New info about Coliseum scoreboard project

People have been asking me everyday about the state of the new Coliseum scoreboard project. Until this week, all I could say was that most of the work would be happening in February and March. That’s partly because the Coliseum’s two scheduled major events: AMA Supercross last weekend, and Monster Jam on February 21.

Jane Lee’s column on Monday answered a question about the scoreboards.

Any update on if the A’s will have new scoreboards this year?
— Mike S., Alameda, Calif.

According to David Rinetti, the A’s vice president of stadium operations, the process for implementing the new HD video boards began Dec. 22, the day after the Raiders’ final home game, and is on track to be completed by the time gates open for an April 4 exhibition game against the Giants. Along with new scoreboards, new ribbon boards will also be on display by this time.

The new scoreboards will each measure approximately 36 feet tall and 145 feet wide.

Today a new Clubhouse Confidential blog post shed more light on the project. Renderings were also provided.

Rendering of new display package

 

To put things in perspective, each new board, which will take up the entire scoreboard frame in LF and RF, is almost 50 yards wide and 3 stories tall. There will be no permanent ad signs, though you can be sure that ads will be fixtures in the new video presentation. Still, there’s plenty of room on the boards themselves. Daktronics’ 13HD LED tech is being installed, just like the recent installations at Levi’s Stadium, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, and Jacksonville’s EverBank Field. If you’ve been to Levi’s, the new Coli’s boards compare with Levi’s south end zone board, which is 48′ x 142′.

Behind north end zone

Behind north end zone at Levi’s Stadium (view of south scoreboard)

Each pixel is 13 mm in size, or roughly a half-inch for those of you stubbornly stuck on Imperial measurements. That plots the pixel count at 854 x 3400, a very long panel though not so tall it can do Full HD (1080p). That’s the literal constraint the scoreboard frames provide. Considering that most people will be at least 150 feet away from a clear view of either scoreboard, I doubt anyone could tell the difference.

Ribbon boards are also being installed along the front of the plaza level seats. Those will be 5 feet high (Update: 3’6″ high) by 415 wide. 5 feet high is a bit curious, because it’s taller than the 3-4 feet high ribbon boards often seen elsewhere. I wonder if the boards will obstruct views from the lower concourse more than the already low-hanging second deck does. They only go from the end of the deck (Sections 200, 234) to the edge of the infield (211, 223) so at least the prime viewing areas won’t be affected. For those of you wondering about how ads and other information will be presented, consider that with few permanent signs remaining, ad space on both the ribbon boards and main scoreboards will be done on a sort of time-share basis. Sponsored promotions will appear far more prominently than before, which should lead to higher advertising rates by the A’s and the JPA/Raiders, who split revenue during Raiders games.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s 2014 visual comparison, each of the two new main scoreboards would place in the middle of the pack among MLB ballparks, though having two is something no ballpark can boast (nor should it). Recently there’s been a sort of Jumbotron arms race, with many displays less than a decade old being replaced by larger, crisper versions.

SB Nation comparison from May 2014

Chicago Tribune scoreboard comparison from May 2014

Yes, for once a key feature at the Coliseum will be superior to that at China Basin. However, the Giants have the scoreboard front and center, a much better placement than at the Coli. We all know what sits beyond CF in Oakland.

So say goodbye to this old relic, and hello to new technology at the Coliseum, which is always welcome.

The old scoreboard and DiamondVision combo

The old scoreboard and DiamondVision combo

One thing to keep in mind about all this scoreboard hubbub is that the A’s and Earthquakes (same ownership group) have been working on three different scoreboard projects in the last year: at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, and now the Coliseum. If there’s anything they’ll have a lot of experience with going into a new ballpark in Oakland, this is it.

P.S. (2:45 PM) - I checked with David Rinetti. He confirmed that the ribbon boards are 3’6″ high, so there shouldn’t be any obstruction issues. He also told me that the old scoreboards parts are being recycled, so they won’t be donated or auctioned off. Much of the original equipment has already been hauled away.

The Manfred era begins – Did anything change yet?

Over the weekend, the commissioner’s torch was officially passed from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred, starting the Manfred era in earnest. Manfred’s tenure as commissioner will depend largely on how he deals with specific business and big picture issues the sport needs to address. Selig handed Manfred a highly effective business model, surpassing $9 billion in revenue in 2014 along with the lengthiest uninterrupted labor peace of the four major pro sports. Certainly, Manfred could keep the ship pointed in the same direction while keeping the motor running, and there would be few complaints from the owners who elected him. But people don’t get commissioner’s jobs just to be caretakers; they’re expected to have their own agenda to push baseball beyond its current audience. That’s the part we the public don’t know much about yet.

In Manfred’s letter to fans, he mentioned that his top priority is to bring more people into the game, by greater youth outreach to foster the next generation of players and by streamlining the game to make it more palatable to casual fans, especially younger ones. The letter is quite high-minded, masking Manfred’s reputation as a tough yet also conciliatory negotiator. Manfred’s in his mid-50’s, which places him in the baby boomer era, seeing the worst of the 60’s and 70’s as a youth: concrete multipurpose donut stadia. His predecessor helped get rid of nearly all of the cookie cutters, though Manfred played the heavy in many stadium talks. League attendance has largely plateaued with only Oakland and Tampa Bay stuck with bad parks, so if he and the other owners want to see continued growth at the turnstiles, they’ll have to do something about those two teams.

CBA talks will begin before or during the 2016 season, and unless it goes badly there should be a deal struck by the World Series. That’s 20 months away. If talks are contentious, they could take out the 2017 World Baseball Classic or worse. We shouldn’t expect to see contraction on the table, as it won’t help extort new stadia out of those two markets, plus it will only anger the player’s union, who will see 50-80 jobs (not including hundreds of minor league jobs) disappear. And no, adding a player or two to every roster is not a good substitute. There will be some calls for greater revenue sharing, along with greater pushback against it by the big market teams. Players will want earlier free agency, tweaks to arbitration, and other perks. Talk of a soft or hard salary cap has largely died. Umpires signed a new CBA over the weekend, allowing their agreement to run concurrent with Manfred’s term, one less hassle for the new commish.

That doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. There remain numerous legal disputes to work out, internal ones like the Nats-O’s-MASN deal, and external issues like the minor league antitrust and television blackout lawsuits. As a long time insider, Manfred is keenly aware of these battles, and of the future CBA negotiations.

That leaves little room for Manfred to take on the A’s and Rays’ respective plights. Manfred and Selig have remained committed to the Bay Area while rather noncommittal to Oakland. Quoth Selig from John Shea’s sendoff profile:

“I think two teams can exist in the Bay Area. Certainly, (A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff) want to stay in the Bay Area. When I say Bay Area, you understand there are several alternatives.”

Manfred from two weeks ago, asked by Bill Shaikin about the A’s:

Not much difference there. Manfred’s going to leave both Oakland and San Jose dangling, knowing he has a plan A in Oakland if public officials choose wisely, and a plan B in San Jose if not. Plan B is not considered an easy plan because of the Giants, yet if a solution can’t be found at the Coliseum, Manfred will have to come up with a solution that works for both the A’s and Giants.

This site is coming up on 10 years old. I never thought I’d be at it this long. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I’ll keep following the story where it leads. That’s Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, Mesa (for spring training), wherever it may go. A’s fans deserve nothing less than as complete coverage as this site can provide. Thanks for hanging in there, friends.

P.S. – Manfred aroused discussion yesterday when he said that he’d like to forego defensive shifts. I don’t consider that much of an likelihood, since there really aren’t rules that dictate how to set up defenses right now, so creating new ones would be an inevitable mess that would be difficult to enforce – as if certain rules aren’t already improperly enforced. Instead, I look at Manfred’s statement as something that got baseball in the national discussion at the beginning of Super Bowl week, a difficult thing to do. It is Manfred’s job to help promote the sport, after all.

P.P.S. – More from Manfred in an AP interview:

“I don’t think of the Oakland issue as Oakland-San Francisco. Oakland needs a new stadium. There’s a new mayor in Oakland. We just prevailed in the San Jose litigation, so things are moving around a little bit out there, and I’m hopeful we can make progress on getting a new stadium in Oakland in the relatively short term.”

Hohokam Stadium’s A Day At The Diamond on 2/21

In celebration of the reopening of Hohokam Stadium, the City of Mesa is holding an event at the ballpark titled A Day at the Diamond on Saturday, February 21 from 11 to 5. There will be tours of the stadium and attractions for the family, including a zip line and tethered hot air balloon rides. I’m going to be back and forth between the Bay Area and Arizona throughout February and March, but I’ll figure out a way to make sure I attend this cool event.

dayatdiamond

 

One of things to keep in mind about Hohokam and Fitch Park is that under the terms of the lease agreement, the facilities are essentially a co-op with the A’s running it throughout spring training (three months) while Mesa gets it the rest of the year. Mesa had to put up some money for improvements (as did the A’s), but budgetwise the deal projects better than with no tenant, where both facilities would slowly deteriorate with no funding for maintenance.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you probably won’t be out here for the event. I will and I plan to take lots of pictures. Here are some from earlier this week when I stopped by the yard.

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Sharks to become two-headed with top affiliate move to San Jose

For a casual hockey observer, this seems out of the blue: Mark Purdy is reporting tonight that the San Jose Sharks will move its top affiliate, the Worcester Sharks (MA), to San Jose starting with next season. The Worcester Sharks are in the American Hockey League, the hockey equivalent of AAA baseball. TSN hockey reporter Darren Dreger reported last month that the move is part of a five-team shift to establish a true division of West Coast teams. The AHL had operated strictly under a Western/Eastern conference alignment this year, when divisions were introduced.

The problem with the new alignment is that even in the Western Conference, the team furthest west was in San Antonio, with no teams in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. By re-establishing five existing teams on the West Coast, those teams will be able to support each other with less travel distance between them. In conjunction with the new two-headed Sharks in San Jose, Calgary will move its AHL affiliate to Stockton, displacing the ECHL Thunder. According to Dreger, the other teams expected to jump on the bandwagon are the Kings, Ducks, and Oilers. Strangely, that leaves the Canucks without a West Coast AHL mate, their current AHL city being Utica (!), NY, pending a future move or new affiliation. The Pacific Northwest is already well represented in terms of minor league hockey thanks to several junior teams (WHL) in place for years or even decades.

So far the Sharks are the only franchise to agree to house its minor league and big clubs under the same roof. Purdy thinks it’ll be a short-term move, the to-be-renamed minor league team farmed out to Oakland after the Warriors leave, Sacramento when the new arena is completed, or elsewhere in a few years. Next fall will be an interesting experiment in observing how much hockey San Jose and the Bay Area can tolerate. The Bulls and Spiders both failed at the Cow Palace, but that was largely due to the Cow Palace’s age and location. There is a real risk of oversaturation, especially if the Sharks don’t improve from their uninspiring (but playoff-bound) state. The counter to that argument is that the real hardcore Sharks fans will have an opportunity to really indulge their ice jones, by being able to watch the big show and players on the cusp of the NHL. The AHL has a 76-game schedule, so if you halve that you get a total of 79 regular season home games between the Sharks and mini-Sharks, plus preseason and potential playoff games. That’s almost as many as a baseball home schedule.

View from my 10-game SharkPak seats during the 2013-14 season

View from my upper level 10-game SharkPak seats during the 2013-14 season

Pricing is the perhaps most curious conundrum. The Sharks want to price AHL games affordably, to attract families and casual fans, yet they don’t want to undercut their premium NHL product too much. Currently, season tickets for the Worcester Sharks at 80’s vintage DCU Center run from $12 to $20 per game depending on the package, an absolute bargain compared to the Sharks or any other NHL team for that matter. They have a number of all-season promotions, including $79 family four-packs including concessions and $2 popcorn, hot dogs, and sodas on Fridays. A family four-pack in San Jose costs $120-360 depending on where you sit.

Naturally, operating costs at SAP Center are going to be a little higher than in Worcester, so we may not see prices quite so low for AHL games. The organization can choose to run a smaller operation by curtaining off the upper level, limiting the capacity to around 10,000 seats. I figure if they can pull in 5,000 a game, they should be able to break even if most tickets are around half the price of their counterparts at a NHL Sharks game. Many of the concerts, ice shows, and other paid events the AHL games would displace are meant for crowds of 10,000 or less, with numerous sections “backstage.” Unless mini-Sharks attendance is extremely poor, the organization shouldn’t lose money.

I overlaid the Worcester Sharks home schedule on top of the SAP Center’s event schedule and found 19 date conflicts. A handful involved touring shows like Disney on Ice or Marvel Universe, dates for which games could be easily rescheduled. Only 7 were SJ Sharks home games. Again, most of those could be rescheduled by either swapping dates with the visiting team or changing dates. For some weekend games day-night doubleheader situations might be appropriate. It would allow the arena to stay in rink configuration for two events over a full day. Downtown San Jose businesses would love that. Worcester and other AHL teams also have the unusual practice of scheduling the same opponent for back-to-back home games on consecutive nights. That may not be doable given the number of events at SAP Center.

Purdy alluded to new dressing rooms being built at the arena. I figure that the cluster of smaller auxiliary dressing rooms will be modified for that purpose. Another dressing room would have to be built at Sharks Ice as well. A very fan-friendly move would be if the mini-Sharks offered more open practice sessions.

Finally, the team name will not be San Jose Sharks, or Sharks 2.0. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team dumped the Sharks moniker for the team and even went with the “Silicon Valley” locator. The name would resonate with sponsors, most of whom are Valley tech companies who already have their names on the ice and boards. Maybe it’ll be something that Purdy himself has used frequently, the Tiburones. Silicon Valley Tiburones. There are no sharks in a valley, you’ll say. Hey, I’m no marketing genius and it’s only a minor league team. They can afford to experiment.

P.S. – Names I would not like: San Jose Chips, Silicon Valley Brogrammers, San Jose Apps.

Yesterday’s important takeaway is that City & County are on the same page

Update 1:05 PM – SF Business Times has more on the land deal aspect, including quotes from Floyd Kephart. 

Yes, Raiders and A’s fans alike can start dreaming up their new stadium(s), all shiny and new. A proper team store inside each. There will be chances to compare whatever’s proposed on each proposal’s merits. And there’s a great likelihood that whatever each team proposes pushes the other out of the Coliseum due to scarce land resources and financing difficulties. When those proposals are presented, we’ll have plenty of time to discuss them. It’s entirely speculation at this point, so I don’t want to focus on that yet.

Instead, I want to look at the one less exciting news item that came out of the last couple of days. As Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf reiterated during her interview with Damon Bruce yesterday, the City of Oakland and Alameda County are finally working together on plans for the Coliseum. Prior to this week, the City had been working on Coliseum City independently of the County, leaving the County to consider working on its own alternatives. They even got to the point of hiring a new general manager for the JPA along with a development consulting firm headed by former City Manager Robert Bobb before backing away. Eventually they decided that the best way forward was to work in concert with the City, since both parties will need to sign off on any future plans.

The biggest obstacle for the City and County is that blasted remaining Coliseum complex debt. At $200 million (split almost evenly between the stadium and arena), it is an albatross threatening the feasibility of any project at the Coliseum. Thankfully, that debt is being whittled away over time by annual payments, so in a few years it’ll be about 25% less. That’s still a heavy load on buildings that may well be demolished as part of any plan, so dealing with the debt in a responsible way is arguably the biggest responsibility for Oakland and Alameda County all told.

The Coliseum complex's location adjacent to BART makes it hugely valuable to developers

The Coliseum complex’s location adjacent to BART makes it hugely valuable to developers

The one major asset the City and County have available to them is 120 acres of land, comprised of the Coliseum complex, additionally required property out to Hegenberger, and a smattering of parcels near the BART station. Many are presuming that the land could be swapped for the remaining debt, however much that is when the time comes. That may be a bad presumption, considering the complex’s value as a potential Transit Oriented Development site. Even if you discard 30 acres for new venues, that’s 90 acres to play with, one of the largest TOD sites in the Bay Area (along with Bay Meadows and San Jose Berryessa).

How much is the Coliseum land worth? Located in East Oakland and surrounded by light industrial uses, no one’s going to ask for $7-10 million. What is the the fair market value, though? A listing on Loopnet for nearly 3 acres just north of the complex is asking for $6.75 million, or $2.36 million per acre.

coli-nearby

At that rate, the publicly owned 120 acres would be worth $283 million, which would be double the value of the remaining Coliseum debt in a few years. Maybe the JPA uses land sale proceeds for infrastructure, maybe it gets split between the City and County – either way it’s worth more than simply giving away the land to the Raiders or A’s in exchange for paying the debt. One of the owners may even consider those proceeds as a worthy public contribution for a stadium. As the adult conversation continues in earnest, City and County will bring in an appraiser to figure out FMV for that land, find out its revenue generating potential as it gets rezoned, and plan for how to use future revenue streams. It’s a conversation that’s bigger than just keeping teams in town.

If a proposal lowballs land value, as Lew Wolff’s 66th/High (Coliseum North) plan did, selling the land may be considered a nonstarter. If land is the public’s biggest asset and leverage, it hold true to guarding it in the public’s interest. That may lead to discussions in which only parts of the land are sold. In any case, it should be a very lively conversation, one Oakland and Alameda County need to have whether there are two or zero teams in Oakland in a decade.

City of Oakland Press Release Regarding Coliseum City ENA Extension

Hat tip to Zennie Abraham, who posted this first and did a quick video blog about it.

MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF, OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT LYNETTE GIBSON MCELHANEY, COUNCIL PRESIDENT PRO TEMPS LARRY REID and SUPERVISOR NATE MILEY SUPPORT THE CITY AND COUNTY JOINTLY EXTENDING AGREEMENT WITH NEW CITY AND ADDING RAIDERS AND A’S TO NEGOTIATIONS

OAKLAND, CA – January 19, 2015 – Mayor Libby Schaaf, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Council President Pro Temps Larry Reid today announced their support for extending the negotiating agreement with New City, as well as bringing the A’s and Raiders to the table to discuss developing the coliseum land themselves. Mayor Schaaf has also secured a commitment from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to consider formally joining the City of Oakland in this new approach at their next meeting January 27th. The Oakland City Council will vote in a closed session next Tuesday, January 20th, to extend the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) for up to 90 days, with an express condition that the City may negotiate simultaneously with its sports teams about developing the entire coliseum site.

“I’m excited that, for the first time, both the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders have expressed interest in coming to the table to join these serious discussions and that the City and County are poised to move forward together. This new approach represents real progress in crafting a project that protects the public dollar, retains our sports teams, and increases the economic vitality of the coliseum area,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“Keeping our sports teams in Oakland with a world-class development is a top priority of these discussions,” said Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney. “As joint owners of the land in question, Alameda County will be a critical partner in the collaborative effort to retain our teams and determine the best way to build a state of the art complex that will be a beacon of civic pride for many years to come.”

“I appreciate Mayor Schaaf’s hard work to develop an approach that gets the city and county on the same page. I support the idea of signing onto the ENA with New City now that we will also start negotiating directly with our sports teams,” stated Supervisor and Coliseum Powers Authority Chair Nate Miley. “We’ll be doing our due diligence, but I’m optimistic that the City and County will start moving forward as a unified team after our January 27th action.”

More Tuesday, of course.

Schaaf proposal would allow competing proposals from Raiders and A’s

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wants to extend the Coliseum City ENA. But that comes with one huge condition. From BANG’s Matthew Artz:

“…the 90-day extension, expected to receive City Council backing on Tuesday, would come with a condition that the two teams are free to offer competing plans.”

In effect, the Raiders and A’s would be pitted against each other, and also against Coliseum City.

It’s a bold and wise move by Schaaf that’s likely to garner much broader support from Alameda County than Coliseum City has so far. It would also force Mark Davis off the sidelines, into a role with much greater involvement in the stadium process. Previously, Davis had been content to be mostly hands-off, allowing developers to sell him on their plans while remaining detached. This would also explain the promotion of Marc Badain to Raiders team president. Badain, the CFO and interim team president, was the lead in Oakland stadium talks to this point.

What does this mean for Coliseum City? That depends on how much lifting the Raiders want to do. Badain’s the long-time numbers guy for the team, not a developer. It seems most logical for the Raiders to partner with Coliseum City, since some $5 million has already been spent on studies for the project, including an in-progress EIR. The plan already favors the Raiders over the A’s, so unless Davis dislikes some part of the plan so severely that he’d rather strike out on his own, it makes the most sense for him to partner with CC. At the very least he’d have to sign a completely nonbinding letter of interest or something similar.

If the Raiders choose to craft their own plan, Coliseum City as we know it is dead, since it would be competing against the two teams it’s trying to sign. It’s unlikely that CC would be able to satisfy both teams and its own investors to all parties’ desired benefit, especially now that the amount of land being discussed is merely the 120-acre Coliseum complex (out to Hegenberger), no additional land involved. That’s also a game-changer, since shrinking the focus to 120 acres would preclude further public land acquisitions by the City, County, or JPA.

Meanwhile, the A’s have been waiting for this moment for more than a year. Lew Wolff, as well as most of the discerning public, knew for some time that Coliseum City was serious pipe. Wolff will legally have the opportunity to present his own plan, and the City/County can decide which plan is best, or if no presented plan works. There’s a series of questions everyone will have to answer before a single shovel can hit the ground. Among those questions:

1. Which of the venues will be demolished to make way for new development? Neither team wants to play in the Coliseum long term, yet neither wants to build a new stadium for the other since it would blow up their own respective budget. So it might make the most sense to allow the other team to stay at the Coliseum, which would be renovated to some degree (or not) to make it more suitable long-term. Naturally, the Coliseum’s current condition is much better suited for football than baseball thanks to Mount Davis. Plans could also call for the demolition of the arena, which represents 8 valuable acres within the complex.

2. Who pays for the infrastructure? While it was assumed that the City/County would pay for new infrastructure, the introduction of competitive bidding gives them some leverage in terms of allowing the developer to pay for some or all of that cost. That cost would eat into each bidder’s bottom line, so the challenge for the bidders is to balance that public desire with their own internal projections. For instance, a bidder could adjust to assuming infrastructure costs by adding additional square footage to offset. However, keep in mind that Coliseum City’s full buildout at the complex called for around $400 million in infrastructure.

CC-easements

Colored lines represent easements for utilities, some of which may have to be relocated. Cost could run into tens or hundreds of millions.

 

3. How much does one team’s plan respect the other team? Both owners have expressed an interest in limiting the construction of parking garages in order to preserve surface parking. That’s also valuable, developable land. Again, how does the bidder strike the balance? Does one team’s bid kick the other team to the curb?

4. Does either plan pay off the existing Coliseum debt load? The original Coliseum City plan had no provision to pay off the $100 million at the Coliseum. Floyd Kephart added that responsibility to his plan. Lew Wolff’s alternative also appears to take care of this. If the Raiders propose their own plan do they offer the same? And what about the $100 million owed on the arena, which may not be paid off if/when the Warriors leave?

5. How does the development fit in with Oakland’s planning strategy? A hidden issue in all this redevelopment talk is how the future Coliseum will affect Oakland, especially East Oakland. Will it add much needed affordable housing? Will it gentrify East Oakland? Could it attract one major employer in a campus setting, or numerous smaller companies? Would the retail component be targeted properly, or could it end up with a bunch of empty shell buildings bringing in few rents? What if the retail part is just more big box stores? And how does the plan work with Oakland’s desire to create a thriving transit hub? Does that plan compete with downtown Oakland?

This is finally the emergence of the adult conversation we have long been waiting for. Kudos to Mayor Schaaf for acting so quickly to allow that conversation to begin in earnest. There’s actually a decent chance that Oakland can come out of this looking good in that the City won’t be ripped off. It’s a better chance than it had previously. It gives Oakland new, real leverage. Oakland should approve the ENA with the new conditions, and let the best team win.

Perhaps the City should fly in Mills Lane to judge the proceedings

Perhaps the City should fly in Mills Lane to judge the proceedings