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25 September 2009

A San Jose Manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 September 2009

SJ makes Redev cuts, Ballpark funds safe

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

However, there is some good news:

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

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

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

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

Diridon: The Vision


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

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

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

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

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


Questions or comments? Fire away.

LA NFL stadium opponents agree to settle

It looks like this...

... is a few steps closer to happening.

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

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

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

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

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

22 September 2009

Clarification on Kings/Sharks on CSNCA

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

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

Thank you,

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

21 September 2009

The Silly Stadium Sharing Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 September 2009

Quakes fans now have something to dream about

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

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

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


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

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

18 September 2009

Comcast moves Sharks to power play line

As expected, the Sharks have officially moved from CSN Bay Area to CSN California. The main reason given is that the Sharks will now have more room to air games and related programming without the congestion that was choking CSNBA the last several years. This is especially important from the HD delivery perspective, as the "Plus" channels meant to carry additional programming aren't in HD.

Beneath the surface, the real motivation by Comcast is to conjure enough demand to force the other cable systems (Charter, Suddenlink) to carry CSNCA throughout the rest of Northern and Central California. The Sharks are asking shocked and angry consumers to call their cable systems to request the channel. We've seen this movie before, and we know how it usually ends.

While two networks will have their schedules freed up, there remain a few chances for conflicts. I studied the recently released, tentative 2010 A's schedule, and compared it to the Kings' and Sharks' schedules. Here's what I found:
  • 10/1/09 - Sharks @ Avs, Opening Night, 7 p.m. on Versus against A's @ M's, 7:10 p.m. on CSNCA. No conflict.
  • 10/3/09 - A's-Angels @ 1:05, Sharks-Kings @ 7:30. No conflict.
  • 4/6/10 - A's-M's TBD (7:05), Sharks-Flames @ 6:30, Spurs-Kings @ 7:00. Use of the Plus channel will be required.
  • 4/8/10 - A's-M's TBD (12:35), Canucks-Sharks @ 7:30 on CSNCA-HD, Clippers-Kings @ 7:00. Probably no A's conflict.
  • 4/10/10 - A's-Angels TBD, Coyotes-Sharks @ 7:30 on CSNCA-Plus, Mavs-Kings @ 7:00. If the Angels choose to make this one of their Saturday evening games, there will be a conflict. If it's a day game, it'll be blacked out because of Fox Saturday exclusivity.
  • 4/12/10 - A's-M's TBD (7:05), Rockets-Kings @ 7:00. Use of the Plus channel will be required.
  • 4/13/10 - A's-M's TBD (7:05), Kings-Lakers @ 7:30. Use of the Plus channel may be required if Kings game is not carried nationally.
Complicating things a bit is the fact that the Kings have not yet announced their broadcast schedule. It's possible that some games may be carried by their OTA affiliate, if they have one this season.

16 September 2009

Subsidies and Realities

In light of the Merc article containing economist feedback on the economic impact report, there's been a small amount of blowback from San Jose and other media. While I haven't trumpeted or killed the report critically, I feel that it has enough realism and conservatism baked in to pass muster with the public.

During the City Council session yesterday, there were some comments about omissions in the report. Some of the unknowns:
  • How much parking will be built on site and how much will it cost? Will the City foot some/all of the bill?
  • What is the fiscal impact of sales of construction materials for the ballpark?
  • No mention is made of land lease terms, or the cost of additional land acquisition.
It's been understood for some time that new infrastructure in the area, including parking, will be for the benefit of the transit hub and the downtown community as well as the ballpark and arena. Future demands are too great to have exclusivity, especially for a parking garage.

In the report, the alternative development plan involves a new corporate campus, or up to 1 million square feet of mostly office and some retail. The space is expected to be built out over two-plus decades, with the final space available in 2038. That's a major departure from a ballpark, which would be completely open in 2014. Height restrictions prevent buildings of 20 stories or more, so the chances of building anything as architecturally iconic as a ballpark are slim. You need not look further than the Adobe headquarters for proof:

The only thing memorable about the HOK-designed complex is the art installation on the north exterior, otherwise known as the San Jose Semaphore project.

Speaking of Adobe, they didn't exactly start out in San Jose. Originally a Mountain View-based company, Adobe was lured downtown with a $33 million subsidy and favorable lease terms. Most of the land in the picture above is owned by SJ Redevelopment, not Adobe. In hindsight, it's proven to be a good deal because as of this moment, Adobe is the only Fortune 1000 company located downtown. In the past few years, several companies have left, leaving a massive vacancy rate in their wake. Knight-Ridder was acquired by MediaNews, with the Bay Area papers absorbed by BANG. Power producer Calpine emerged from bankruptcy and promptly moved to Houston. Even new deals were sunk, as City tried for years to bring middleware maker BEA down from the northside, only to have Oracle acquire them after the deal was consummated. The target building, Sobrato Tower, remains vacant as City tries to find a tenant yet again. Finally, Adobe bought the old San Jose Water Company site, but there's no telling if/when anything will be built there.

To better illustrate downtown's plight, here's a map showing where the city's six Fortune 1000 companies reside in blue, along with a red/black square denoting the ballpark site's location:

These companies have little incentive to move. They have full control over their parking, are just as close if not closer to where their employees live as downtown, and for the most part don't need downtown amenities, such as they are. It also doesn't hurt that for the companies that have large, long-held real estate portfolios, they also have Prop 13 on their side. It wasn't that long ago that much of north and south San Jose was cheap farmland, ready to shape however the developer saw fit.

Faced with this un-downtown-like reality, it's no wonder why SJRA projects all the way to 2038 for office space. Downtown will always have smaller businesses, law firms, and media companies there. There's nothing wrong with pursuing more large corporations, but city fathers should also understand that there are other ways to enhance downtown. A ballpark is Exhibit A in doing just that.

To that end, they're focusing on this hub concept, for both transit and entertainment. Retail went with Santana Row and a series of expansions to Valley Fair, so the best things left are transit (coming with BART and HSR) and entertainment (sports, arts). As mixed up and broad as their vision for downtown has been for the last 20 years, it's good to see it coalesce around a more focused set of objectives.

15 September 2009

Mayor(s) Press Conference

Mayor Chuck Reed introduces former mayor Susan Hammer, who speaks in support. Next up, County Assessor Larry Stone.
City Council meeting is next and will take up the economic impact report.

SVLG head Carl Guardino announced that SVLG officially supports the move.

Reed's last quote:
"I'd like to thank Lew Wolff and the A's. It's Lew's vision that makes it possible for us to build a ballpark in San Jose."
Mark Purdy is headed inside to talk to some of the featured speakers.

1:45 - Council hearing Econ impact report now.

2:25 - Council unanimously approved report.

14 September 2009

Mayor Reed Press Conference Tuesday @ 1 pm

For those who are wondering where all the South Bay community leaders are regarding the San Jose ballpark project, they'll be at City Hall tomorrow at 1 p.m. for Mayor Chuck Reed's press conference. Reed will undoubtedly tout the revenue and growth potential cited by the week-old economic impact report. Here's the press release:
Mayor Reed to Discuss Economic Benefits of a Proposed Major League Ballpark in San Jose

Event:
This Tuesday, Mayor Reed will host a press conference to discuss the findings of an Economic Impact Analysis for a Proposed Major League Ballpark, and highlight the estimated General Fund tax revenue and job generation benefits that the City and other local agencies stand to gain. Key baseball supporters, business leaders and labor representatives will be available for interviews. Following the press conference, the San Jose City Council is expected to accept the economic impact report at the Council Meeting.

When:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where:
San Jose City Hall, Wing Room 120
200 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113

Who:
Mayor Chuck Reed
Former Mayor Susan Hammer, Pro Baseball San Jose
Larry Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor
Pat Dando, President & CEO, San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce
Neil Struthers, Chief Executive Officer, Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building Trades Council
Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Michael Mulcahy, business leader, Pro Baseball San Jose

Other prominent community leaders and supporters of Major League Baseball will also be in attendance.


Background:
In May, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved Negotiating Principles for a proposed Major League Ballpark in downtown San Jose. These included requirements that construction and operation of a stadium be privately financed, and that the proposed project have a positive impact on the City’s General Fund. An Economic Impact Report released earlier this month found that the proposed ballpark could annually generate $1.5 million for the City of San Jose, $1.5 million for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, as well as $2 million for Santa Clara County and other local agencies. The report also estimated that a stadium would generate 350 new construction jobs (annually for three years) and 980 net new jobs as well.


Interviews:
Mayor Reed, event speakers and other civic leaders will be available for one-on-one interviews immediately following the event.
I think I'll be scheduling a late lunch to cover the event myself.

12 September 2009

Liveblog from Visioning Workshop



Large group at San Jose's Parkside Hall B to discuss the Diridon Station & Ballpark plan. It's a workshop, which means that lots of reps from City, transit, and consultants are all over the place to answer questions. Updates will be posted here as they come.

1:20 pm - No real ballpark news. This was a community event to get area residents to provide feedback on how the surrounding area should be developed.

2:10 pm - The next workshop, which will be focused and land use and transit, is scheduled for sometime in late January. That will be important simply because it will introduce something that hasn't really been discussed (even during this workshop), phasing. Consider the timeline for all of the construction work being projected to this point:
  • 2011-13 - Realignment of Montgomery/Autumn Streets to Autumn Parkway.
  • 2011-14 - Ballpark is constructed, plus Caltrain electrification.
  • 2015-20 - High speed rail, including expanded Diridon Station.
  • 2020-25 - Downtown segment of BART extension.
That's a really lengthy development time, plenty to get different objectives accomplished but also difficult to understand the timing of various pieces. How long will much of the immediate area be gigantic holes in the ground? Does the city work on the greenscape first or parking infrastructure? Can they be done simultaneously? Of course, there's the lingering question of how much parking should go there, which didn't get addressed at the workshop. There will be plenty of battles about how much housing if any should be there, alternatives to a ballpark, public art, and ways to better connect the station area to downtown. Everyone's playing nice now, but several garden-variety development battles are promised - and that's even after the long-awaited ballpark EIR is certified.

10 September 2009

Cutting through the B.S.

The Merc's Tracy Seipel has a new article featuring quotes from economists questioning some of the projections in the San Jose Economic Impact Report. Here's one of the better takeaways from the article:

But experts who study the economics of ballparks reviewed the numbers for the Mercury News and raised plenty of concerns. Chief among them: The cost for the city land the ballpark would be built upon is significant, they said. With three more parcels to buy, acquiring the land for the stadium over the years could amount to at least $42 million, according to a Mercury News analysis.

"You can't come out saying that this doesn't have a cost if all we're supplying them (the A's) is the land," said Victor Matheson, associate professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. "The land is very valuable real estate."

Rather than be redundant, I'm reposting the "Cutting through the B.S." entry from last week, which covers much of the same ground.

First, I'll start off with some context on the report. The media has published several figures that sound good, but further understanding is in order.

  • $130 million per year in direct spending in San Jose. This is based on what's called a "stabilized" year, which for the purposes of the report is 2018. This acknowledges that much of the newness of the ballpark will wear off over time, allowing attendance to settle just under 2 million/year (24,300/game). This breaks down to $82.8 million of spending in the ballpark, $40.5 million outside the ballpark, $1.8 million by the various visiting teams, and $5.2 million for non-MLB events. There are some odd ratios used to get to these totals. For instance, the study assumes that 10% of players will live in San Jose, and that 10% will spend 50% of their income in the city. What? The other 90% will live outside San Jose and will spend only 5% of their income in the city. All-in-all, some 5.1 million (7%) will be spent within the city. Another $50 million would come from spending directly related to ballpark and team operations. Compare the $130 million figure to projections for the 49ers stadium, which were $72 million and $160 million for the City and County, respectively. I'm skeptical about these numbers, but CSLI claims they're based on information from MLB teams, other sports franchises, and surveys. There must be some correlation, but the numbers described within the text don't always match up with what's in the tables.
  • Nearly 1000 jobs will be created outside of construction. Granted, moving team operations from Oakland to San Jose will net dozens, if not hundreds of new jobs. From a greater regional standpoint, it's really just displacement. Moreover, there will be displacement of the low-paying jobs. Many of the Aramark-sourced vendors in Oakland will lose a seasonal baseball gig, while Aramark-sourced vendors in San Jose will gain one. For years many of these vendors have worked multiple venues to help make ends meet, which makes sense since we have the luxury of having six local pro sports teams combining to cover the entire calendar year. And if the 49ers and/or Raiders move to Santa Clara, there will be even more displacement. Many vendors won't be willing to travel 40 miles to work food or janitorial service. So it's great for South Bay workers, terrible for East Bay workers. Not that I needed to explain that in great detail.
  • Per capita spending. The study separates fans into different groups in order to properly establish their spending patterns. For A's games, in-ballpark spending is projected to be $49 per person per game. That sounds high until you break it down into its components: $30 for a ticket, $15 for food and beverage ($6 nachos + $7 beer + $3 dessert = $16), $3 merchandise (part of more expensive item spread out over multiple visits), $1 parking (3 people per car, 30% of fans using available parking). The Coliseum's 2009 Fan Cost Index is $46.81 per person per game, and that includes a child discount on tickets. Many fans (including myself) go quite cheap by finding free parking, or by bringing in outside food. Still, I pay $13 for a bleacher seat, $7.20 roundtrip from Fremont BART to the Coliseum, $3 in gas, plus $7 for a large sandwich and drink from somewhere else. It adds up.
  • That hint. In the afternoon post, I mentioned there was a hint at the deal. In the general fund revenue section is this sentence, "Under the Ballpark Development Scenario, the hard
    construction costs of the stadium are used as a proxy for the assessed value." Assuming there are no appraisal shenanigans like the kind the Giants pulled in SF, the figure points to an assessment of the ballpark only, which means that the land will remain City property while the A's will lease it for the stadium. In other words, it's a repeat of the Giants' land deal.
What you, gentle reader, want to know is: Are these realistic numbers? The strange breakdown of player spending and the projections of property tax pass throughs to school districts are specious. Other numbers appear to be realistic, in some cases conservative. The study projects $1.5 million in tax revenue. It's not high, and there's a good reference point in HP Pavilion. Sharks games produce between $1.2 and $2 million per year in taxes with fewer games and less overall attendance (though greater ticket prices). That said, $1.5 million is a drop in the bucket for a city of 1 million people. Claims of making money from the deal are key for Mayor Chuck Reed, as he wants to uphold his fiscal conservative credentials. Given the litany of bad stadium deals listed in the last appendix in the report, it would be a great victory if the project were simply revenue neutral. Not sexy, but a little more realistic.

Media coverage of the economic impact report and reactions:
The money: Wolff connects the dots @ Bloomberg, talks T-rights @ Forbes
The lede @ the Merc and SFGate
The tube: KTVU and KGO stories

07 September 2009

Can San Jose meet the demand?

Tonight's contribution comes from frequent commenter gojohn, who in a previous thread had some thoughts on the future makeup of a San Jose A's fanbase. I told him that it looked like he needed some room to flesh out the concept, so I gave him this post to do it. I'll add my own thoughts at the end of the post.
Thanks to Marine Layer for allowing me to do this guest post. Half of it was written while sporting my 1929 A’s hat at the game today. I didn’t want to be “that guy” with a laptop at the game, but I figured I was exempt since I was writing about the A’s. I was stuck in the Stomper Fun Zone most of the game anyway.

When I was looking over the San Jose Economic Impact Report the table below stood out to me. 

I was a bit surprised to see it estimated that 50% of the ballpark attendees would be coming from San Jose. So, I attempted to come up with my own number based upon the only data that I know of that is publically available. That would be the table below from the Fremont Economic Impact Report.

This table breaks down the advance ticket sales by county for the 2005 Oakland Athletics season. Ticket sales per county should vary mainly based on the population of that county and its distance from the Oakland Coliseum. Below is scatter plot of the % county population attending games by the distance of each county from the ballpark (I assumed only one game a person. Obviously not right, but I made that assumption for all counties so it shouldn’t affect the slope of the line).

Allow me to make a few observations from this graph before moving forward. First, Napa County loves the A’s. Those fans take the long haul to the park in numbers that far exceed expectations. If the A’s move south, Napa County might be the biggest losers. Second, Alameda County attendance is slightly above expected, but Santa Clara County is a bit lagging. Doesn’t really fit with the notion that the South Bay is deserving of a new ballpark more than Alameda County because the former will support the team more. Maybe they’re better Giants fans? Obviously, there are many issues unrelated to attendance alone that factor into the decision to move the team South, and the purpose of this post isn’t to reignite the Oakland vs. San Jose debate. I’m just sayin’, if you are going to talk the talk…

To estimate how the placement of the ballpark in San Jose might affect the relative attendance values from surrounding counties, I took the trendline formula from the scatter plot above and plugged in the distance of the counties from Diridon (I’m not a statistician, but I believe this is regression analysis). Using that formula, a Diridon ballpark would result in 433K less fans per year than the Coliseum, demonstrating that having a centrally located ballpark does have a significant positive affect on attendance. Keep in mind, this assumes no increase in fan interest from the 2005 values, it is only taking the ballpark from one location and putting it in another. I had to increase the y-intercept value (aka: the fan interest index) 34% to get an attendance value equal to the Coliseum numbers. In other words, a San Jose ballpark may indeed generate more interest than an Oakland one, but the interest needs to be ~34% higher to make up for the asymmetrical location of the ballpark in the Bay Area.

The graph below shows the percentage each county would be expected to contribute to Diridon ballpark attendance. To the right of the pie graph is a bar graph that breaks down each individual city in Santa Clara County.

The 18.6% value from “other California or out of state” is taken directly from the 2005 values in Oakland. Alameda County attendees would be expected to drop by ~160K fans, while Santa Clara county would be up 570K. Of note is San Jose, which I project to consist of only about a quarter of all ballpark attendees (470K fans/year). My number is half of the estimate stated in the San Jose economic report. I can’t quite reconcile how the two values are so far off. Perhaps the report relied more on figures from Sharks games and other MLB venues. Maybe they don’t think the relationship between attendance and distance from the ballpark is linear. It’s even possible they fudged a bit. It’s tough to say without knowing their method and having access to the numbers they do. I can only say my numbers seem reasonable and that’s good enough for me.

I would think that my numbers are much more encouraging to a future ballpark in San Jose than those outlined in the report. One million fans from San Jose may be difficult to achieve. However, since I think it is unlikely the report would want to come up with estimates that would suggest a ballpark is not feasible in San Jose, I can only assume they believe 1 million fans from San Jose is reasonable. Perhaps it would be driven by a huge influx of local corporate ticket sales. If 1 million fans truly end up coming from San Jose alone, based on my estimates, the Diridon ballpark is going to be a huge success. I realize I’m beating a dead horse here, but if I’m right I hope the demand for tickets will justify adding more seats to the venue sooner rather than later.
Ed.: My only criticism is of gojohn's acceptance of the 2005 distribution as a transferable system. The layout and population distribution of the Bay Area makes that difficult, just as it's hard for a newcomer to the area to understand our microclimates. A truly thorough analysis (which to his credit gojohn clearly says he is not doing) would go into at least city-based figures and at best ZIP code level granularity. To understand this complexity, I went to the USGS to get a recent Bay Area population density map (PDF map from 2000). I then overlaid 20-mile radius circles around the three locales: AT&T Park (orange), the Coliseum (yellow), and Diridon South (blue). Click on the map for a larger (1.5 MB) version.

Both the orange and yellow circles represent approximately 4 million residents. Within the blue circle there are 2 million residents. The overlap of the orange and yellow circles makes product centrally located within the Bay Area, yet also inefficient in its availability. Of the blue circle's 2 million residents, half are in San Jose. That's probably where the 50% comes from. That doesn't necessarily mean 50% of game attendees will naturally come from San Jose. I expect a lower percentage due to higher ticket prices and the greater affluence of nearby communities and likely higher corporate patronage, much of which is not in San Jose proper.

Note: I neglected to mention where the 20-mile radius came from. I had previously seen a presentation showing that the vast majority of ticket buyers for a future ballpark will come from within a 18-20 mile radius. The current Coliseum location defies this convention thanks in large part to BART.

05 September 2009

Developers wooing A's away from Phoenix

That's Phoenix, as in Municipal Stadium, not Oakland. In January I wrote about the A's discussing renovations to Muni with City officials. Apparently the officials couldn't wrap their brains around the radical concept - team pays for it up front, gets reimbursed or compensated later - so that went nowhere.

Hopefully this time Phoenix and Mayor Phil Gordon are more open to the idea now that local developers want to lure the A's from Muni/Papago Park to a newly built complex on the Salt River Reservation. The reservation is only a few miles to the east, sandwiched between Scottsdale and Mesa. It's a well-integrated part of the community despite its sovereign status, as Scottsdale Community College sits on reservation land. The two Tucson-based teams, the Diamondbacks and Rockies, are already set to move to the reservation following the 2011 season.
"The Oakland A's aren't moving," Gordon said. "Mr. Wolff is a man of his word, and he isn't going to be playing city against city or nation against city."
Mayor Gordon touts his good relationship with Lew Wolff, and I have no reason to doubt that. Still, interest from a private party may have been just the ticket to get Phoenix to the table. Not only would it be a shame if the A's left Phoenix, it would suck if there were no spring training games played at Muni, which remains a venerable yet casual baseball-only institution in the Valley of the Sun.

04 September 2009

Oakland Metro Chamber seeks letters of support

Picked this up from V Smoothe @ SFGate's in Oakland blog.

The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is distributing a letter to member businesses, imploring them to show their support for "a new, state-of-the-art, transit-friendly ballpark
within its currently defined MLB territory" by signing the letter and sending it back to the Chamber. The Chamber will then package the letters as part of a presentation that will be sent to MLB at the end of the month.
[PUT YOUR COMPANY LETTERHEAD OR LOGO HERE]

September __, 2009

[Read & delete: DO NOT send this to Bud Selig directly. Return all letters to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce! We will forward them all as part of Oakland’s PROPOSAL to Major League Baseball. Thank you!]

Mr. Bud Selig
Commissioner
Major League Baseball
12 E 49th St # 24
New York, NY 10017

Re: Support for a New Baseball Park in Oakland for the A’s

Dear Commissioner Selig:
It is my understanding that Major League Baseball (MLB) has appointed a three-person committee to evaluate the options for the development of a new, world-class ballpark for the Oakland Athletics. As part of the MLB analysis, I understand that the appointed, three-member MLB committee will review the level of support in the business community for the Oakland A’s, including specific interest in luxury suites,
season tickets and other forms of corporate support.

As a member of the business community that operates within the A’s territory, I am pleased to inform MLB that should the A’s succeed in moving forward on a new, state-of-the-art, transit-friendly ballpark within its currently defined MLB territory, [INSERT BUSINESS NAME HERE] would be interested in supporting the A’s, including pursuing the rights to a luxury suite and/or a package of season tickets
subject to a more formal evaluation based on ticket price and availability.

We strongly support the City of Oakland’s efforts to retain the Oakland A’s. As you are aware, since making Oakland its home in the late 1960s, the A’s have won four World Championships, bringing pride to our community. We are proud to offer our support for the retention of this historic organization.

The Oakland A’s represent one of America’s great urban franchises, which in years past enjoyed strong support from the region’s business community – and will enjoy strong support going forward should the franchise make a real commitment to Oakland.

In prior years, the Oakland A’s had strong attendance and business community support. From 1982 – 2004, average annual home attendance (excluding the strike year of 1994) was over 1.87 million.

American League average home attendance during the same period was 2.1 million. In recent years, notwithstanding the recent economic challenges confronting the entire country, the East Bay region (Contra Costa and Alameda Counties) has continued to grow and represents an economically robust and vibrant region. Oakland and neighboring Emeryville have a thriving economic base, including serving as the headquarters for major corporations such as Kaiser Permanente, Clorox, Cost Plus, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Waste Management, Ask.com, Pixar Studios and Novartis. The University of California system, the world’s finest public university system, is also headquartered in Oakland. The Port of Oakland, already one of the country’s largest, is moving forward with a significant expansion further contributing to regional economic prosperity. The Tri Valley area extending east of Oakland and home to such corporations as Chevron, Safeway, Ross Stores, Sybase, and Polycom, is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, and represents an untapped opportunity for the Oakland’s A’s.

We look forward to the committee completing its work and, hopefully, attending games in a new world-class, baseball-only ballpark in the City of Oakland.

Sincerely,
I wonder if a ballpark at NUMMI/Warm Springs would've elicited this kind of effort. That site fit the "a new, state-of-the-art, transit-friendly ballpark within its currently defined MLB territory" criteria, didn't it?

Ever the realist, V Smoothe also reflects on Lew Wolff's quotes in yesterday's Bloomberg article:
The most delusional Oakland partisans will surely find a way to spin these lines, just like they have with all similarly unambiguous statements, as part of an elaborate scheme from a shrewd businessman to get some great deal out of Oakland, while the moderately more rational ones will continue to insist that Major League Baseball and territory rights will come to their rescue. But for those not blinded by love and hope, it's pretty hard to deny that it's looking increasingly clear that the best option for everyone involved (except, of course, Oakland) is for the team to move down south, and it's really only a matter of time before that's final.
Can't say I have much more to add to this.

03 September 2009

FAQ/Talking Points

While everyone's focused on the economic impact report (and rightly so), the City of San Jose managed to slip in one other document under the radar. This one's a Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) document, which seems to be timed specifically to provide ballpark proponents two new weapons for their arsenal. You can download the document from the provided link, or simply read on for the whole shebang.

Potential Ballpark
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How will the City of San Jose and the South Bay benefit economically from having a ballpark?
People throughout San Jose will benefit from the $2.9 billion in economic output from the Ballpark.
Employees will benefit from thousands of new job opportunities created by the construction and operation of the Ballpark.
Residents will benefit from City services supported by the additional $1.5 million a year in General Fund revenues from the Ballpark.
Local business will benefit form the $130 million annual economic output driven by spending from new visitors to downtown, and the spending of the team itself for their business operations and service providers for the operation of the ballpark itself.
The entire local economy will benefit from the stimulus of new spending and investment during a time of global economic downturn.
2. How many new jobs will the project create?
The Ballpark would generate almost 1,000 new jobs a year, once in operation, on top of some 350 new construction jobs in San Jose for each of three years. These jobs include full, part time, and seasonal positions.
3. Who is paying for the new ballpark? How much will the ballpark cost the public?
The Major League Baseball team to be responsible for the cost of constructing and operating the ballpark facility.
4. Is there a plan to deal with the increase traffic and noise?
The Mayor and City Council have directed the initiation of a community engagement process and the formation of a Good Neighbor Committee for the Diridon Station Area (the area around the ballpark site). The purpose of this committee is to provide a forum to work collaboratively in addressing the issues and opportunities that arise from proposed projects in the Diridon Area, including a Major League Baseball ballpark.
5. Why was the Diridon site chosen as a potential ballpark site? Why not another (existing) site?
The site was chosen because it is the only identified site in downtown San Jose that is large enough for a Major League Baseball facility that is readily accessible by freeways and major public transportation facilities including Caltrain, VTA bus and light rail.
Access to the project will be further enhanced with the planned BART and High Speed Rail connections at Diridon Station. With the addition of BART and High Speed Rail to Diridon Station the site represents one of the best development sites in the entire Bay Area.
6. What is the timeline for the project?
There are many milestones to accomplished for a project like the baseball stadium to constructed and opened. The first step is for Major League Baseball to come to a conclusion on territorial rights. Pending a favorable conclusion, a vote by the citizens of San Jose will be necessary. It is anticipated that this will be necessary. It is anticipated that this will occur in 2010. If all goes well, the earliest a ballpark would open is Spring 2014.

SJ Economic Impact Report

I'll get into the nitty gritty later tonight. For now I'll make a few observations on the new Economic Impact Report:

1. The firm used for this version, Conventions Sports & Leisure, is the same one used by the City of Santa Clara for their 49ers stadium study. I will be looking carefully for unrealistic projections.

2. Cost of the 32,000-seat ballpark is projected to be $461 million in 2009 dollars, $489 million in 2011 dollars. Ballpark would open in 2014.

3. The City's projected impact is ~$1.5 million in additional general fund revenue, net of increased city service costs ($45k). The A's would pay for all gameday police, emergency and traffic expenses.

4. Projected 2.1 million in attendance plus 3 non-baseball events.

5. 50% of attendees would not be from
San Jose and would be coming in solely for an A's game.

6. Jobs - 350 during construction period, 980 net new jobs including 138 ballpark-specific jobs. I'll get into why I'm skeptical about this later.

7. There are hints about what kind of deal could be struck within the numbers. Think property taxes.

8. An alternative development scenario projects just over 1 million new s.f. In office space. It could produce nearly 3x the number of post-construction jobs but yield $300k less tax revenue annually. The difference here is that completion of the construction would occur some 20 years after a ballpark due to commercial market conditions.

9. Yes, there is a section devoted to indirect impacts, which I will largely ignore.

10. This is the first official analysis from the City which refers to the A's by name (88 instances).

01 September 2009

Oklnd.com

Might as well post this before someone puts it in a comment.

A new site, oklnd.com, is selling baseball-style shirts with traditional Oakland A's colors, but sans the "A's." Part sociopolitical statement, part middle finger to management and baseball. Some will say it's clever, some will say it's pointless. To me it looks like a rip-off of CSN California's ad campaign.

The site is run by SF-based Typebox, LLC. Typebox is fronted by Mike Kohnke, who is "best known for his innovative type designs." (see Wikipedia page and history)

On a tangentially related note, I'm reminded of Oklahoma City sportstalk host Jim Traber, who grilled (MP3) OKC Thunder power forward Nick Collison for saying how nice the weather was in Collison's offseason (and former in-season) home of Seattle.

Howard Terminal Revisited

Everyone likes trains, right?

This short video was shot yesterday afternoon between Jack London Square and Howard Terminal. There's no better illustration of the impact of trains through the area. They are the lifeblood of the port's operations and an important conduit for commuters on Capitol Corridor. Should a ballpark be planned for Howard Terminal, multiple pedestrian bridges will have to be built to span The Embarcadero in order to ensure fan safety. However, that's not the only issue.

The sign above is your typical underground pipeline warning sign. Many pipelines are found alongside railroad tracks since both are meant to go long distances. In this case, the pipeline has a much more local purpose - the Oakland Power Plant.

The tank in the upper left of this picture doesn't hold water. It holds oil for the plant. Nasty, potentially flammable stuff. The plant itself is not operational 24/7, it's meant to provide peak-demand power when needed. Oakland Power Plant spans 3 blocks and is owned by Houston-based Dynegy, along with the plant in Moss Landing.

The CA Public Utilities Commission and the Port of Oakland have occasionally gotten into skirmishes about the plant. There's no denying the importance of a piece of power infrastructure like this, but the Port has resisted attempts by past owners to expand the plant. An audit performed two years ago (warning: PDF) by the CPUC revealed instances of lax training and emergency preparedness, though nothing was deemed dangerous within the scope of the plant's operation.

I've been told that with Matson's long-term deal with the Port, it's nearly impossible to relocate them. The City has been mum on a specific site in the area, but given the circumstances it may be better to focus on other land nearby. Which is too bad, imagine the building below as part of a majestic concrete/masonry ballpark fa├žade. (It's part of the power plant.)

So where to focus? The best place may be the area north of Howard Terminal and the power plant, bounded by the BART tracks/5th Ave on the north, MLK to the east, 2nd St to the south, and Market/Brush Sts to the west.

No, it's not on the waterfront. It does have a nice view of Downtown Oakland. It's also a shorter distance to the 12th St BART station, just over 1/2 mile as opposed to 3/4 mile from the station to Howard Terminal. Admittedly, it would be strange to have BART running right past the place even though there wouldn't necessarily be a co-located station. Fortunately, there is some vacant land that would be perfect for station portals if all parties could get it together. Just as important, it's a shorter stumble to-and-from The Trappist.

Most importantly, land deals would be done with individual private landowners, not the Port. Port land is really City land, but that doesn't make it any easier to do a deal given the politics involved. We're talking about 5-6 blocks, the same amount as Diridon South.

Is this doable? I have no idea. I'm just as in-the-dark about actual proposals emanating from Oakland as many of you.