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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."

55 comments:

LeAndre said...

I don't get it...so whose to blame for this site not working?

Anonymous said...

You big name-dropper! J/K. Thanks for the inside info. So, more proof that Lew overturned every stone in Oakland before looking elsewhere. I'm sure the tin-foil hats will have some crazy way of fitting this into their conspiracy theories, but they are hopeless anyway. Can's wait for them to be culled from the heard.

Marine Layer said...

LeAndre, may I suggest the Coliseum Authority?

J Canseco said...

Kind of cryptic post. Are you going to go more in-depth into this meeting with Lew?

daveinsm said...

sorry to hear that you got laid off

let me know if you want to move to Santa Monica for a Technical PM position. we can take this offline for more detail if you are interested.

my email is davidw.ng@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

ML,

Is Coliseum South still a live issue, or is there some reason it no longer works?

Marine Layer said...

Canseco, there's a lot of the meeting that's confidential. Sorry.

Thanks daveinsm, that's up my alley but I'd prefer to stay in the area.

2:32 - That's up to Oakland and the Coliseum Authority.

J Canseco said...

Why does a blogger meet confidentially with his most important subject, a man none of said blog's readers have access to, and not reveal what was discussed?

Marine Layer said...

I made a promise that I intend to keep. Readers will simply have to live with that.

daveinsm said...

a-HA!

I guess Lew already offered you a position =P

anyways...let me know if you apply for jobs at google, apple or symantec - I have friends and associates who are at those bay area sites.

Marine Layer said...

It's funny. I had met Lew briefly twice in the last year as part of the Fremont Support group, but he didn't recognize me. How's that for pull?

dbackman said...

Coliseum South doesn't seem like a very appealling site. It is even more isolated than the current stadium, making the hike from BART even more unpleasant than it already is. In general, just building a new stadium in the parking lot adjacent to the old is a total cop-out. It just replicates the same outdated land-use patterns and rarely adds anything worthwhile to the experience of arrival at the ballpark, which is one of the aspects in which the Coli is most lacking. In order for something like this to work, the Coliseum Authority would need to take a more radical approach to the parking situation. Instead of surrounding stadiums in a sea of asphalt, how about covering the parking and putting an expansive public park on top?

Anonymous said...

All good ML. Remember this is the same guy who didn't recognize Dave Henderson and thought he was Rickey!! Unless you have dollar signs stamped on your forehead, he probably couldn't tell one person from the other.

Jeffrey said...

Jose, it is fairly common for journalists to have meetings with sources and agree to keep some of the discussion off the record. I would imagine some of what RM talked about would fall into the "speculative" nature and would serve little purpose here (other than to start another "my momma is better than your momma" back and forth). It bodes well for all of us that Lew Wolff met with RM... maybe if he plays his cards right, there will be other meetings and more information for us all to learn about :)

Anonymous said...

haha...he probably couldn't tell the difference between a baseball player and a football player or a basketball player if he didn't own part of the team.

Anonymous said...

$32 million from revenue sharing!? That has to be a record for the A's ; is it? I wonder what the boys from the other side of the bay think about that ; since some of that $32 mill use to be in their pocket.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your personal misfortune, but I suspect you're quite competent and will have little difficulty finding employment. If you don't mind answering, was this a planned meeting with Mr. Wolfe? The reason I ask is that I'm curious to know if Mr. Wolfe is taking his message directly to the fans. He's already done a rather lengthy interview with Blez, and while I enjoyed it immensely, I rather doubt Blez has your technical background. I'd also like to know if we can look forward to future posts related to your conversation with Lew.

Jeff

Marine Layer said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

The meeting has been in the works for sometime. It was worked through a mutual acquaintance. I only received confirmation of it over the weekend. There's no implicit or explicit promise of another interview session, but Lew invited me to give him a call directly if I had any questions.

thisplanetsux said...

"Coliseum South doesn't seem like a very appealling site."

Of course, it's crap. That's why it's vacant and the former businesses there were demolished and not converted to something else.

Jeffrey said...

I honestly think the best option for Oakland was Uptown. There is plenty of blame to go around for it's failure.

I am not a big fan of the idea of a "mini Phone Company Park" in Oakland. I'd prefer something different.

Andy said...

So . . . what else did they say about the Quakes, if I may ask?

Dan said...

Indeed, any other news on the Quakes? Great to hear that the Quakes stadium is getting a roof, but did Lew give any indication on timing? Because as I understand it, the ball is entirely in the Quakes court now that the city has given the green light.

Marine Layer said...

I didn't get any kind of groundbreaking or opening date for the Quakes stadium, not for lack of trying. He indicated that there are some sponsorship/financial matters remaining.

Dan said...

That tracks with what we already knew then. The only step remaining according to a recent but previous interview with Lew was the naming rights sponsor for the stadium as that's the last piece of the Quakes stadium's financial plan.

bbison said...

Congrats on the interview.

Did the A's move from CSN-B to CSN-C come up? (On the record that is.) So far, not so good? The Merc had this tidbit: "Sunday's game against the Blue Jays averaged a 0.3 rating, or fewer than 7,500 households; Dodgers-Giants on CSN Bay Area averaged a 3.97 for the five-hour window, with a peak of 6.0."

Maybe they need to steal the "It's not hard to find the Sharks" campaign--they're sure not using it these days.

At least they worked out the Dish Network/CSN-C rights dispute

Anonymous said...

Coliseum South could work if it includes the ballpark village concept. Not necessarily the housing component (although there could be some of that above the retail spaces), but the restaurants, bars, shops, etc. If they did it right, it could draw people even on off-days and help to gentrify that area. There's a lot of new housing on the other side of BART, and this could extend that neighborhood along Hegenberger. Envision the walk from the BART station to the stadium taking you through a nice retail area like was proposed for Pacific Commons.

There's still the funding mechanism to work out, but conceptually it might work.

hamachi said...

sorry about your job status, I was in that same boat a few months ago. pound that pavement!

Georob said...

Something to chew on...

I just did a casual check of the estimated 2008 populations in baseball's two team markets. (or MSA's as the census bureau calls them)

1. New York 19 mil

2. LA 12 mil (16 if you throw in Riverside/San Bernardino)

3. Chicago 9.5 mil

4. Washington DC and Baltimore Together 7.9 million (and didn't USA Today say that the Nationals have experiencd the biggest attendance drop this year so far?)

5. SF/Oak and San Jose combined 7.0 million.

Make of this what you want, but population is one thing that MLB will consider when looking at territorial rights. And for those that cry that it's corporate $$ that matters most, guess what attendance sector is down the most this year? Luxury Boxes.

thisplanetsux said...

"Coliseum South could work if it includes the ballpark village concept."

It could certainly, with a huge effort, be a better destination than the Coliseum. Still, I think a far better approach, is to append a ballpark to an area where people are already spending time anyways. At least get to within 10 blocks of a dense and affluent population (people in high-rise office buildings and/or expensive housing), rather than make fans come out of their way to an artificial "village" surrounded by... whatever.

Not that I'm against a ballpark village, it's just that it would be so much cooler to be able to walk out of it and into someplace else that is fairly safe and interesting.

Marine Layer said...

Lew addressed that very issue in the preso he gave to the committee. There's already a consensus among owners and Selig about the market's size and potential. A more equitable distribution of Bay Area economic resources is the cornerstone of the T-rights change argument.

Rob, it would pretty shortsighted to project up to 30 years of economic activity based on the current downturn, don't you think? Factor in the occasional recession, understanding that they are cyclical in nature.

dbackman said...

The whole concept of a "baseball village" is predicated on the stadium acting as a self-contained system that has all the amenities necessary. This way you can provide an urban baseball experience at a site on the fringe, like Fremont,that lacks the complications of a more dense and centralized location (though clearly the complications were still too much to bear). I have no doubt that this could be a succesful development strategy, at least in better economic times. But I find the notion that an artificial creation like this will be able to sustain a vibrant street life with thriving bars, restaurants retail and entertainment a little hard to swallow. Great ballpark neighborhoods like Fenway must grow orginically and cannot be created overnight just because the stadium is ensconsced in available space. The ballpark needs to be located somewhere that already has already begun to establish itself, like or JLS or Uptown, or alternately, at a site like Diridon, which is projected for massive growth in the future. So yes, the ballpark village concept could work at Coliseum South, but ultimately, its not really a place that anyone wants to be.

Anonymous said...

they need a north alignment,the batter should be facing north. thats a great way to get mostly sun and have good shade.

Marine Layer said...

bbison, at that point I had not read John Ryan's article so I didn't have those numbers to reference. We only talked about the channel briefly, and he was really pleased to have gotten the deal done for its financial impact. I don't expect this season's revenue sharing receipt to be nearly as high as last season's, and the TV deal has to be a factor.

Tony D. said...

Rob, Rob, stop...you're killing me! You must really, really, really want to see the A's out of the Bay rather than down in SJ.

So in your world, what's the population cut off for a two team market? Let me guess: 7.9 million people (Wash/Balt). And by the way, if you want to get technical, the Bay's pop. is currently 7.2 million.

Something for you to chew on old pal. The Bay Area's pop. is growing and by the time Cisco Field open's in 13 or 14, it should be well over 8 million (will that be good enough for yah?).

With San Jose being on the southern fringe of the metro, you have to also take in account the populations of Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey Co's. Add high-speed rail into the mix, and you bring even the Central Valley populations into the A's AND Giants market. Yes, MLB will look at these future trends to as they evaluate the market.

Lastly, as if you haven't noticed, the Bay Area has been a two-team market for how long now? With a growing population and wealth, it should only get better for the Giants and A's long term; especially with the A's in SJ.

Jesse said...

Those are good points Tony D. Does anyone know when Oakland will submit the proposed sites to Wolff?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Oakland suppose to present ballpark plans to the Blue Ribbon committee yesterday, May 12?

Marine Layer said...

Yep. Lew was headed to Oakland right after our chat yesterday. The only way we'll hear something about it right away is if something leaks.

Anonymous said...

For those that love to speculate--assume the blue ribbon commission might be closer to releasing its findings--sooner than later would be my bet--SJ Mercury article for tomorrow--

"San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Wednesday floated the idea of a November election to decide whether the city should assist in bringing the A's to San Jose.

In a luncheon speech before the downtown Rotary Club, the mayor said he wanted the city to be in a position to go to the ballot if Major League Baseball gives A's owner Lew Wolff permission to move the team to San Jose.

"If Major League Baseball gives the sign to Lew, he's anxious to go,'' the mayor explained to the crowd. "He's very motivated.''"

Anonymous said...

thisplanetsux and dbackman - I completely agree with your latest points. I'd prefer the A's move to Diridon, or had moved to Uptown when that was still possible. I'd much rather see them right downtown somewhere. I was just thinking through Coliseum South if for some reason that became the only option. Basically making the point that it could be better then simply "lipstick on a pig."

-- Anon 9:31

dbackman said...

Renovating the existing Coliseum is a far better option than building at Coliseum South if you ask me. Beyond the crappy location of the South site, it is simply wasteful and unsustainable to build a third massive stadium in this vast parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Now, that I disagree with. Staying in the Coliseum is the absolute worst option outside moving away completely (unless the Raiders leave). Sharing it with football is terrible. Completely ruins the field at the most important time of year and means the stadium will never be optimal for either sport.

If they did something like I outlined above at Coliseum South, there would be two sport-specific stadia (like several other places have) and an arena, which is a totally separate monster. Nothing wrong with that. Then a chunk of the huge hideous parking lot would now be a shipping and dining center connected to BART on one side and Hegenberger on another. Heck, maybe it could expand toward the existing Coliseum as well, to be accessed by people attending events at the existing venues too.

Like I said, it's not my first choice but it's a lot better than the current situation, which is untenable.

dbackman said...

Well, if you are talking about a "lipstick on a pig" renovation, then yes, that is untenable. The Coliseum needs a lot more than a cosmetic upgrade to make it a viable ballpark for the future of the A's. But there is nothing wrong with the Coliseum as a structure, and if the A's were to continue to play at this site, they should reuse this great resource. A major overhaul, like the one ML described a few months back, could make the Coliseum a great place to play baseball again, especially if the Raiders were to depart at some point, which is a distinct possibility. This is by no means my preferred choice for the A's 'new' stadium. But it is nevertheless a much more sustainable approach than building a new stadium adjacent, which would leave the existing Coliseum a virtual ghost town that hosts only a dozen or so events a year max. I've noticed that sustainability is not a word that enters the conversations here very often. But the environmental costs and effects of new stadium construction are very real and we would be foolish to ignore them.

Anonymous said...

"A major overhaul, like the one ML described a few months back, could make the Coliseum a great place to play baseball again, especially if the Raiders were to depart at some point,"

It's not "especially" if the Raiders leave, this becomes possible ONLY if the Raiders leave. No one is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a multiuse stadium in this day and age.

"But it is nevertheless a much more sustainable approach than building a new stadium adjacent, which would leave the existing Coliseum a virtual ghost town that hosts only a dozen or so events a year max."

Virtually all NFL stadia host only a dozen or so events a year; that isn't stopping cities from building them. Anyway, if the A's built at Coliseum South, the Coli wouldn't stick around for long in it's present state. Either the Raiders would do a remodel, or they'd leave. As soon as the Raiders left, it'd get knocked down and redeveloped for something else.

"I've noticed that sustainability is not a word that enters the conversations here very often. But the environmental costs and effects of new stadium construction are very real and we would be foolish to ignore them."

The most environmentally (and economically) sustainable approach would be for the A's to share AT&T Park with the Giants. When you really think about it, building two parks in what is functionally the same geographic area is extraordinarily wasteful. For those who keep arguing the A's best strategy is "central location and market to the entire Bay Area," this would allow the A's to do that with an extra $500 million in avoided costs burning a hole in their pockets.

However, we all know this won't happen. First, the A's aren't likely to put themselves at the mercy of a competitor who might decide to stop renewing their lease at some point. Second, the Giants would likely demand too much money in hopes the A's would run out of options and leave the area altogether.

dbackman said...

All good responses. I just fundamentally object to the whole idea of building the new stadium in the old stadium's parking lot. I opposed this sort of thinking when I lived in Philly a few years back as well. New stadiums are opportunities to create something new and exciting, not to perpetuate the mistakes of the past.

bartleby said...

dbackman,

I agree with you 100%. In fact, I'd almost dare to suggest there seems to be an emerging consensus opposed to the Coli site. Some of us prefer downtown SJ and some downtown Oakland, but I'm seeing a lot more posts from people saying they'd favor a downtown site in their less-preferred city over the Coli site.

(Myself included, even though downtown Oakland would be less convenient than the Coli).

dbackman said...

Plus an urban ballpark is a chance to cultivate new transit connections and strengthen existing ones. A JLS stadium, for example, would encourage the city to increase ferry service, encourage Amtrak usage and provide a better link between the City Center and JLS, which would not just benefit the A's, but the city as a whole.

Jeepers said...

The best comparison between what a Coliseum South site would look like is to the Sports Complex for the Phillies, 76ers, Flyers, and Eagles in Philadelphia. It is also in a unremarkable area, but has been an enormous success. The concept can work with some doing.

dbackman said...

Yes, its a good comparison and the new stadiums are successful, but has revamped Philly sports complex done anything for South Philly? I don't know, I left the Philly right when the ballpark was finishing up. But, giant parking lots suck the life out of the city, and no matter how profitable or popular the individual stadiums are, the complex still doesn't make a positive impact on the urban environment.

Anonymous said...

The A's should build on the Coliseum site, build parking structures, and let other restaurants build in that area, but with enough space for tailgaters to be outside the park. Then, the JPA could pay what they have, and the A's could pay the remainig money.

Navigator said...

Marine Layer,

Why not fess up? You're allowing these posters to speculate about a ballpark in Oakland when you know darn well that the fix for San Jose is in.

I used to respect this site, because although it was obviously tilted towards the South Bay, you managed a certain impartiality when talking about various sites. I had the feeling that you were an individual who was mostly interested in the process and enjoyed visualizing, analyzing, and creating different renderings regarding various sites in different locals.

However, with the admission of your personal relationship with "Lew," I now view you as a shill and mouthpiece for "Lew's" anti-Oakland pro-San Jose propaganda.

And, you should stop fronting for "Lew" and let your readers know that ANY talk regarding Oakland is a fantasy. Come on Marine Layer, stop covering up for Wolff. You know the truth. Why play games?

dbackman said...

You are unreal.

Marine Layer said...

You caught me Nav. When did my personal relationship with Lew start? Was he my secret godfather when I was baptized at St. Mary's in SF? Did he pay my way through college? Have I been on his payroll this whole time?

The answer to all of those last three questions is No. To the first, Tuesday if you can call it that.

It's funny, we didn't talk much about San Jose at all, even though we were in the middle of it. We talked almost exclusively about Oakland and the history there - and there's plenty. I chose to emphasize one part of the discussion because it was related to a site I advocated in the past.

If the fix were in and I believed it, I'd spend far less time on the blog. Why bother rolling out alternatives? I'll continue to propose them here as long as the situation is up in the air. Nothing from the Tuesday session convinced me otherwise.

thisplanetsux said...

"The A's should build on the Coliseum site, build parking structures, and let other restaurants build in that area, but with enough space for tailgaters to be outside the park."

Honestly, tailgating was invented at places like the Coliseum parking lot, because there's nowhere to go and nothing else to do in an area crammed between freeways, overpasses, train tracks, drainage ditches, and toxic superfund sites. I'm not a fan of tailgating, or this site.

Anonymous said...

Seek professional help, Nav. You seriously need it. Either that or slither back to the OAFC where your incoherent mumblings pass for rational dialog.

jeepers said...

dbackman, I'm not sure how much of a positive impact the Sports Complex has had on South Philly. One thing that may work in the Coliseum's favor, though, is that there's a whole bunch of new residential and commercial development nearby. There is some momentum upon which to capitalize.