Monthly Archives: October 2009
The Merc’s Tracy Seipel profiled the owners of the Bay Area’s two MLB franchises, noting their differing personalities and careers. For the sake of brevity, I’ll get down to nitty gritty:
Asked to characterize his negotiating style, he said, “I believe the best outcome is when everybody wins a little bit of something.”
But some wonder whether Wolff, at 73, will have the endurance to find yet another location for the team if he can’t move to San Jose.
“He’s spent a lot of time and money in Fremont and time in Oakland” looking for a stadium site, noted one person who has worked with Wolff. “He’s got to be thinking, ‘How long do I have to wait for this?’”
Both Wolff and Neukom may know more in a few weeks when they attend an MLB owners’ meeting in Chicago. League officials said it’s unknown whether the territorial topic will be on the meeting’s agenda.
But there is no rule against deal-making during breaks — or afterward. Both men say they’re not lobbying their fellow owners.
Over at the SJ/SV Business Journal, Katherine Conrad reports that flawed traffic projections in the original 2006 environmental impact report will force a revisiting of that subject. Key to this is traffic on the stretch of 280 between 10th/11th streets and Guadalupe Pkwy (CA-87), an area that frequently sees congestion on Sharks game nights.
Dennis Korabiak, the city’s program manager for transportation, said the city had planned to release an addendum to the 2006 environmental report on the stadium in November. Now, however, the city must do a “focused” report using the new and correct information. The size of the stadium being considered now is considerably smaller — 32,000 seats compared to the earlier 45,000 seats — which could could mean a wash in terms of the potential difference between the flawed traffic impact estimate and what a new report will show.
The barn door is officially open. Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB X3 81 today, allowing Ed Roski’s stadium project to sidestep environmental laws by negating a citizen-initiated legal challenge. While the process is often tedious and wasteful, the idea of legislating a legal maneuver for a single, entirely local project doesn’t sit well with me. It’s emblematic of what’s wrong with the state.
Majestic Realty veep John Semcken has been making the rounds with numerous media outlets in the leadup to bill passage. In doing so, he’s revealed bits and pieces of Roski’s demands for what a team needs to provide in order to move to the Industry stadium.
During an interview with ESPN 710 (mp3) in LA, Semcken noted that Roski would be okay with 40% of the team and non-controlling interest, which was surprising to me. Roski currently owns minority, non-controlling shares of both the Kings and Lakers, and he built Staples Center. You could infer the successful precedent as saying that he’s comfortable with a particular business model, and he’s fine with duplicating it. But like any incredibly rich man, Roski must have an ego. So you’d figure he’d be interested in a controlling interest in the crown jewel franchise. That he apparently doesn’t is a sign of his willingness to get ‘er done. It could also be interpreted as an unwillingness to put up a ton of cash for a team.
Other tidbits from the interview (which I haven’t noticed in the regular media coverage):
- A team’s move to LA is being pitched as an overall revenue generator for the league, much like an A’s move from Oakland to San Jose. Supposedly, this new revenue would more than offset a TV revenue loss. The NFL has spent $14 million “studying” SoCal.
- Six teams are on the potential candidate list: Jaguars, Bills, Rams, Vikings, Chargers, and Raiders. The 49ers are off the list for the time being because they’re going through the development process in Santa Clara. Only the Rams are outwardly for sale, as most of you who follow this stuff closely already know.
- The stadium will have two home locker rooms and two visitor locker rooms. Just in case.
Should one of the non-California teams move, it could set in motion an odd set of realignment moves which will probably make several owners unhappy.
- Jaguars: Strangely, this might create little upheaval. The Jags could conceivably stay in the AFC South while the AFC West stays intact. They’d be the only team in their division on the West Coast, but at least none of their rivals would be on the East Coast (I won’t get into Indiana’s completely schizophrenic time zone mess). Kansas City and the Jags could switch places as an alternative.
- Bills: This would probably create some kind of domino effect in which multiple teams moved to different divisions. It would make the most sense for the Bills to move to the AFC West, pushing the Chiefs to the AFC South. Indianapolis, which is north of AFC North team Cincinnati, would join them in the division. The Jags would join Florida big brother Miami in the AFC East.
- Rams: Easily the most frictionless option. The Rams already have history in LA and they have spent their entire post-merger existence in the NFC West.
- Vikings: Moving the Vikes out of what Chris Berman affectionately calls the “NFC Norris Division” seems downright blasphemous. Could they stay there? I suppose so, since Tampa Bay was long the long distance, warm weather outsider in the old NFC Central for over two decades. It would make more sense to move the Vikes to the NFC West and the Rams to the NFC North, however.
As for the Chargers and Raiders, they’ve been written about plenty already. Let the mating dance begin.
Reader Mike Headley (a.k.a. LoneStranger) was one of the privileged 6,341 to see the inaugural home game for the UFL’s California Redwoods franchise at AT&T Park. Below are his observations of the experience and my feedback (in italics). Enjoy.
I went to the California Redwoods vs NY Sentinels UFL game at AT&T Park on Saturday, so I was doing a little reading up on the four teams. I noticed that the Florida Tuskers were owned by the Tampa Bay Rays. Could this be a way for them to get more muscle behind their new stadium plans? It would give them more guaranteed home dates, though admittedly just four-six more. The other issue this would bring up, if they do intend the Tuskers to play in the new stadium, is how that would change the design of the stadium. I find it a little weird that a baseball team would want to build a two-sport complex, but perhaps with the lower attendance rates than the NFL, the number of seats up against the field isn’t an issue. The field at AT&T ran along the 3B line and the end zone was right up against the outfield wall. I’m not sure how close it got to the dugouts on the other side. There was nothing on the opposite side of the field, except the fireworks mortars. The main TV camera was on a movable platform between the seats and the field. I didn’t see the game on TV, but I bet it didn’t look good showing the emptiness on the other side of the field. Or maybe it looked better than showing the empty stands.
As far as the Redwoods game went, it was fun. I’ve only ever been to one other football game (49ers vs Cin a couple years ago) and we had sat in the top deck. This game we sat in the lower area near the left field foul pole. While there were only a pitiful 6341 people in attendance (almost half of the next-highest game) it was neat to be able to get close to the field. I’ll probably go to another game in November. Their problem with attendance is probably fixed with better marketing. It seems like no one knows that they even exist. If it doesn’t get better, I wonder if they’d toy with the idea of playing some of their home games in San Jose, perhaps Spartan Stadium. The league wants to expand into Los Angeles next year, so I get the impression that the Redwoods will remain the Northern California franchise.
The Tuskers are meant to play their home games at the old Citrus Bowl in Orlando. They are splitting their home games between Orlando and Tampa. Tropicana Field has occasionally held bowl games so it sort of makes sense. I doubt that scheduling 2 or 3 games per season at the Trop will have any effect on future stadium talks. Having multiple homes is purely about exposure. The field orientation you describe is exactly the same as the one they use for the Emerald Bowl and the one season of the XFL. It sounds like you’re saying that they aren’t laying down the temporary stands in right field that they usually have for the bowl game. I’ll have to check out one of the games later in the season.
I like that they’re keeping costs low. They have a broadcast deal with Versus, a network that’s always looking for new sports properties. They’re even streaming the games live, which is refreshing. If they follow the pre-expansionist Arena Football League business model, they could keep costs manageable and stay afloat for a few years at least. Though I’m not so sure about having a fall schedule. There’s just too much competition with ESPN broadcasting major college matchups on Thursday. And locally, there’s a good reason why only 6,341 was the reported attendance. With two NFL teams and two major college teams in the Bay Area, we have more football here than any other market in the country. NY has no major [college] team. Chicago has bottom-feeding Northwestern, Notre Dame nearly 100 miles away, and Illinois even further away.
Yes, you are correct; the temporary bleachers were not put up. I agree, the lower cost of the games is what will help them survive. It was evident on Saturday. They didn’t open up the place until an hour before kickoff, the concession stands were only open on the 3B side and even then the non-essentials were closed. There were definitely less usher/security staff on hand. No one had any tickets checked by an usher that I saw. I get the feeling that the NFL is waiting to see how the whole thing goes down. If it fails, there is no financial loss for them. If it ends up successful, they’ve got a ‘minor league proving ground’ that they can either buy into or otherwise sign a deal with to get guys some playing time.
With the recently announced Arena Football 1 league being arranged with the original Arena League’s ethos, UFL has a small opening from which it can gain a decent-sized niche audience. My guess is that the Redwoods were charged a minimal 4 or 6-hour facility rental fee for the game, which explains why the gates only opened an hour early.
What do you think? As poor as the initial attendance was, it’s not like the NFL and NBA didn’t have humble beginnings. Both leagues had to do their share of barnstorming and audience cultivation. Can UFL work?
The California High Speed Rail Authority has been workshopping route details all over the state. Especially sensitive are the Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto areas and the area immediately to the south of Diridon Station, where numerous alternatives exist. In the picture below, you’ll see a mix of working class residential and industrial buildings near the station. Further south is the well-heeled neighborhood of Willow Glen, and while the train wouldn’t run through Willow Glen its residents are more than a bit concerned about HSR.
Unlike in the Peninsula, which the existing Caltrain corridor is the only available route, several route options exist south Diridon Station. CHSRA wants to use the most cost-effective route possible since they want to stretch the $10 billion in state bonds and whatever federal stimulus money comes their way, but every option has a cost/benefit component in both the short and long term.
The least expensive route is probably the green/white line above labeled SR87/I-280. It’s an S-curve that would run in an aerial along the two area freeways. However, the S-curve makes it also the slowest option, and could adversely impact many of the express trains that would pass through San Jose without stopping at Diridon. The route also runs through the original Orchard Supply Hardware location’s parking lot. Along with the other Caltrain-aligned routes, it would likely take some amount of land from the ballpark site. FWIW, that land wouldn’t be for the ballpark anyway, it’d be used for parking.
The “Downtown Aerial/Tunnel” option is misleading because running an aerial isn’t really an option. An aerial would require billions of dollars of eminent domain proceedings and would kill any chance of developing the six blocks between the ballpark site and the arena. A tunnel would be an enormous engineering challenge, since it would bore under both the existing light rail tunnel and the planned BART subway, plus a creek and a river. In either case, the route would have minimal impact on the ballpark site, clipping the northeast corner at worst.
However CHSRA and Diridon area residents proceed, it’s good to know that the ballpark can be built without having to worry about the final route’s impact.
The move to CSN California may be good for the A’s long-term financial security, but they sure have taken a major hit on TV to do it according to Sports Business Journal. Having moved from CSN Bay Area to the sister network, the A’s posted a paltry 0.82 rating locally for the season, a drop from 1.72 in 2008. The Giants, having been in playoff contention until the last week of the season, scored major gains of 25,000 households, or roughly one full ratings point.
The drop can be traced to two major factors, team performance (poor for most of the season) and channel availability. Lew Wolff pointed to the lucrative dealed ink with Comcast as a source of financial stability. Both parties must have known about a possible drop in viewership and Comcast more or less subsidized the move, as it wants to beef up CSNCA in order to push other non-Comcast cable operators like Charter to add it into their systems. Comcast would then get subscriber fees from a competitor. The cable giant has been on a content grab over the last several years, potentially culminating in an acquisition of NBC-Universal (at least one game theory expert thinks it’s going to happen). Comcast already has stakes in 11 regional sports networks including the aforementioned CSNBA/CSNCA, plus Versus, The Golf Channel, and an equity share of MLB Network. A merger with NBCU would give Comcast unprecedented control over content availability. Never mind that NBC has languished in last place among the four major networks for years. Content is king, and with content Comcast gets major leverage.
So if you’re thinking that the A’s are but a mere pawn in a much larger game, well yes they are. Comcast is in a position to seriously challenge ESPN and its networks, which bring in the heftiest subscriber fees thanks to bundling. Team performance notwithstanding, the A’s need Comcast to win its battles for greater carriage. For most of you, it’ll be difficult to root for a company like Comcast that’s so often anti-consumer. Just don’t think about it for now, and dream about IPTV being the technology that, once mature, will bring down the ridiculously archaic barriers (such as blackouts) that we deal with now.