noteworthy about Russo's commentary is what it fails to identify: A single viable stadium site in Oakland. Russo writes a long commentary claiming that "feasible options for a new ballpark" exist, and that it only takes "imagination" to find it, then fails to identify a single feasible option, or indeed, any stadium option.

The time is long past for platitudes and empty rhetoric from grandstanding politicians who aspire to be the next mayor. If you have a secret stadium site and plan that no one else has yet seen, Mr. Russo, let's see it.

The key word there, of course, is viable. I guess we'll find out if it exists in a week. Can't wait.

On a related note - how many more lawyers are we going to hear from? I'll put the over-under at 3.

04 May 2009

Everything old is new again

Matier and Ross report that there may be three locations presented by the Oakland Stadium Task Force. One is the Coliseum parking lot option, the other two unclear, though M&R are pointing to Howard Terminal and Oak-to-Ninth. Yes, this is all familiar territory.

Quick refresher: Howard Terminal (aerial view) was reopened in 2004, with shipping giant Matson signing a 25-year lease. A related deal, finalized only last year, has SSA Marine operating the terminal on behalf of Matson.

O29 is a bit more complicated. The largely residential development on the Estuary had its EIR certified in January (PDF), after 3+ years of legal wrangling. Unfortunately for developer Signature Properties, the timing coincides with a horrible decline in the housing market. The Ghielmettis have long maintained that they would be willing to share the site with the A's for a ballpark. However, the devil is always in the details. If putting a ballpark in means a significant drop in open space (which was what much of the legal wrangling was about), any plan would be likely be DOA, if not beset by renewed lawsuits.

Both sites would require new EIR processes to begin, as is common with new development.

At least the task force is aware that it can't just throw a couple of sites out there:
Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer, who is part of a public-private group led by Mayor Ron Dellums working to keep the A's in town, confirmed that part of the parking lot at the Coliseum would be offered as a ballpark site. But he said there has been no final decision on which two waterfront sites will be presented to the baseball poobahs May 12.

"We don't want to provide them with the same old sites that are going to have some of the same issues that have been identified as problematic," he said.

In other words, they're still sorting it out.

When the HOK study was completed in 2002, Howard Terminal and O29 emerged 4th and 6th, respectively.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the task force's presentation, which is scheduled for May 12th.

P.S.: Rich Lieberman comments further on the M&R report, though he must not have gotten the memo that the Marlins' ballpark plan has been approved, not killed. Miami-Dade County expects to sell the bonds in the next two months. The site has been cleared, the Marlins planted flags there over the weekend, and a very detailed site plan has already been circulated (thanks Transic and M Festa). The constant drone I've been hearing from Oakland partisans is "It's too hard to go anywhere else, just get it done here even though the potential isn't as good." It somewhat fits with the path of least resistance M.O. I ascribed to Wolff in the past. I understand the reasoning behind this, but it's not exactly an overwhelming sales pitch.

02 May 2009

No A's/High Speed Rail conflict, say planners

Years ago, when the High Speed Rail project was only slightly more than a pipe dream, I had a dream of my own. It involved a few friends and me going on a quick weekend trip on HSR. We'd pack light, walk from my house, and board an HSR train on a Friday afternoon. Three hours later, we'd be in Anaheim, just in time to catch the first game of a division rivalry weekend series at Angel Stadium. We'd bunk with some other friends in the O.C. We'd reciprocate the hospitality when they wanted to come up here, of course.

This was before the final alignment was decided. Since then, the East Bay has been shut out of the initial phases of HSR, making such a trip from the East Bay less convenient than what I just described (a transfer from BART in SF remains possible). From San Jose, the dream is not only alive, it's within grasp. And according to comments by SJ city planners and HSR planners, it can work for them too.

"Engineering hasn't been done, and decisions haven't been made," said Hans Larsen, San Jose's deputy director of transportation, "but there's nothing to indicate — that we've seen — any chance of a conflict between the two projects."

Added Mehdi Morshed, the rail authority's executive director: "The more activity, the more development, the more things that are located in and around the station, the better it is for our riders. We would go out of our way to work with them, to do everything we can to match our station design to fit the city's priority."

Now that sounds like the spirit of cooperation to me! Each independent working group knows what the others are doing, they appreciate what the other could bring to the table. Hopefully, they're also thinking about sharing infrastructure along the lines of what I suggested last month.

Eventually, HSR could be a boon for all sports teams situated near it. An A's or Giants fan in Fresno could conceivably get to SF or SJ about 90 minutes. A Padres fan who wants to attend a Pads-Dodgers game in LA but doesn't want to deal with LA traffic would have a solution that gets him end-to-end in just over an hour. Baseball fans from all over could join cool train-based ballpark tours, visiting all 5 major league parks as well as several minor league parks along the route if they wanted. The potential is staggering.

01 May 2009

San Jose reaches 1 million

It's a development that doesn't really make a difference in putting a ballpark plan together. Still, civic leaders and pols pushing for a ballpark will undoubtedly point to San Jose's newly minted seven-figure population.

Kevin Starr, a professor of history at the University of Southern California and a former state librarian, said 1 million people is a distinct urban threshold.

"When a city reaches a million, it reaches a certain transformative population," Starr said. "You are dense enough then to get anything done that you want to get done. So let those people that don't want San Jose to be a big city move to Redding — seriously. This place was destined to be an important American city right from the beginning."

I don't know if San Jose will ever "arrive" the way Tom McEnery had envisioned in the past. Reaching 1 million is certainly a step towards that. In the meantime, at least San Jose can say it has more tall buildings than San Antonio. Woohoo! - er, um...